Reztek Systems

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Cellular ProvidersConsumer CellularStraight Talk

A Tale of Two Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)

In an effort to optimize the costs related to one’s cellular phone service, it’s always wise to keep an eye on the market and shop around for the best value possible. With the myriad of available competitors vying for your money, striking the right balance of which major provider’s network (or networks) can be tapped into for service provides the first step in removing some options for consideration. The coverage provided by AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint in your applicable area or locations where you may frequently visit will play a critical role in paring down the available options. The Wikipedia page dedicated to MVNOs, when combined with feedback provided from customers that use the primary network operators, will present a more cost-effective path forward for cellular service needs.

A situation unfolded very recently that highlights the disparity between options. For reference, the initial scenario involved upgrading one of the physical devices on a three-line plan which was being serviced by Straight Talk. Having performed phone replacements with AT&T as well as T-Mobile, the expectation was that the process would be fairly straightforward. Ultimately, the provider normally requires information about the new phone as part of the process of enabling use of the new device with a pre-existing SIM card. What transpired over the following weeks was anything but pleasant. The myriad of issues which plague Straight Talk are exacerbated by Verizon’s failure to have performed due diligence prior to acquiring TracFone, Straight Talk, and Simple Mobile.

Calling Straight Talk’s “customer service” (and we’re being incredibly generous in the use of this term) led to a circular script reading that did little more than raise the blood pressure. Over the period of ninety minutes, the following statements were repeated ad nauseum:

  • “You cannot re-use the SIM card. You’ll need to buy a Verizon SIM card.” – After screaming into the void at “Floyd” about his misinformation for thirty minutes, a request was made to speak with a manager. Ideally, if there’s a problem with the level of support or service, a path to escalate to someone who is better empowered or informed to address concerns is usually available in many product-centric organizations. Making this request led to the next face palm.
  • “We do not have any managers available. I am empowered to assist you.” – It was apparent that “Floyd” did not possess critical thinking skills. There was no method to get out of the loop of being engaged with an offshored, low-cost resource. Fifteen minutes were spent attempting to get any form of escalation. This was an exercise in futility.
  • Eventually, Straight Talk reps will hang up on you. You’ll hear a dial tone beep and the call will disconnect. This was experienced consistently on repeated calls.
  • Why not just self-service the request through their website? Have you seen the epic piece of shit that they call an “account management” portal?!?!?
  • Do you enjoy pop-ups promoting and encouraging you to get a “free Verizon SIM” card, only to have it be a cost-incurring exercise when you go to check out? I know I don’t.

Thanks to “Floyd” and the other no-talent assclowns that did nothing more than read from a script and hang up when they were asked questions which weren’t part of the script, the switch to an alternate MVNO was the correct option. Based on known information for the problematic areas in question, the selection would involve a provider that leveraged AT&T’s network. With this requirement being known, additional analysis on the data consumption model came into play. The decision was made to move forward with Consumer Cellular as they utilize the desired network and provided a fair cost-to-feature solution that would ultimately result in equivalent cellular service at a lower cost. The savings easily justified signing up and procuring the necessary quantity of SIM cards for the devices on the account.

Upon receipt of the SIM cards, going through the Consumer Cellular website provided clear steps for porting the line between carriers. Would you like to guess who failed yet again in this process? If you answered Straight Talk, you’d be correct. Calling Consumer Cellular for technical support was a pleasant experience. We were provided with a process to obtain a transfer PIN from the steaming pile of shit known as Straight Talk and went about obtaining that value. Calling back in once this piece of information was obtained resulted in the Consumer Cellular customer service rep working diligently to completed the porting process. After a five minute hold, detailed information related to further hurdles and challenges were clearly communicated. The Consumer Cellular representative escalated the issue and transferred the call to… wait for it… a manager. The manager provided us with the option to re-engage with Straight Talk with an alternative of Consumer Cellular making the call and triaging into a three-way discussion. Opting for the latter option is the superior move. After twenty minutes, the problem stemmed down to the unreputable and never-maintained Straight Talk systems having incorrect information. Glitches in data quality and governance included:

  • Wrong zip code for the account. This may explain why the primary line was arbitrarily deactivated automatically by Straight Talk’s terrible infrastructure two months prior to the transition.
  • Wrong SIM card and IMEI data for the device that was in use for years.

Once these issues were corrected on Straight Talk’s end, the Consumer Cellular manager was able to complete the transition and requested that the Straight Talk resource drop from the call. After that was done, the Consumer Cellular manager provided some post-setup configuration steps and values to enable the device in question to access the cellular network. Shout out to Amy as she was a heroic rockstar in this endeavor! This process was repeated for the second handset. There was a minor mismatch between the values that were pushed to the phone and what was required from the APN perspective. Cribbing the known, working settings from the other phone which was ported over allowed us to fixed the glitch. The third line will be transitioned within the next week.

If you’re a Straight Talk customer after reading this, channel your inner Forrest Gump and RUUUUUUUUN! If you’re in an area that’s best served by Verizon’s network and you’d like to optimize your costs, you’re most likely going to be better service with Visible by Verizon or any of the other Verizon network-utilizing MVNO’s that are not Straight Talk, TracFone, or Simple Mobile. Thanks to Verizon’s lack of due diligence and necessary investments to make their acquisition suck less, we were able to assist in enabling a superior experience with REAL customer service and a $300 USD annual savings!

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