Solving A Problem With StraightTalk Is Not All That Straightforward

Like most of the StraightTalk customers we’ve heard from, Barb was happy with Walmart’s mobile phone venture…until something went wrong and she had to deal with their customer service. In her case, the problem was that she ordered a smartphone that didn’t work. Simple enough to solve, right? Well…not quite.

Barb writes:

Straighttalk has been my carrier for several years, and basically I have been satisfied. This December I ordered a smartphone from them, and began using the phone. It was faulty and I called ST technical desk.

One of the more serious and frustrating problems with the phone was when a call was made, the dialpad was not available to press any of the numbers to forward my call.

Since the customer service/tech support is outsourced, I ran into the usual problems with the agents not understanding what my problem was. I’m one of those who won’t take “no” or stupidity as an answer. I’ve been in customer service myself for many years, and understand what is/is not acceptable and possible, and will not tolerate anything less than.

After demanding to speak to a “manager” each time I ran into problems, I kept being transferred from one to another to another with no resolution. Eventually, after I was forced to get mean, I did get someone to listen to my problem and attempt to help me with troubleshooting. Unfortunately, nothing took care of the problem. This happened at least on 3 separate occasions on different days.

I returned the faulty phone to Wal Mart after checking with them to be assured that I could get a refund from them for a phone I bought online. Wellllll, you know that didn’t work – at least for almost 2 hours. Sam is surely turning in his grave! Finally after calling the credit card company I used for the purchase, and having them fax a copy of my statement verifying the purchase and amount, I did get a refund.

Then I went to a competitor provider at a corporate store and purchased a new phone and service. Everything was better than I could have expected. The phone worked perfectly, my number was being ported, I had new service, etc.

Almost a week later my number was not yet ported – it’s supposed to take no longer than 24 hours to happen. I called the new provider several times and had to leave call back information on their voice mail. No response.

Today almost a week after activation with the new provider, I was at a grocery and saw a local franchise of the new provider, and stopped in to see if they could help me. The service was very good. But, when they called their porting team I was told the other carrier’s account with me had been closed and a port would not be possible. I was told I would need to contact the previous provider to take care of the problem, since I had not authorized anyone to cancel my service – I only returned the phone.

I spent over an hour basically arguing with several customer service/billing department agents at Straighttalk, was I able to explain that I would be contacting the FCC regarding their refusal to reactive my unlimited service which was still intact until January 16, 2012. Their argument was that since I no longer had the phone, they could not provide service. What a crock!!!! Eventually the service was restored, and my port request has been confirmed by Straighttalk and tomorrow I will again have the number I have had for years.

I’m in my 60s now, and I recall contacting the local phone service (hard line) about what the charges were on my bill that I didn’t understand. Over 20 years ago, hard line customers were being charged and paying for number portability. All these “service agreements” now with wireless services apparently don’t know that. It IS possible and your right to demand your number be ported, whether you are an active/inactive customer.

Tracfone And Straight Talk Are Not Entirely Sure Why They Canceled My Account


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hi_Hello says:

    wow… I might be wrong but…

    the service agreements with straighttalk, if you lose service, you lose the number. She was lucky someone else didn’t get the number.

    She should’ve ported the number before returning to the phone.

    I’m not sure why she think she should be able to return it to walmart when she bought it online…

    • pop top says:

      Did you miss the part where she still had service even though she only returned the phone? Service was never ended.

      “I had not authorized anyone to cancel my service – I only returned the phone.”
      “…my unlimited service which was still intact until January 16, 2012.”

      • StarKillerX says:

        The question is, that since the service is linked to the phone, and non-transferable, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that returning the phone would end the service as well?

        • colione112 says:

          Yes when returning a phone, unless you have another phone to put on that service/phone number the system will deactivate that line of service. The OP did not follow the rules or even bother to check with his new company before hand or he would have known this.

      • APCO25guy says:

        Problem is straight talk is a CDMA phone, so the service is married to the IMEI. The handset CANNOT be resold until the service is cancelled and the IMEI deactivated from the network. The customer returned the phone, why does she expect the service remain active and the handset not useable by anyone else?

        Porting requires the existing line be active. She failed to follow the FCC rules for porting, not ST’s fault, that’s her problem.

        • scoutermac says:

          Your a genius. You see CDMA networks use an ESN number not an IMEI. In addition Straight Talk uses both CDMA and GSM. Depends on the phone. Android Smart phones do use CDMA because they operate on Sprint.

          • DrRonIsIn says:


          • APCO25guy says:

            Actually, you’re also incorrect. CDMA uses MEID’s now as ESN numbers were exhausted…MEID=IMEI in CDMA speak.

            The bottom line is with a CDMA device the ACCOUNT is MARRIED to the handset. Ever try activating a Verizon, Sprint or Metro PCS when the previous owner didn’t pay a bill or in the case of prepaid like the OP, the phone is still active? You can’t separate the two as you can with GSM.

            I’m surprised Walmart took it back having been activated.Most retailers have a no-returns policy on prepaid phones once they are activated.

            regardless, if the OP bothered to read the terms and conditions on ST, they tell straight up that if service is cancelled for any reason, or number port is initiated, you FORFEIT any balance and your account is closed.

            This is standard with all pre-paid providers.

    • scoutermac says:

      “I’m not sure why she think she should be able to return it to walmart when she bought it online…”

      Probably because Straight Talk is only sold at Walmart and typically anything bought online Walmart will accept in store. Most likely what should have occurred is she should have been able to exchange the phone at Walmart. Have you notice that walmart no longer advertises “Our people make the difference”. That was a Sam Walton saying.

      • sendmoney2me says:

        straight talk is owned by Tracphone not walmart. if she purchased the phone from then walmart had no part in the sale. if she purchased it from she can return it to the store. either way straight talk has horrible customer service. I’m a former customer and I can tell you when it works…everything’s great but if you have a problem it can be a nightmare and trying to port a number out of straight talk can be utter confusion.

    • thomwithanh says:

      unlike on a traditional post-paid carrier, simply returning the phone does not, in it of itself, cancel your contract

  2. sirwired says:

    PagePlus FTW. While they don’t sell much in the way of phones (they expect you to just use any old Verizon non-prepaid phone you might be able to lay claim to), their pricing is great, the service is top-notch, and they use the Verizon network as the primary provider. (Unlike other Verizon MVNOs, they will also roam onto Sprint, albeit expensively.)

    Their plans are relatively inexpensive, and the network is generally much better than the AT&T/T-mo many MVNO phones (including the TracPhone family, of which StraightTalk is a part) use. (Some Trac/Straight/Net10 phones use the Verizon network, but those are few and far between.)

  3. CubeRat says:

    Thanks for the head’s up, Barb & Laura; yet another reason for me to avoid Walmart.

  4. flyingember says:

    The problem here was a lack of understanding of how cell phone contracts work.

    Returning a cell phone within the grace period tends to cancel service. That’s been normal for years.

    • Kaleey says:

      I think the problem is that they DID cancel her service, and because she did not have service, she did not have a phone number anymore.

      I’ve never ported a phone number – do you have to have a service overlap when porting a number to a new carrier? What’s the recommended time frame on that?

      Sounds like maybe straighttalk cancelled her service so quickly that the port was not able to go through.

      I think there’s some confusion, either with terms or the story here:
      She had “service” with ST, and she purchased a new phone.
      She returned a phone to walmart.
      She went somewhere else, purchased a new phone, and “service”
      A week later, the “service” is good, but ST has closed her account (and her phone number can’t be ported), claiming that since she returned the phone, they can’t provide “service”
      Finally, ST agrees to port her number to the new phone and the “service” is restored.

      If she purchased new service, then why is the old one being restored now? Is she trying to get ST service on her new phone?

      • Christopher Wilson says:

        When you port, you do the port before canceling the old service. Usually when the port completes, your old account will be canceled automatically. All porting instructions specifically say not to cancel the old account or you will most likely lose the number.

        • Hi_Hello says:

          the old account, when porting is done the old account MIGHT not be cancel automatically. After the porting is done, you want to make sure that the old company has properly closed your account.

  5. thomwithanh says:

    Locust Telecom / H2O Wireless is fantastic – I get the equivalent of a $120 AT&T plan with data for $60 a month. Works with any AT&T phone (locked or unlocked, including iPhone) or any other compatible GSM phone (T-Mobile, etc…)

  6. Cat says:

    So, you want “Straight Talk” from a corporation? Sure, I bet it goes something like this:

  7. Hi_Hello says:

    As for the quality of customer service…

    I figured in order to get good quality CSR, you need to pay them pretty well, and if I”m paying a low price on something, I either expect crappy CSR or you need to pay to talk to the CSR.

    I’m usually surprise when I get good/great customer service from places I don’t expect it.

  8. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    “After demanding to speak to a “manager” each time I ran into problems, I kept being transferred from one to another to another with no resolution.”

    When it was just me and one supervisor answering phones comprising the whole “call center”, when people harassed her about speaking to a supervisor, she would transfer them to me, where I would tell them exactly what she just told them. But my being male sometimes made the same answer more acceptable to some of our callers.

  9. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    I have several trackphones and have only occasionally had good CSR experiences. they continually loose minutes every time you change phones.

    • parv says:

      One can transfer minutes & due date from one phone to another, either through web interface or by phone. I have tried only by phone as I refuse to create yet another account (to do the transfer).

  10. EvanMax says:

    Just because it bothers me when people exaggerate to try to sound more put upon, StraightTalk was launched in October of 2009. Generally “several” (as in years) refers to an amount more than two. Even if you want to use “several” to refer to the two years, that requires that the OP started the service within its first several months of existence. The fact that her contract apparently ran from January 16th suggests otherwise. “Almost two years” sounds like it would have been a more accurate description.

    Two more points to note: 1) The keypad comes up during a call if you press a button on screen during a call. That’s how all modern smartphones operate. The phone isn’t defective (in that regard) you just didn’t bother to learn it. 2) Port your number BEFORE canceling your service in a huff. You were lucky that the number wasn’t assigned to a new customer in the interveneing days (then you would have been SOL.)

  11. rlmiller007 says:

    Wrong! I worked for Comcast for 5 years with phones. By law the number has to be active with the previous carrier. period. There are also issues that don’t allow the number to be ported. One, would be if you are in a different rate center. So don’t assume you can bully your way to keeping a number. The only reason she could is because they had the number still in their “switch”. If it had been returned to the owner ( companies have to pay for phone numbers) it would have been impossible if the real owner didn’t want to give it back.

  12. Jedana says:

    When our daughter had ST, we went through Tracfone on Facebook to get her problems resolved. ST customer service is horrible.

  13. pythonspam says:

    “Sam is surely turning in his grave!”

    Unlikely… WM already has your money and has no intention of giving it back.
    By offloading you onto the phone manufacturer, they self-absolve from having to deal with the problems you encounter as a phone customer.

  14. jeni1122 says:

    I have a straight talk phone and have had it for a couple of years. I ported my old AT&T number to my current straight talk phone.

    Something to note and think about when purchasing a inexpensive mobile phone is that it is inexpensive for a reason. The company had to cut cost somewhere. For most of these companies, the cost cut comes from customer service, no added phones services like call blocking, and cutting any other bells and whistles that you can think of.

    If you would like better customer service, you will probably need to go with a more expensive phone carrier.

  15. scottd34 says:

    once a number is inactive it cannot be ported. Basically do the port THEN return equipment.. and never ever mention the word cancel to a csr before a port. some companies will cancel you on the spot.. even if its a pending cancellation the port will not go through.

    and you bought a phone and service through walmart, what did you expect? you get what you pay for…

  16. discipleprodigy says:

    I have to blame the OP on this one. I can understand crappy customer service, but if you read contract for unlimited Straight Talk service, (which that company will most definitely use against you) then you’ll see they have the right to cancel your contract at any time without telling you about it just because they feel like it.

    Very messy situation.