Out of Data; Out of Patience

A surprising thing happened to me this past May. In the middle of the month I ran out of data on my pre-paid smartphone plan. I had been with this provider for about 9 months and had never had that experience before. I was befuddled. Let’s get some numbers out there so that this can make more sense. I pay a grand total of $33 per month for my smartphone plan. I get 1200 minutes of talk, 1200 text messages, and 500MB of data. Those numbers didn’t mean anything to me until I ran out of data. Then I started paying closer attention. When my plan renewed in June, I started closely monitoring my data usage to find out what was going on.

It turns out that, with the school year behind me, I was spending a lot more time away from wifi. (Both home and school are places where I use wifi instead of cell data). Being outdoors more meant that most of the time when I was checking things on the web I was using cell data. I found that in most cases I was burning through a MB of data each minute that I was surfing the web. That meant that I could only “afford” to surf the web about 15 minutes a day with my 500MB per month allotment. Holy Cow!

I also found that my phone was doing an annoying non-stop attempt to set itself up as a “personal hotspot.” Neither the cellular provider nor Apple have so far been able to figure that one out, even now. (I can’t even begin to describe the HOURS of time I spent with Apple trying fruitlessly to solve that one!) I do not know whether or not that endless processing is using data.

Meanwhile, I turned off almost everything that might use data in the background, and I began a search for a better data plan. It turns out that the provider I am with (Kitty Wireless) offers a plan with twice as much data for the same monthly fee. Sounds perfect! When I decided to make the switch, in late June, I found that the switch required me to change from their “Kitty Wireless” to their “Puppy Wireless” company. This switch required me to purchase and install a new SIM card on my phone. When I asked them for details on how to do this, they told me it was too late in the month to make the change happen in that cycle. I needed to order the SIM card, it needed to arrive in the mail, then I could process a port request, then I would have to wait up to 10 days for the change to happen. They advised me to wait and make the order in July for my August renewal. (My renewal date is the 7th of each month.)

That’s when things really started to get interesting. Taking into account their 10-day processing time, I needed to make my port request by July 28 or 29. We would be leaving for our vacation trip at about that time, so I would need my SIM card before then. I ordered the SIM card on July 8. Plenty of time; right? No. Ten days later I had not received my SIM card, so I contacted them to find out what was going on. They promptly informed me that I had, indeed ordered the SIM card, and I had indeed paid for it. But they had not processed the order, because, they said, I had not filled out the form at the end of the order. WHAT!!?? What form? If I had seen or been aware of more information needed to complete the order I certainly would have completed it. (This isn’t the first time something like this has happened with them. When I made my original port request to them last year they told me the same thing, but in that case I was able to produce evidence to prove them incorrect.) This time, they responded to my e-mail query and processed my order. They told me my SIM card was on the way. They even gave me a tracking number so I could follow its progress to my home from the warehouse.

Now we were getting within a few days of our vacation departure, and I still did not have my SIM card. According to the tracking info, it was still on its way. But it didn’t arrive in time. We had to leave on our vacation without having received my SIM card, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to convert to the better plan until my September renewal date. Frustrating? You bet. But we’re not finished.

While we were away, they sent me an e-mail asking if I had received my SIM card. I told them that I had not. (For all I knew, it was sitting there with my “held” mail at the post office, but I wasn’t going to tell them that.) They told me they were going to send me another SIM card. When we got back from vacation, on August 14, there was one SIM card there in the mail.

So, I promptly went online to read up on how to process my port order. Lo and behold, the 10-day processing time had somehow morphed into a 15-day processing time. They needed the port order 15 days before my renewal date in order to ensure that they would have enough time to do it. Also, and this is the kicker, they noted in their instruction page that any time, data or money on my current plan (remember, it’s pre-paid) would be lost when they made the switch. In other words, I had paid for a month of service, I was being told to order a change half-way through that month, and what I had paid for would be lost when the change was made. Does that seem right to you? Not to me either.

In any event, I got my calendar out and figured out that the optimal time to place the order would be August 23. So, on August 23, I went online to place my order, and I was astonished to discover that they were “sold out” of these port requests!!! I was unable to order it!!! The web site says that they will be “re-stocked” on August 26. But if I order on August 26, they won’t have the full 15-days to complete the switch prior to my September 7 renewal date. It looks to me like I may not actually have this change occur until October 7! And I started this process in the middle of June!! Three and a half months to process a simple change of cell plans???

You may be wondering why I continue to put up with all of this nonsense. I was wondering the same thing yesterday. So I went exploring to see what other options I could find. This provider (Kitty Wireless – did I mention them yet?) is a provider for PagePlus, which is on the Verizon network. When I use my phone I see “Verizon” at the top left corner. So, I decided to see what plans Verizon had to offer. They seemed to have some plans that looked promising, so I tried to contact them to explore further. One option was for “existing Verizon customers.” I tried that. It required me to enter my 10-digit phone number. I did so. It told me it was not a Verizon number. I tried again, in case I had mis-typed something. No good. There was a phone number I could use to contact them. I entered it. The voice told me to enter my 10-digit number. I did so. It was rejected. There were no other options. There was a * number listed that I was told I should call if I needed assistance. I entered that number. My phone told me that number was “not allowed.” So I tried the option for “New Customers” (non-Verizon customers – even though my phone tells me I am a Verizon customer.) Believe it or not, that option didn’t even work. They apparently don’t have a way for me to become a customer! It is unbelievable to me that cell service is so complicated. By this point I just walked away in total frustration.

How is it that everyone else seems to just take all of this in stride? How is it that I seem to be the only person in the universe who is perennially frustrated trying to get reasonable cell service without having to pay an arm and a leg for it?