by Joe Kirkpatrick
I'm usually a pretty calm and laid back person. Very rarely do I ever find myself in a situation where I feel extremely nervous and agitated. However, every two years, for many years, I let myself be placed in such a situation. I knew before hand it would happen, but yet I allowed myself to be there anyway. What was the place that caused me so much anxiety? My bi-annual trip to the name brand cell phone store where I had my contract.
Seems like they always no longer have your exact same plan, but always lead you to believe you are going to get an even better plan than before. Yet, when you walk out, you find your monthly bill to be even higher than before. They are able to pull this off by offering you a "free" or very "low cost," otherwise very expensive, phone that you can only get with that new plan.
I don't like to feel like I've been deceived. I like to deal with companies with truthful advertising, good prices, and easy to deal with. About three years ago, I first saw a new cell phone service named "Straight Talk", which said $35 for 1000 minutes per month, or $45 for unlimited talk, text, and data a month. That was it - only two flavors, chocolate or vanilla. No confusion there. There were no free phones, and no contract. You either buy a pre-paid card every 30 days, or put a credit card on file for them to automatically bill each month. Simple and easy - what a great idea!
However, breaking up is hard to do. Even though I had a real "love-hate" relationship with my existing carrier, actually more hate than love, they did offer very good coverage and very few dropped calls. Since a lot of my calls are business related, that was an important consideration to me. At the time I heard about Straight Talk, I still had six months left on my current contract, which was good, because it gave me time to read reviews from their customers. But actually changing from the company I had been with for over ten years, despite my distaste for how they manipulated me, was hard to do. Fortunately, going for my bi-annual visit to my present carriers store made my decision much easier. When I went in their glitzy showroom, I was met at the door by a well dressed attractive young lady who took my name, and then directed me to the various phone kiosks to look. After looking for a few minutes, a well dressed young man approached me, and started the hard sell, basically telling me what I already knew. My current contract was only available if I kept my old phone, but they had an even better new contract I could sign and I could get a new phone "free." I pointed out that, I had been a customer for over 10 years with 3-4 phones on my account, and always paid my bill on time. I told him I would like to get a new phone and keep my old contract. I knew what the answer would be, but I just needed to hear it. I went home, got online, and signed up for Straight Talk. About two weeks later, I got a somewhat desperate call from my previous carrier wanting me back, and they had an enticing offer to share with me. I told them to match Straight Talk's price, and I would switch right then. They quickly ended the call.
It's now been over two years since I changed to Straight Talk. I am proud I was brave enough to overcome my fears of a cell phone plan that just seemed too good to be true! Over that two years, a lot more information has emerged as the company has grown. First, and most important, is Straight Talk is owned by Walmart. Secondly, they do not own their own cell towers or network. Evidently, they muscled the two largest cell phone companies into making them a deal to let them use their networks and towers. It probably went something like this: "Verizon, this here is Walmart calling. You're big, but we're so big, we're an elephant and you're an ant. We want to pay "X" to use your network and towers. If you don't let us, we will build our own and crush you." My phone works on the Verizon network and towers, and I can see absolutely no difference in the quality of service I had before with what I have now. However, I do see three other big differences: I now pay about 40% less than with my previous carrier, can call anyone, on any service, at any time and talk as long as I want, and best of all, I never have to go into a cell phone store!
As far as phones, do you really think that "free" phone they give you is free? Trust me, over the period of a two year contract, you do pay for it. With Straight Talk, you buy your phone. However, they don't care if you buy it from them or not. In fact, I buy mine used on craigslist or ebay. If you don't want a "smart" phone, Straight Talk will even give you a flip phone for free. Also, you can bring many phones from other carriers over to Straight Talk, as well. No frills, no attractive salespeople, no glitz, and best of all, no anxiety; just a $45 a month for my unlimited plan that has been great.
Let's talk straight - breaking up was hard to do, but it was sure worth it!