Friday, March 28, 2008

International Travel: Check & Double Check!

In our Mexico roaming report number 2, we get slapped in the face with the reminder to check & double check. This year I thought we would try the Movistar network as their coverage maps show moderate improvements. But finding a Movistar store was nearly impossible, except for the girl in the tight jeans at the supermarket who wouldn’t sell just a SIM. TelCel has as many as 4 retailers on one block in the city, and almost every soda store sells their refill cards. Movistar seems to locate in malls and big stores. As on our page for Mexico roaming, the 3rd carrier, Iusacel, is almost impossible to find.

The story here isn’t which carrier is best in Mexico, it’s how to prevent problems like ours. It seems few Mexico cellular customer service agents know the procedure for “Pay per Call” (pagar para la llamada), and rarer still is an agent who can speak adequate English. Get to know your concierge, you might need their help. Our CS agent told us it would take 30 minutes to switch over to Pay per Call, when it can actually take as much as 24 hours! Sure enough, after 2 calls, our minutes were all gone. We now know to check our balance after our first call to see if the account is set up right. And this emphasizes the value of dealing with a stateside SIM supplier with English-speaking agents (at a higher cost, of course).

However, our negative surprises were offset by a positive surprise: our year-old SIM and its associated number were still active, we just needed to add a refill for more service, saving $23USD. This may be an isolated mistake, but it underscores the need to check and double check. Don’t assume. Oh, and keep your old SIM’s…you never know…

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