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virgin mobile has lost me as a customer

11 Dec 2013

2013-12-11 00:34:09 -0600

They just don't know it yet.

The nail in the coffin is that, while waiting for Virgin Mobile to get back to me about why they're billing me for calls that go to voicemail, I found a better deal.

But to sum up my experience so far...

I had Virgin Mobile once before. The service was decent, the price was good, I had no complaints.

I switched to Republic Wireless because I was intrigued by the idea of having unlimited phone calls for $19/month. Otherwise, I probably would've stayed with Virgin Mobile for awhile.

Flash ahead to the present day, and I had an aggravating time getting my number ported over, where there was zero communication from Virgin Mobile. It was thanks to Republic Wireless' email that I even knew that my service should be ready on the Virgin Mobile side.

Not only that, but Virgin Mobile charged my credit card several days before my service was even ready. A call to customer support took care of that fairly easily but that shouldn't have happened in the first place.

Ultimately, the porting/activation process just felt like a huge clusterf*ck.

So there was that.

Then there's the current problem where any time that someone spends any time in my voicemail system (even if they hang up before leaving a message), I get billed for minutes as though I had answered the call.

According to the customer service guy I talked to on Friday, I should've heard something back from a tech between Saturday and Monday (24-72 hour window). It's almost Wednesday. Meanwhile, I'm still losing minutes everytime someone hits my voicemail, leaving me to gasp be less anti-social and actually answer the phone, since I'm going to be charged regardless.

But at this point, I really don't care much about getting it resolved because I discovered T-Mobile is going to be a better deal for my situation.

And in a bizarre way, I owe thanks to Virgin Mobile's support (or lack thereof), because if they had resolved my issue straightaway, I probably wouldn't have been shopping around so aggressively. And hey, if they had taken care of me, and then I happened to have found this deal later, I might have felt some bizarre loyalty to stay even though the t-mobile deal would be cheaper.

But I definitely don't feel any loyalty after my experience this time around.

virgin mobile vs. t-mobile

So here's why t-mobile is going to be a better deal for me: mobile hotspot.

I kinda feel like t-mobile needs to be way more obvious about their pricing because I missed this the first time I was shopping around:

Mobile hotspot (tethering) is baked into the data charge. There is nothing extra to pay (some exceptions coming). If you've got 500 meg, you can use that 500 meg direct on your phone or through tethering. At Virgin Mobile, it's a $15/month charge to add tethering capabilities (though they also give you an extra gig of data too).

Here's the exception with t-mobile: if you've got unlimited data, you apparently only have 2.5 gig of tethering, though you can buy additional "packs" of data at $10 per 2 gig. What I don't know is if the additional charge is a one-time thing (meaning, you buy one for that month that you end up needing a whole bunch of extra tethering), or if you end up having to semi-permanently attach it to your plan.

For that matter, I also don't know if it's possible to default to the 500 meg data plan, but then change it when you realize you're going to need the 2.5 gig. Can you easily change it on a month-by-month basis?

Here's another catch with t-mobile: when you go over your bandwidth quota, you get throttled to 2g. A tech show I was watching said that their phone was as slow as a 56k modem. A plus for Virgin Mobile, is that you apparently get throttled to 3g speeds when you go over your cap.

t-mobile advantage

I haven't confirmed it officially, but it appears that I have a family member who's basically eligible for a 15% t-mobile discount (google "tmobile advantage" if you think you might be eligible).

The nail in the coffin for Virgin Mobile was when I started comparing the plans.

Okay, so now that I've added tethering, I'm paying Virgin Mobile $45/month: $30/month for 300 minutes (because of the $5 auto-pay discount), plus the $15/month tethering add-on.

With the t-mobile advantage discount, for a whole six dollars more, I would get unlimited minutes, but only lose a gig of data (3.5 gig for virgin mobile, 2.5 gig for t-mobile). Figuring that out, I was basically sold.

t-mobile plans without the discount

Given that I don't actually know if I'll be eligible to get the discount (and maybe the discount would disappear in the future), I figure it would be helpful to compare the official prices.

cheapest iphone plan: virgin mobile - 300 minutes for $30/month

If you don't need tethering, and you don't talk much (or you make heavy use of things like talkatone and google hangouts for free phone calls), then Virgin Mobile might be the best deal. $30/month is how much you'll pay to get 300 minutes and 2.5 gig of data. They also don't dick you around with insane prices for text messaging as it's completely unlimited (I mean, a text message is a tiny tiny piece of data, what some carriers want to charge for it should be absolutely criminal).

cheapest unlimited talk minutes

With Virgin Mobile, you'll pay $50/month (autopay discount) to get unlimited minutes. You'll also get 2.5 gig of data. You won't be allowed to tether. Tethering will take the $50/month up to $65 but will also increase your data limit to 3.5 gig.

On t-mobile, $50/month also gets you unlimited talk. You only get 500 meg of data this time, however, tethering is free. For things to be roughly equivalent to Virgin Mobile, you'll need the $60/month plan. You'll get 2.5 gigs of data.

At $70/month, you get unlimited data on your phone (though I believe I have heard that they will still throttle you at 10 gig and above). You will be permitted to use 2.5 gig of data for tethering. Additional tethering data can be bought at $10 per 2 gigs.

Now, here's another thing I don't know: is that 2.5 gig of data dedicated to tethering? It should be, but I've seen some ridiculous billing from cellular companies, so I don't know for certain.

paying for the device

Since t-mobile went with its whole "uncarrier" thing, you now basically do the same thing that you do on the prepaid networks: you pay full cost for the device.

And frankly for me, given that t-mobile and virgin mobile are roughly the same price for my personal needs (if you don't include the t-mobile advantage discount), here's where t-mobile wins:

With qualifying credit, you get a 0% loan for 2 years.

With Virgin Mobile, you pay the entire cost of the phone up-front. With T-Mobile, you'll pay however much they want down (right now, the iphone 5s requires $50 upfront), and then pay the rest of the balance off over the 2 years at 0% interest. To restate, this is if you qualify for it. I have no idea what FICO score range they deem worthy to be eligible for the 0% financing.

They also have a halfway point, where you pay about half the cost of the phone upfront and then pay the rest of that balance off at 0% over 2 years.

And of course, if you decide to cancel, you have to pay the rest of the balance off immediately.

One thing I don't know is how many hoops you have to jump through to get your phone unlocked. I mean, if you're paying it off in full when you're leaving, then they should unlock it for you, but whether that happens in reality, I don't know.

And as a side note, if you buy the phone direct from Apple, it will be unlocked (you'll also be paying full price upfront). If you've got the cash, that might be the preferable option.

For me, though, due to tethering and my hatred of phone contracts, so far, only t-mobile and virgin mobile have been the contenders. I was happy with t-mobile's service once upon a time, but I left to get the iphone at at&t. I was also happy with Virgin Mobile's service once upon a time too, so I'm sure t

family plans

There is no such thing at Virgin Mobile.

If you're in need of a family plan, then T-Mobile wins big time. Adding a second line is an additional $30. Lines 3, 4, and 5 are just an additional $10 per line.

So for instance, 2 "lines" on Virgin Mobile's unlimited plan would be $100 ($50 * 2). T-Mobile would be $80. 3 lines would be $150 vs $90.

more unnecessary porting drama

Virgin Mobile already has 50 of my dollars since they didn't properly give me the auto-pay discount (they gave me a $5 credit though, but since I'll mostly likely be cancelling service before my next billing period, I'll probably never see that $5). And since I want to keep my number, now I'll have to go through the porting nightmare again whilst trying to schedule it such that I get the most out of my $50 that I can.

What I'm thinking I'll do this time is to just set up a new number and then port later (near the end of my billing period with Virgin Mobile). But it's just more hassle to look forward to.

I have to say that it's nice to have basically made a decision (just not sure yet when I'll be acting on it), because all of this drama with Virgin Mobile was making me less and less enthusiastic about the possiblity of spending more money to get an LTE capable phone from them that would only work with Virgin Mobile.

I do wonder how long it's going to take Virgin Mobile to finally get back to me about the billing problem.

For me, it's not about avoiding problems altogether, it's knowing that when something bad does happen, that customer service is going to take care of you.

That ain't happening here.