We think we have made a good decision. We did all our research (we think), checking websites, reading reviews, talking to others with more experience. The decision looks like a good one at first. But then..
Learning from our mistakes is sometimes a painful, and often a costly, process. Today’s lesson: How NOT to buy a new business cell phone.
At the beginning of this year, I started a new business, doing bookkeeping and business startup consulting. And I needed a phone.
Apply Frugal Business Principles
Of course, I wanted to apply the Frugal Business Principles to this decision.
I wanted to save money, make it simple, and still have a good phone. Is that possible?
Doing research on Amazon is often a frustrating experience. I typically look at the low ratings, to see why people don’t like something. A certain percentage of people won’t like something (even great novels like To Kill a Mockingbird get some negative reviews). But if a lot of people are returning something that doesn’t work, or the product isn’t what it’s supposed to be, I move on.
After some research, I found an inexpensive Tracfone that had pretty good reviews. I decided on the Tracfone because I thought it would be cheaper just to pay for the minutes I used, without a contract.
When I received the phone, I spent some time getting used to it. I’m comfortable with iPhones and this was an android, so it took some time. The phone didn’t have all the features I wanted, but I figured I traded “good” for “cheap.” I didn’t like losing minutes because I didn’t use them before they expired. But I suffered with it for a while.
Buyer’s Remorse Hits
As I used the phone, I got more and more frustrated with the way it worked. It wasn’t intuitive, and I had trouble navigating it. I also discovered that buying minutes isn’t so great. If you don’t use them, you lose them. So I bought only the minimum minutes, but that meant I had to keep track. The auto-refill didn’t seem to work. When I got cut off in the middle of a phone call with a client, I decided to look for a new phone.
So, I proved once again that Cheap and Quick equals NOT Good. See my post where I discuss the smart way to make better business decisions, for an explanation of the tradeoff between Cheap, Good, and Quick.
A New Solution Presents Itself
About this, I ran across a new phone service called Ting. They advertised a phone line for $6 a month (not including usage), and someone who would answer the phone on the first ring. “Inconceivable,” I thought, but I called and got right to a representative. I asked a question about coverage, and got a reasonable answer (they use “partners” in some places in the U.S.). So I signed up and they sent me a SIM card for my Tracfone.
Issues ensued, not with Ting, but with Tracfone. It seems they would not unlock the Tracfone because I hadn’t had it long enough. Big regulatory mess, but they refused. So I bought a new phone that I like better anyway. I got a new SIM card from Ting, and got set up quickly.
Did Ting disprove my Cheap/Good/Quick Theory?
It certainly is cheap. For 100 minutes of phone time, 100 texts, and 100 MB of data, I pay $15 a month.
It was quick. I had the SIM card within two days and the representative talked me through the setup process in a few minutes.
It is – so far – good. I haven’t traveled with the service, so we’ll see how that goes.
So far, Ting has been a good buy.
Asking the Right Questions
What keeps haunting me is that I didn’t ask the right questions. I based my purchase on one person’s experience (a friend). I read the reviews of the phone from Amazon, which were pretty good. Had I checked out the reviews of the Tracfone I would have found a different solution.
Moral of the Story
Keep asking questions. Stop before you buy and get lots of information. Although this wasn’t a huge purchase (less than $200 for the phone), it cost me a good deal of time dealing with the problems of switching to another carrier.
Lesson learned. Moving on.
Here’s to the Success of your Frugal Business!