Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bleg: Phone me.

When my then-roommate and I moved to the cottage in which I now dwell, the decision was made that we'd go with cable internet access and not even bother turning on the phone line. This meant that I finally (this was 2002) had to give in and get a cell phone. Looking for a quick, turn-key solution, I went to Cricket and picked up the cheapest Audiovox cellie they had, and it has served me well for five years.

It's on its second battery now, and the annoyances are starting to stack up. Even with a relatively fresh battery, talk time is barely over an hour. There's no cover for the buttons, and I can either disable them, which requires me to enter a password procedure so complex that I'm afraid I'll launch a strategic nuclear strike every time I try and make a call, or just let them be pushed by any random object in my purse or pocket with occasional hilarious results:
Marko: "Hello?"
Me: "Heh. My butt called you."
Cricket requires you to pre-pay for long distance minutes, which used to be no big deal, as 30 minutes of long-distance talk time would last me for months, but I'm placing more calls long-distance now (and with Marko & family moving to NH, that's only going to get worse,) and last week their automated system decided it didn't like either my Visa or my Master Card.

So, I stopped by an actual Cricket store the other day to see if I could iron out the long distance glitch and maybe look into upgrading my phone to one that would correct the defects that were bothering me: Battery life and inadvertent button activation. I explained to the salesdroid that their computer was telling me that there was a problem with my card(s) and to please contact my financial institution, but the human I spoke with at my financial institution said my card was fine and that Cricket was smoking crack, so what could we do about it?

Him: "So you want to...?"
Me: "Uh, buy some long distance minutes? Maybe $10 or $20 worth so I don't have to go through this again for a while?"
Him: "Certainly..." (He sees me start to pull out my Visa.) "But we only accept cash here."
Me: *Sigh.* "Is there an ATM around?"
Him: "Just a couple storefronts down, but they will charge you a dollar."
Me: "You know, never mind, I'll fix that later," I didn't want to jog down and back, as I was on a deadline, "But I have one other issue..."

His tone was condescending and supercilious, and only got worse with my next question.

Me: "I'd like to replace this old Audiovox."
Him: "What features do you want on a phone? We have..."
Me: "Cheap. All I want is covered buttons and more talk time. Your cheapest phone should be fine."
Him: "Well, even our cheapest phone is going to be $109."
Me: "That sign says $69.99 and the phone looks like what I want..."
Him: "That's for new customers."

What I Wanted To Say At This Point: "Look, C3P0; hop off the high horse. Money isn't the issue here. If I wanted a damn Razr, Rizr, Cruzr, Pozr, or Luzr, I'd get one, okay? The reason I don't have an iPhone, xPhone, or qPhone is because I don't have a goddam phone fetish. If I want to take pictures, I'll use my camera. If I want to listen to MP3s, I'll use my iPod. If I want to remember phone numbers and appointments, I'll use the same fricking pencil and paper I've been using for thirty years. I realize I'm standing in front of you with a six year old phone and a gas station nametag, but the reason I've been using your service is because I don't want to screw around with minutes and evenings and weekends and contracts and mailing payment checks and crap like that. I want to punch my credit card number into my phone once a month for the same amount of money every month and not have to worry my pretty little head about how long I talk on the phone. If your cheesy phone service comes with a big side helping of attitude these days, then you can shove it. I'm off to find someplace that will treat me like a paying customer, even if they do make me sign a contract. Oh, and sorry about your hairline."

What I actually said was: "Gotta run. Bye."


So, phone geeks, help me out. I'm looking for a company that will give me a bare-bones phone with a bare-bones service plan, preferably unlimited local calls for ~$50ish per month.

31 comments:

Hobie said...

I got a Tracfone at WalMart. $27 and change including tax and you pay by the minute. You can buy minutes/service on-line (a natural for you). GO phones (ATT/Cingular) are another option. You can get as many extras as you want but my phone, a Motorola V170, is a bare bones flip phone which covers the buttons (that was important to ME, too).

Hobie said...

Hit the save/post too soon.

Yeah, minutes/service are extra over the $27 but at your rate of use could easily work out to less than $20-25 a month average.

Weer'd Beard said...

The wife and I are using ATT. We had our bill combined a few years ago. It may not be unlimeted minets, but I know there isn't any long distance. I talk for as long as I feel like, and with rollover that means the bill is the same every month. And for swapping over you can keep your # and they'll always throw in a free phone that will meet all your needs methinks.

Signal coverage is pretty damn good too!

Arrrr

Forlorn Boater said...

I just went through this for the parents-in-law. We went with Tracfone for them. They will just use the phone for emergencies, and Tracfone is having a special right now for basic phone / 800 minutes / double minutes for life of phone / one year of activation for $139. They will never use the 800 minutes in the whole year, lol.

http://www.tracfone-orders.com/bpdirect/tracfone/PhoneDetails.do?action=view&productVariantExtensionId=474416

They also have frequent special deals (ahem, pink phone: http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/messageview.php?catid=18&threadid=782980&highlight_key=y&keyword1=tracfone )

Tracfone resells different carriers' services depending upon where in the country you are, and of course, some carriers are good in some cities but not in others. I'm not sure what carrier Tracfone uses in Knoxville, but some Knoxville carrier reviews are here:

http://www.cellreception.com/coverage/tn/knoxville/page1.html

Here's a prepaid plan chooser:

http://cellphones.about.com/od/prepaid_phones/qt/plan_chooser.htm

and if all that's not enough, you can get more than you want to read if you (google) search for Knoxville on howardforums.com.

Good luck!

Jeff the Baptist said...

I also have a tracfone. My wife and I use the land lines for all our local and long distance calls (unlimited everything) so the cellulars are just for emergencies or when we're traveling. They have

It's very cheap. I pay about $100 for a years service, but that only gets me about 400 total minutes per year. It works for me because I don't use the phone much, but I know people who would go through that amount of airtime in a month.

B&N said...

LMAO at this post.

Seeing as how I don't own a cell phone, and the wifey works for a certain cell phone company, I'm forwarding this post to her.

She'll cry with laughter.

Squeaky Wheel said...

If you go to Cingular.com and click on "plans" (or, you know, just click here, then you can select whether you want to look at individual or pre-paid plans. That'll at least give you an idea of what your options are.

I like Cingular because it's easy. I pay my bill, I don't talk on the phone much, when I need something, they're usually pretty good about helping me. Long-distance is no more than local, and you get quite a few minutes for $40 per month. If someone you're calling also has Cingular, you don't lose any minutes off of your total plan.

My only problem, and this comes with any cell phone, is that sometimes, even in the middle of a huge city, my phone will drop the call. Their commercials LIE. But it's okay, because I'm not a retard and have the ability to hang up and call back to, you know, tell the other person what happened.

Anonymous said...

Depends where you talk from...if you need a cell talk to other people.

But, if you mostly talk from home.... I've had excellent results with Skype(.com) ( the VOIP service)

Flat yearly rate of something like 40$ for unlimited North American calling, you can get a dial-in numbers in other jurisductions if you desire, Long distance is like 2cents a minute to the civilized world. Works for me anywhere I can connect to the internet.

Merl said...

You could just get a phone, if you want you can probably get it from the cable crooks rather than the phone crooks.

Anonymous said...

Land lines are obsolete, but they free you from that creepy Big Brother GPS tracking controversy.

TD said...

I use a tracfone too. If you activate your minutes online and look up a promtional code beforehand (Google "tracfone coupon code") you can usually get double minutes.

I can stretch a $20, 60-minute card for upwards of five or six months that way.

Anonymous said...

A 900 minute plan with free long distance, unlimited "in network" calls, and unlimited "nights and weekends" at Verizon is $60/month. Dropping down to 450minutes is $40. My wife and I have a 700min plan and with those minutes, the free nights and weekends, and in-network calls, we never run out of minutes. Our cellphones are our only phones as well. I use VZ here in Northern Va, SW Va, East Tenn (was in your neck of the woods back in Sept), NC, etc without problems. Wv is a problem, but I'm rarely in that state.

Chris

Anonymous said...

said TD:
I can stretch a $20, 60-minute card for upwards of five or six months that way.

How, I thought those cards had time limits? It's one of the reasons I don't buy a tracphone as a permanent addition to my bike bag.

Chris

John said...

Verizon has a basic $39.99 month plan, which will take you to ~ $50 month with use tax. In exchange, you get, 450 min/month, and no roaming or long distance charges. I'll give you my old RAZR, case, and charger.

Oldsmoblogger said...

"Razr, Rizr, Cruzr, Pozr, or Luzr"

Tam wins the blogosphere.

For minimal fuss, a Tracfone may be your best bet, although others have pointed out viable solutions too.

TD said...

How, I thought those cards had time limits?

You can find coupon codes that add extra days as well as free minutes :-)

Anonymous said...

Virgin Mobile has pay as you go plans and monthly plans. No contracts. They have an unlimited minutes per month for ~$70/mo. If you need that much.

Cell phone technology changes fast. So I don't like locking into 2 year contracts. Pay as you go works well for me since I don't use the phone much.

Kristopher said...

A $20 tracfone card is good for 60 minutes and 3 months.

If you use the phone at all, you will run through the minutes first.

Oh, and Chris: if you just want an emergency bike phone, buy a $20 tracfone, use up the 10 minutes it comes with, put it in a ziplock bag, and then ignore it. It can still be used to dial 911.

Anonymous said...

Quote=Cell phone technology changes fast. So I don't like locking into 2 year contracts.

It doesn't change that fast. I'm using a 3yo Treo 600 because the newer Treos don't offer any enhancements I need. I'd be using my 5yo flipphone if I didn't need the PDA function of the Treo.

Quote=Oh, and Chris: if you just want an emergency bike phone, buy a $20 tracfone, use up the 10 minutes it comes with, put it in a ziplock bag, and then ignore it.

I already have a spare phone I could use for 911 use. I need a SMALL secondary phone I can leave with the bike gear. My Treo isn't small and has a 2"x3" screen I don't want to risk breaking as I'm tearing around the local trails. :)
I can add a 3rd line to my contract for another $10/month. Considering I'm on the bike upwards of 7hrs a week, it might be worthwhile.

Chris

martywd said...

VirginMobile uses the Sprint network which is a plus, IMO.  In my recently arrived part of Texas (Williamson County) Sprint's coverage is pretty dang good, whereas previously when I was using Cingular/AT&T Free2Go out here, the coverage was not so good.

Like you Tam, I just need a basic cell phone, no camera, no vid, etc.  So, I bought the VM Vox8610. The Vox8610 sucks.  While most of the important button functions are covered when the lid is closed, the ring/talk volume controls are on the outside edge which guarantees that you will push same when you least expect.  Oh, and the display in bright sunlight is unusable. The Vox8610 was cheap, for sure, but I curse it everyday.

The down side to VM is that they seem to have geared their website and customer support to the level of a ten year old?  Response to issues, while eventually resolved, have been less than satisfactory thus far.

Sevesteen said...

When I canceled a Cricket several years ago over similar phone issues, they offered to give me the new customer deal if I stayed with them. By that time I'd already bought the new phone with a different company. You might want to start canceling your Cricket service before you actually commit to something else.

CGHill said...

I have a TracFone as backup for my regular cell; it came in handy in places T-Mobile didn't deign to provide access (like, for instance, eastern Tennessee, where my old single-band GSM chocolate bar was utterly useless). And if you work the promotional deals, you can wangle extra time and/or extra months to use up your time. It's owned by a Mexican firm, but heck, the Germans own T-Mobile, and I'd just as soon not hand over any more money to Beelzebub's Favorite Carrier (no names mentioned, but their initials are A, T, and T).

Anonymous said...

Hey Tam, now that you're gettin' along in years, maybe you should check out http://www.jitterbug.com

And no, that ain't a site about dancin'!

;p

comatus, in awe, said...

"Razr, Rizr, Cruzr, Pozr, or Luzr" yesss

Hats off, gentlemen, to genius.

Also I'm trying to picture in my own self the level of restraint it took for Tamara effin K. not to develop McClatchy Amnesia: Do you know who I am?

Especially after what that retired USAF lady did in No.VA last month. With the hammer and all.

Roberta X said...

I've had good luck with Cingular, though they did stick me with a totally usless camera in my phone. It didn't cost extra, I just don't want it.

Verizon, I won't use, not after the way they treated Hunter when he was nicked for Dumb Move in Ohio some years back.

Canthros said...

I've been using Verizon for several years now. Mostly because their coverage is very good, but the minutes available for the $45/month ($39.99 + $5-6 of assorted fees) will probably do most people just fine. That said, I can't say that I _like_ them: their customer service has (2 out of 3 times) been a great way to be misled, lied to, or verbally abused (in fairness, the third and most recent time I called up their customer service folks was A-OK, but that was a very simple inquiry).

Within your budget of $50/month, I have trouble imagining that you can't find _something_ that will cover your needs from just about any of the major carriers. Good luck!

Standard Mischief said...

Everyone else already said it, Tracfone is perfect for you unless you need someone in a store somewhere to yell at.

Issues:

I ported a number from my old phone and had to go through holy hell to get it finished because something screwed up. If you want no hassle, get a new number.

Again, hope to heck you never need tech support, because it sucks. you can add minutes via the tubes of interweb if you have the smarts to manage say a blog or something.

$39.99 will buy you 200 rollover minutes that will last until you use them as long as you buy a card every 90 days. You can buy one year of service and 400 roll-over minutes for a c-note. various other plans and promotions can save you even more money.

long distance is the same price as local calls unless you are in a roam area. check their website for a map and see if you have coverage.

The phones are priced low, and are sold as a loss leader at mal-wart and other places.

I have a few posts up on tracfone over at my blog. th is one is probably the best for info, but it's slightly out of date.

(mostly to TD:) Bonus Code: 57676, which gave you 5 months of bare bones service on a $20 card has expired.

Anonymous said...

Lady Tam,

You may want to look at Boost Mobile, the unlimted is $45/month $5 extra will get unlimited text.

the phones are $99 to 150 ouchies in the wallet but if you are in their coverage area it is a good deal

full disclosure I peddle ATT, Sprint, Boost, Virgin Mobile and Tracphone.

ATT has the best coverage (I use it), it has worked literally everywhere including on top of mountians in UT and CO

it gets a bit spendy but when I have to make a call I really want to talk to someone.

The Boost is a pain from the seller side but like the ATT Go Phones it is really user oriented.

My guess is they hope you will someday upgrade to their full blown extortion, umm contract umm you know.

r

Robert said...

+1 for Skype. $40 gets you your own number, voicemail, unlimited calls to the US and Canada, and encryption strong enough to piss off both the US and German governments. I've been using it for over a year now and I'm quite satisfied.

Diamondback said...

I'll pipe in as I've been a tracfone user for a few years now. I like the fact I don't have any bills, don't have to deal with customer support (If my $15 phone dies, I'll chuck it in the trash, and pick up another anywhere), I get bonus codes all the time sent to me by tracfone and the internet is full of sites with people sharing them, minutes roll over if not used, I can remain anonymous by activating the phone without having to fill out any personal info on the website, minute cards are everywhere and cheap compared to the other brands *always on sale somewhere*...I could go on. I'm always looking for a better deal, but I've yet to find one yet. I bought a flip phone to solve my butt dialing problem. I also got the double minutes card on sale at Target a while back... doubles any minute card you buy for the life of the phone and still works with any bonus codes. I now generally by a 60 min card every 2 months, sometimes 3 months, for under $20 and get around 180 mins from it. Months till expiration of mins rollover as well and I could now go until around Nov of 2010 without buying any more mins if I don't use them up. I've never been happier with something that didn't F*&K up my world at every opportunity.

Anonymous said...

U.S. Cellular has the best coverage for the Knoxville area and has affordable plans with long distance included. You can also get a decent phone for cheap when you sign a 2 year contract.