Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting out from under the phone company

As a linguistically challenged relative new resident here in Brazil I rarely use the phone. Who am I going to call? Add email into the mix and I’m just not chatting on my cell.

I really don’t need a cell phone, but nobody else can wrap their head around that idea. “No cell phone!? Are you crazy? You NEED one.” So I carry one around in my pocket (and often forget to turn it on, or to recharge it when the battery dies.) Even when it is charged and turned on I never hear it because I’ve got my iPod ear buds in my ears.

Plus, I’ve disabled leaving voice mail because, first, NOBODY leaves a message (you have to pay to leave a message), and second, you have to pay to check your messages.

Since most phone company packages are stupid expensive in the first place, Luiz and I decided to switch to one that provides unlimited calls from our house phone and internet service but no cell service. We buy time on a chip rather than paying for a package of minutes, etc. It seemed like a good solution to the “I never use my cell phone but everyone says I need one” dilemma.

Not really. Here’s how it really works: You buy R$10 worth of credit, which might get you 7 minutes of phone time. Then, if you’re like me, you never use the phone all month, except maybe to receive a few calls from your partner (receiving calls is free).

Next month comes along and you need to place a call. You have not placed a call since you charged the chip. But – it’s another month, so your chip is blocked. It needs to be “re-activated” by buying more credit (minimum R$10 per re-charge). Now you have R$20 worth of credit.

Right now I have about R$35 worth of credit, but since we just moved into December, my phone is blocked from placing calls until I re-activate it with ANOTHER R$10. We have to remember to switch phones when Luiz wants to make some calls, just so we use up the credit I had to buy.

We should have known better. It’s the phone company. They always have an angle.

If anybody has cracked this nut and has a better solution, please share your secret.


Fiona said...

I'm in the same boat. I really couldn't believe that one telephone call would cost me rs $20. So I don't like to use it at all.

Gil and Ray said...


Don't even get me started with phone companies in Brazil...!!!
I think phone companies are EVIL everywhere PERIOD :)
My father got a phone in Sao Paulo that he pays only R$13,00 per month, it is a "home" phone that you can use it as a cell phone as well.
The only catch is that it only works for local calls, so if he ever travels that phone doesn't work anywhere else.
But my father rarely travels, he is always in and around the city of Sao Paulo so that type of phone/plan works well for him.
Do some investigating and see if you can find a similar service in Niteroi, that might work for you.
Having Luiz use your phone to keep it active sounds like the best idea in your case.
My mother has a cell phone that show pays R$60,00 per month and she has 300 minutes which she never uses...she is always at home and always uses the land line for everything.
I have some traumatic stories using my American phones in Sao Paulo, the first business trip that my Bank forced me to use my "VERIZON" phone in Sao Paulo we got a U$3000,00 phone bill for 1 and a half week of service, with the roaming fees etc...
The Bank has alowed me to rent phones or use phone cards after that... :)
I used my brother's cell phone for a period of 2 weeks when I was in Sao Paulo about a year ago and I ran him a R$900,00 bill.
See, I am used to unlimited plans, so I really don't know how to curb my phone usage anymore, I am a lost cause when it comes to that... :(
Unlimited plans in the US now can be found for around U$50,00 a month, but that is a new thing...perhaps the Brazilian companies will start offering better deals in the near future!
I think they should allow all phone companies to flod Brazil and cause a bloody war for customers just like in the US.
I would love to see EVIL being conquered ;)


Stephanie said...

We're having an issue with our carrier as well. We've had TIM for many years now and pay a fortune! My cell bill isn't too expensive but since my husband travels a lot, his cell phone charges range from R$700-R1500, per month. It's insane since we limit time on calls, we text a lot, but even so, it's a considerable expense. A friend recently went through our bills and suggested we change to a specific type of quasi-fixed plan with Tim to save money. So down we went to the TIM store at the mall to change it, but of course, "not possible" on that particular day. You see, there are only three (3) days per month you can change your account (in store only!) based upon your plan or billing cycle...it's so confusing. So they said "no, come back between the 17th-21st of the month". OK. so we go back on the 18th, wait for 1 hour only for the rep to say "oops, sorry, we're having technical issues here today, can you come back tomorrow?"...nice...So fine, we go back the next day to the SAME THING. On the 21st my husband went back again and once again there were internal problems with TIM ...and finally my husband started to say "ENOUGH!" (finally!). So they said they would make a note in the system to change the plan. We still don't know if this actually happened or not. I guess I'll find out when I get the bill in January but I am not too optimisitc. I remember when I lived in the states, Verizon actually would call from time to time to check on our customer satifaction and suggest plans that might save me money! This has not yet happened here. It's maddening the hoops you have to jump through to get things done.