“Emergency Calls Only,” or Why Doesn’t Anyone in the US Use a Sim Card?

13 Jan

Since I’m going to be in the US until the end of the month, I figured I should probably get a phone. It has been nice flying under the radar, but there are times, especially when driving, when a AAA or 911 call might be necessary. So I went to Best Buy last week and asked the guy in the mobile phone department which would be cheaper — buying a pay-as-you-go phone or a sim. For a second I thought the guy was going to ask “What’s a sim?” He had absolutely no idea how to help me. The rest of the world, or London and China, at least, seems to be big on the pay-as-you-go sim. Since I don’t use my mobile very much in London, that’s what I have, and it’s been great. I foolishly thought I could get the same thing in the states.

The employee went and grabbed a guy who he claimed knew more about pay-as-you-go phones. I can imagine their conversation:

“This lady over there wants a pay-as-you-go sim.”
“The Sims?”
“No, a sim card. Or a pay-as-you-go phone.”
“Like a cheap monthly contract?”
“No, just something to use for a month.”
“Do we even sell those?”
“That’s why I came to get you.”

He bumbled over and tried to help, but it was obviously he had never sold anything pay-as-you-go. Buying a phone would cost $20 for the phone, plus $25 for a month of minutes. I was not willing to shell out $45 for something I’d rarely use. So I asked him about the H20 Wireless sim. He pretty much read me the package, as it was clear they had never sold one before. It sounded like the best deal for me — $10 for the sim, then 14 cents a minute, or $1 a day for unlimited nights. He warmed me that the coverage might not be very good, but I should be OK if I stayed in the metropolitan area. So I bought it.

I took it home, activated it, loaded $10 on it, and put it in my phone. “Emergency calls only,” it displayed. I waited a couple hours, then tried again. No luck. The next day I chatted with a customer service representative online. His name was Edgarp. He pretty much told me my account was active and I should check my coverage. I’m not sure how you do that, but I guess “Emergency calls only” is a sign that you are not in the coverage area. He told me to go outside and try. I held my phone out the front door like some guy in a crappy phone commercial. It didn’t work.

I figured maybe it was just my neighborhood. So I took the phone with me to visit my friend who lives north of downtown Cincinnati. Periodically through my drive I would check the phone. Emergency calls only. I finally realized Best Buy sold me a sim that offers no coverage in the entire greater Cincinnati area.

So I called H20 Wireless to at least try to get the $10 I added to my account back, since there was no way I’d be making $10 worth of emergency calls. I waited on hold for 10 minutes, then spoke to someone who put me on hold and transferred me to the finance department.

“May I ask where you are calling from?” The representative asked in a heavy Indian accent.
“Kentucky,” I replied.
“Like the chicken!” He blurted out. “Kentucky fried chicken!”

After a discuss about fried chicken, the guy reluctantly refunded me my money. Thanks, Colonel. And it’s nice to know that people in India know about Kentucky, even if it is only because of the chicken.

I’m debating whether I should try returning the sim at Best Buy and letting them know that they’re selling something that doesn’t work, or if I should just count the $10 as a loss. Going to Best Buy would involve digging my car out of the snow.

Continually borrowing my parent’s phones is suddenly not so bad.


3 Responses to ““Emergency Calls Only,” or Why Doesn’t Anyone in the US Use a Sim Card?”

  1. Katie January 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    Cincinnati Bell has a pay-as-you-go that uses sim cards. I believe that AT&T does as well.

    • reneedezvous January 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

      I should have tried them. At this point I’m not sure it’s worth the money to try again, I’ve been faring well with my mom’s phone or phone-less.

  2. Santos Javier Cordero June 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    H20 is the Best Pay as you go in all U.S.A.!! I love it!!! I use it in Texas and California and it works very good!!! it uses ATT.!!!

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