Cell phones. Can’t live without them, especially smartphones. When I arrived in Culiacan just over six years ago, I ventured out to buy a cell phone and obtain a plan. How hard could it be? After all, in Winnipeg, you went to the MTS store, chose a phone, chose a plan, gave them a credit card number for automatic payments, and away you went. The entire process took under a half hour.
Not in Culiacan. I went to a Telcel store and was told that I could buy a phone, at an outrageous price, but could not have a plan as I was not a residente permanente. My Spanish was extremely limited at that time and their English was non-existent. I left the store empty-handed.
My friend Juan Pablo offered to help me. He took me to a friend’s house to buy a phone. She had boxes full of cell phones, every make and model you could imagine. I chose a then state of the art Blackberry. She hooked me up with Telcel then and there and introduced me to the idea of pay and go. I was set.
Until I moved to Irapuato a year later. I had to get a new chip with a local number. Once again I had a Mexican friend help me out. But this time it took almost four hours until the chip was installed and the phone was working.
I stayed in Irapuato less than three months before moving to Guadalajara. Here we go again! This time my command of Spanish had improved and things went smoothly at the Telcel store. The new chip was installed and this time it only took two hours until it was activated and working. And I got this nifty little chip at Oxxo for adding saldo.
By the time I arrived in Mazatlan more than a year and a half ago, Telcel had done away with roaming and I was able to keep my Guadalajara phone number. The problem was that my iPhone was locked in Canada and my Blackberry was now vintage. And I despised carrying two phones around all the time. Telcel also has this annoying habit of requiring you to feed your phone monthly or your credits disappear. I quickly learned the art of calling people on What’s App which works off of WiFi.
I spent several months in Washington state last summer with no cell phone at all. Just before I left I bought an unlocked Android and took it with me to Mazatlan. Now I was faced with the challenge of removing the chip from my Blackberry and inserting it into the new phone. Of course it didn’t fit.
My Mexican friend Sofia took me to Telcel at Gran Plaza. They were reluctant to even try to insert it and wanted me to get a new phone number. Now that would have been a major pain. Sofia got them to try to agree to somehow cut it and get it to fit. But now there was another problem. Back in Guadalajara the man at the Telcel store had for some reason used his name to register my number. So now in Mazatlan they didn’t want anything to do with it because the number wasn’t in my name. Somehow Sofia convinced them to do it. And as a plus I was able to get a plan for 150 pesos per month that has data, unlimited texting and phoning, free Facebook and What’s App and long distance to USA and Canada. I love the Amigo Plan 150!
A month later I go in to renew this pay as you go plan. I go to the cashier and pay my 150 pesos. I go to get it activated and she informs me that I have paid a day too early so they now have to set up a new plan. And we go through the whole thing again of who the number is registered to. She was satisfied that I said it was in a man’s name and started a new plan for me. She told me that the day my plan expired I should come in and renew it in a month.
Yesterday I received a text that it had expired. I go to Telcel and pay my 150 pesos. I go to the desk to get it activated. Oh oh! The rules have changed. Now I’m supposed to wait a day after it expires and then go in to pay and activate it. This time the staff member who assisted me spoke amazing English. He offered to change the registered name into my name. Yay! It’s finally all mine! And he gave a number to text the following day, along with a code, in order to activate. And it actually worked today when I did it! He also told me I’d get a confirming message, which I did, and that I didn’t need to reply to it. So I didn’t.
But I then got another text which I didn’t understand at all. Oh well. I’ll see Sofia on Saturday at our cooking class and I’ll ask her to deal with it for me.
A side note, I’ve been told to never ever give my credit card number to Telcel. Even my Mexican friends pay in cash every month!