When I left this saga, Tracfone was mailing a SIM card to a hotel in the U.S. Traveling through the U.S. without a phone, and fortunately without need of one, I arrived at said hotel and found the SIM card waiting for me.
The next evening I called Tracfone Customer Care as I was instructed. Following more instructions, phone propped on one shoulder, magnifying glass in the other hand, phone periodically sliding off the desk due to its short cord and smashing onto the floor (you still there?) I got the new SIM card into the phone.
This card will expire in 60 days unless I keep the phone activated by regularly buying minutes. That doesn’t make sense, of course, because I don’t live in the U.S. and I don’t need minutes that go on and on and on. If I don’t keep buying minutes but return to the U.S. after 60 days, I will need a new SIM card again. However, Tracfone cannot mail SIM cards outside the U.S.
This brings up an interesting question and I forgot to ask. Is Tracfone incapable of mailing to addresses outside the U.S. (I’m tempted but I won’t go there) or is this a border issue? Are SIM cards from foreign countries considered serious contraband?
Assuming that this would not violate any International SIM Card Treaties, I could do something like this: Two months* before my next trip, ask Tracfone to mail a SIM card to the U.S. zip code of my choice. Ask the inhabitants of said zip code to forward the SIM card to me at my present address in my foreign country.
*I live about 3 feet north of the U.S. border and it can take a month to get mail from 100 miles away. I think they send it to a sorting center in LA first, then re-route it through Chicago and New York and it enters Canada through Montréal. British Columbia is in the western part of Canada. West, people, west!
It would be considerably quicker if someone could jog it up to the border and pass it across the fence.
I’m not saying this will work. I’m just saying you have to think about this creatively.
New SIM card in the phone, I then tried to activate the phone by buying minutes. After a long round of info-gathering, she said the payment was not accepted and did I have another credit card to try? As a matter of fact, I do have a second credit card but that’s not the issue.
The issue is that Tracfone cannot process payments from non-U.S. credit cards without duress. You’d think all the Tracfone employees would have this down by now, but they don’t. By the time she put through a special request for my international payment to be accepted I would be either home again or dead on the side of the road from some gawd-awful emergency that required a phone when I didn’t have one.
She said I could still buy minutes by going to a store and buying a Minutes Card. I asked, Which store would that be? She said she couldn’t tell me. Which came out sounding like she wasn’t allowed to tell me. While I was mulling over what that could possibly mean, I guess she thought better of it and decided she could tell me. She rattled off a list of stores. I said I’m in a hotel in a strange city and I don’t know where any of those places are.
It was almost dark; I was tired. I thought if go out and buy minutes I won’t need the phone tomorrow. If I don’t go out and buy a Minutes Card I’ll need the phone tomorrow. I dragged myself out to the car, drove around the neighbourhood but didn’t recognize any of the stores she listed. I went back to the hotel thinking maybe I can buy minutes on the road out of town.
But then I’ll need a phone to activate my phone and I don’t see pay phones around much anymore. So, I’d have to flag down a stranger in a parking lot and borrow their cell phone to activate my cell phone. And I thought this is making me think way too much and life just can’t be this cruel.
So I drove back to Canada without a phone. Nothing happened. I just drove home like I’ve done a thousand times before there was such a thing as cellphones.
Just a teensy-weensy suggestion here: In this age when people can go to the Moon or hop a plane about as easily as we’d hop on a bicycle back in my day, isn’t it about time we moved on to border-less cellphones?