Dear RV Shrink:
My husband wants to keep us in the Dark Ages when it comes to phones. All we have are flip phones as the rest of the world is run on smartphones. I looked at buying a phone at Walmart and signing up for their Straight Talk plan. My husband said it probably won’t get a connection in half the places we travel. He’s an “expert” even though he has a hard enough time using his flip phone. He doesn’t even know what his own phone number is. He says he doesn’t need to know – he never calls himself.
I want to try using some camping, weather and news apps to help us in our travels. Do you think this would be a good plan or a waste of good money? —Flipped Off in Flagstaff
As you probably figured out long before you wrote me, your husband doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Actually, Straight Talk is a very decent phone plan. It does have some downsides, but connecting to towers is not one of them. You decide what carrier you want on your plan. Most people who travel choose Verizon. Let’s just use that as an example.
According to their policy, Straight Talk customers are second-class citizens on the Verizon tower during peak usage hours. That means your data goes to the back of the line. I had a Verizon Straight Talk plan for many years and never noticed any service outage from such a situation. We actually believe our coverage was better than our current Verizon plan. My suspicion is that Straight Talk may have better tower relationships with various carriers because they offer them all. Although they offer Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data, there still can be some buffering. At some point you will be throttled back if you use too much data.
We went back to Verizon – but kicking and screaming. The main difference between a Straight Talk Verizon plan and a company plan is the ability to use your unlimited data plan as a hotspot. You cannot do that with a Straight Talk plan. The hotspot feature on your phone will be blocked. For an additional $10 they offer limited 10GB of hotspot use, if you have a compatible device.
I consider Verizon a Corporate Grifter. They will pick your pocket and fleece you with a smile on their face. I am convinced they send their salespeople to Scam School. Buying a phone and plan from them is no different than a shell game. They spit out convoluted spreadsheets that work much like IRS tax forms. You get credit on line 1 and it’s taken away on line 2. They are expert at hidden charges, activation fees and taxes. You have to go into a Verizon store with an attitude if you want to come out with your wallet intact.
I suggest you try Walmart first. No contract, no smoke and mirrors, no free phone scam to lock you into a plan. You simply buy a less expensive smartphone, pay a monthly fee that does not take a tax lawyer to figure out, and it will do most everything you seem to be wanting in a phone. You can even call your husband on his flip phone and find out what aisle he’s in at Walmart. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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