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A frustrating weekend with my Tracphone

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Greg Peck
November 12, 2012

As regular readers of this blog might recall, I resisted for years the desire to “plug in” my life with a cellphone. But several relatives wished I had a cellphone, so in August 2011, I bought an inexpensive Tracphone. Friends and relatives with much fancier gadgets, which include Internet access, suggested it would be only a matter of time before I shed my cellphone diapers and graduated to a bigger and better device.

That hasn’t happened, however. My Tracphone has come in handy from time to time to keep in touch with relatives and racquetball buddies regarding playing schedules. My son often texts me during or after key ball games. The Tracphone suits my needs, and a couple of months ago, I spent $100 on a new 12-month card with enough minutes to, I figured, get me through the next year.

I noticed the battery seemed to need recharging more frequently lately, and last week the battery died and wouldn’t take a charge. I called the store where I bought it and was told it would be easier and cost no more to buy a new Tracphone for $10 or $20 instead of a new battery. The sales guy said they could transfer my minutes/data onto my new phone for me. Fine, I figured. I went there Friday night, but they were out of the flip-phone designs I want to keep in my pocket. Frustration No. 1.

I tried a second store, and the helpful attendant spent almost a half hour calling Tracphone and helping me with the data transfer. I was thankful. Before I left, he told me it would be between two hours and two days before the data transfer was complete.

Sunday afternoon, the phone seemed operational; the remaining minutes now showed up on my new phone. But if the old messages (which I didn’t need) and two-dozen or so phone number contacts (which I desired) from my old phone were supposed to magically appear in my new phone, they hadn’t. Frustration No. 2. I called and asked for the guy who helped me Friday night. He was at lunch and would return my call. He didn’t, and I tried two more times to get through to a live person who wasn’t “helping other customers” before I reached him. He said because the old phone wasn’t operational, the data couldn’t transfer. Not that I understood that when we discussed the switch Friday night. Otherwise, I might have just opted for a new battery. Frustration No. 3.

Oh, well, I figured, and spent about a half hour finding and plugging names/numbers of friends and relatives into the contact list on my new phone. This phone is a bit larger and has a few more features that seem different. It also wouldn’t let me write text messages like the old one. When I typed using keypad numbers/letters, it would give odd letters or even whole words that I didn’t want. The instruction booklet offered no clue. Frustration No. 4.

My wife, Cheryl, suggested I return to the store and ask for advice. Not wanting to make another trip, especially in the rain, I called Tracphone’s 800 number and talked to a woman, probably from India, whom I could barely understand. It turns out that some numbers/letters coding in the screen's upper right--so tiny I could barely see them--needed changing. At first she told me to push the # key, but that didn’t change them as she figured. Then she had me hit the * key, and two of the letters disappeared. The textnote function then worked as on my old phone, and I thanked her.

I awoke about 12:30 this morning to a beeping sound from my cellphone, alerting me repeatedly to a text message I’d received. My old phone would do a faint little ring when one was received but didn’t continue to ring periodically until I checked it. Frustration No. 5. I got up and checked the message, which sounded in a computerized voice rather than just appearing as words on the screen. That woke my now frustrated wife.

It all makes me wonder just how much I need one of these gadgets--much less one more complicated.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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