Monday, January 25, 2010

How is Safelink Wireless Working For You?

As we've written before, Safelink Wireless is providing free cell phones and free minutes to lower-income people who qualify for the federal Lifeline program. How many phones? According to data from the nonprofit that distributes federal funds to participating carriers, in September 2009, they received $23,285,172 in reimbursements for phones they've distributed. Assuming the maximum per-customer contribution is $10/customer, that means there are about 2.3 million people in the U.S. who are taking advantage of this option. This is a huge number, about 27% of the $87 million distributed via the Lifeline program in that month. (See the table below for state-by-state data).

A lot of people have posted about their experiences with Safelink, but here's a formal, open question for everyone who has a Safelink phone or has tried to get a phone from them: how do you like Safelink? Is it working for you? Was it easy to get? Have you had any problems with the phone or service? Do you find that you're routinely buying more minutes from Tracfone (Safelink's parent) when you run out of the free minutes?

Not a scientific sampling, but it would help to know what your experiences are as we think about recommendations to Community Voice Mail clients about these services. Please post your thoughts in the comments. Thanks!


Sales of Safelink phones through September 2009:


13 comments:

Jodi Strmiska said...

I enrolled in Safelink Wireless in December, 2009 and thought it was a good deal until February 2010 rolled in. For the past four days, I have been unable to redeem my free airtime minutes and have found it virtually impossible to contact Safelink Customer Service via e-mail.

I recently purchsed additional minutes with a Tracfone airtime card c/o Radio Shack for extra minutes untill my monthly allotment of 68 'Free' minutes were activated. Seemingly(?) some kind of programming error occured as the result, making my Safelink service inoperable!

This service is designed for low-income folks who need basic cell-access for emergency & family contact, but God help you(!) if, like me, this is your only phone & you actually DO have a real emergency!

What I don't 'get' is why Safelink does not offer easy-access online customer service 'chat' windows tp it's customer base.(?) Having to call an 800-customer service number for help with a 'free' service generates a Kafka-esque Catch-22 of having to use up all your 'free' minutes, in order to keep your service up & running.
As of today, I'm looking into lifeline service c/o Virgin Mobile;- if it is avialble in my state. ( Ct.)

This is the 3rd(!- internet or phone-related techno-glitch I've had inside of 3 weeks and I'm reaching the point where I feel like living without a phone entirely@!re that consumers are not compromised to the extent that they are at present with companies like Tracfone, etc.

Anonymous said...
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Leta said...

SafeLink sucks. I also got mine in Dec '09. I had 268 minutes on it, and the phone broke, with no trauma to it whatsoever. I won't cover the customer service nightmare that it took to get a new phone, and then upon ordering it, they said, "Oh, BTW, you'll only have 122 minutes on the replacement phone." Talked to a supervisor (three tries, hang ups, basically nightmare round two) who kept saying, "But it's free!" Could not understand that I had purchased additional minutes. I filed a BBB complaint and canceled my SafeLink.

Anonymous said...

There are some serious problems with their customer service representatives. My 82 yrs. old mother has tried for months to get reinstated. one person will tell you to do this ;another one said no thats not necessary. I ended up buying air time after receiving a sim card from them but still havent gotten it activated. I was told that was all I needed to do.WRONG!!! What is wrong with this company?Its terrible.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand the dissatisfaction with this service. I ordered a phone for my mother april 19/2010 and was given and enrollment number. I still have not received the phone. I have calld customer service 2times a day for the past 2 weeks. You hold for 20 minutes to get through and then someone will come on the phone and i dont mean any harm but you cant understand anything that they say. Most owners are elderly and will never be able to deal with their customer service. after you explain what you need the first time they transfer you for another 20 minute wait so that person can drive you crazy enough to ask for a supervisor. When the supervisor gets on the phone sometimes they just hang up if they cant help you but if you ask right away for their supervisor and think youre getting somewhere. They hang up on you also. This is terrible. Obama is a wonderful president and I'm sure that if he had to have one of these phones the people getting rich for taking advantage of the elderly he would cancel it in a heart beat. Hopefully the right person will read this comment and help my mother still no phone still no help and with their customer service no chance of help. 3510790 Please somebody help.

Carole said...

SafelINK customer service is a JOKE. I've tried for 4 solid days now to get help with a problem that excludes my use of the "EMERGENCY" phone. I get a message that "Due to the high volume of calls. . .Please try again later" CLUNK. I've e-mailed, etc. NOTHING. It's my only phone, and I don't know what to do. Grandma.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

For Carole who posted today:

If you can tell me where you're located, I can post the phone number of the Utilities Commission in your state, and you can contact them to let them know that you're not receiving the service you need. In most states, it is the Utilities Commission who have granted Safelink the right to provide this service (and get compensated for it), and they're generally responsive to complaints when someone isn't receiving their service. Let me know...

And keep trying Safelink customer service. If possible, call the toll-free technical support number (1-800-378-1684) from a landline or payphone, and save your minutes.

Finally, if you live in a state where Assurance Wireless is offered (Florida, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina or Texas), I suggest you move to them. They offer 200 minutes per month for free to Lifeline-eligible people.

Good luck!

ALShiaTalk said...

http://www.factcheck.org/2009/10/the-obama-phone/

Anonymous said...

For people having problems with their Safelink service, You can also get help on Facebook through Tracfone at http://www.facebook.com/TracFoneSupport I had several problems with mine and was helped out alot.

Ritchie Vee said...

I must ageree with the negative feedback posted. It is deplorable what a seinor disabled fixed income must endure when tax moneis are being utilized to provide a coopperative venture the singular control and administration of such a vital link to emergency communication offered in the name of our goverment by this company other than sher luck a positive contact with the Safe-link folks is impossible and demeaning both personal and business/tech related supervisors are more agressive if you can imagine the addded insult and bravado intoned in thier uptake and continued abusive disertations what stands for a representation of customer service and support. I beleive the government need appoint an abitrator and expiditor to examine and oversee the implimentation of this program or seperate safelink from thecashcow venture at tqx payer expense. aqbsolute power corrupts abosulutly safeli9nk needed a lesson in humility and self-accountability a touch of understanding and human compassion a modicome of respect and an offering of goodwill with policyh and proceedure would go a distance to re3form and resposible business ethics.

Anonymous said...

i hate safelink i had 3 phones an they all broke with in a month they are cheap phones an they suck big time leslie hopkins

SHERRY said...

THE COMMENT MAY HELP Jodi Strmiska A FRIEND OF MINE TOLD ME ABOUT IT. www.assurance.com give free cells for us poor folks also. hope they cover your state. good luck. YAYA FROM FLORIDA

Sandy said...

I was searching around the web after my unemployed sister was complaining Safelink and found this page. Interesting comments.

I also found that there is a site devoted to informing people about free cell phones from the government.

http://www.freegovernmentcellphones.net

They say they have a reviews and ratings page they say they just put up. It's under Reviews in at the left and there is a page for Safelink. I'm going to get my sister to post her story here and over there..

I'm happy they have this program for people but their service reps suck.