E-books and cell phones are, yes, like peanut butter and jelly. But suppose the jelly at times is full of bacteria. That’s what I’m thinking in the wake of my encounter with The TracFone Guy from Hell.
Several other TracFone reps couldn’t solve my problems. All I wanted to do was to fully switch over my prepaid TracFone account from my $100 LG smartphone to a Nexus 6 I had found on sale. I’d accumulated some 2,000 minutes over the years through crazy-thrifty use of the TracFone service and by taking advantages of certain deals. I intended to save the credits for emergencies, anything from the health variety to a stray ISIS attack or two. As much as possible I rely on my regular phone and WiFi.
But maybe I would use the TracFone service’s data plan a little more often with a good phone associated with it. The Nexus is a fabulous e-book reader with a six-inch screen and 493 pixels per inch—I’ll take it everywhere. What’s more, the TracFone people had managed to get voice working on the Nexus.
Alas, however, the Internet was unreachable via the TracFone data arrangements even though I’d bought the right SIM card and the Nexus was company-blessed for a Bring Your Own plan. So now I was in touch with a rep down in Georgetown, Guyana. He said his name was Travis and that he was a supervisor. Ahead is a highly condensed version of our conversation as I recall it—these are not necessarily verbatim quotes. But in spirit, this is 100 percent accurate, and I’ve got a witness or partial witness, my wife, Carly, who at least heard my side of the conversation. Meanwhile let me take back the headline. Travis did not just give Comcast a run for its money. It wasn’t that close. Compared to Travis, the notorious Comcast guy is a saint and model of exemplary customer service. Same for Lily (“We don’t care—we’re the phone company”) Tomlin.
David: So what are we going to do now?
Travis: You will have to be by the window to use your phone on the Internet.
David (after moving): Sorry, no luck.
Travis: Then you will have to go outside. The phone will not work with inside atmospherics.
David: But supposedly I’m in an area with good coverage.
Travis: If it doesn’t work outside, then you may have to go to another location. Maybe a few miles away.
David: Why isn’t this in your ads for your plan?
Travis: We cannot guarantee it will work with all phones.
David: But the Nexus 6 is approved. Look, let me go back to my old phone.
Travis: But I cannot guarantee you’ll get the same number.
David: But I need that number. My wife has pancreatic cancer. It’s the cell phone number we’ve given all the doctors’ offices. And that’s just one example.
Travis (after checking further): Actually we can give you the number. But you won’t be able to pick up the minutes you now have.
David: But that’s the point. We’re talking about hundreds of dollars in value.
Travis: You must choose. The minutes or your old number.
David: Let me talk to your supervisor.
Travis: I am the supervisor. I can give you the e-mail and address of our Miami office.
David: So what’s your last name or employee number?
Travis: I do not have a number, and I cannot give you my last name for security reasons.
David: So what’s the case number?
Travis: There is no case number.
I did what I should have done long before now, and I gave up on Travis and started from scratch in the customer queue. The next rep couldn’t have been nicer and couldn’t have tried harder; this is a rant against Travis in particular, not everyone at TracFone. Let me also note that The Good Rep herself was down in Georgetown. So this isn’t even a rant against all TracFone reps in Guyana—just against Travis, or whatever his actual name is. I’m hoping that TracFone can solve the Internet connectivity problem when more knowledgeable people are on duty.
As for why Travis acted so bizarrely, who knows? He didn’t sound drunk. Was he on some kind of drugs? A plain moron hired by his uncle? An ignoramus trying to cover up his ignorance?
Yes, other interesting questions arise. Why, when so many hardworking people in the U.S. can’t find jobs, is TracFone sending work down to Guyana? Then again, TracFone itself is a subsidiary of América Móvil, owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. That’s life in the era of international commerce. What’s the answer? Regulatory? Otherwise? Please—a little less bacteria in my jelly.