Last year, while in Denver for defrag, I purchased an AT&T GoPhone PrePay SIM card. Rather than incur large roaming fees from home in New Zealand, it made sense to have a local phone number and, more importantly, data plan, for my frequent US trips.

I’ve not been in the US since December so, prior to my trip next week for Cloud Connect and SXSW, I decided I’d top up my prepay card. I decided (more fool me) to head online to the Pay As You Go Online site where I was invited to register to use the service. So far so good, I entered my mobile number (lucky that I keep paperwork huh?) and then entered the last four digits of my number which had been set as the temporary ID.

I was then taken to a page which, in fantastically circular fashion, told me that a new PIN number had been sent via SMS to my mobile.

Yes… it was sent via SMS to a service that only works within the US.

I figured an operator might be able to reset my PIN so I spent the typical half hour navigating an incredibly annoying AT&T AVR system, only to be told by an operator that, yes, she could reset my PIN, and would SMS it to my mobile.

I can’t believe that I’m the only user of this product from outside the US, after all GoPhone is marketed as a great solution for people spending only some of their time in the US. Why design a system that completely fails for those who it’s actually designed for?

In the end the operator was able to process my transaction, but only after she forced me to give her a fake zip code because, you guessed it, GoPhone only works with those with a US zip code.

I think I need a drink….

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • OMG I totally feel your pain. The exact same thing happened to us! We were on a plan but wanted to keep the account active at lowest possible price when we returned to NZ. AT&T recommended that we switch to pre-pay. But we had same problem with no-way-to-receive-pin therefore no-way-to-pay so at some expense after several attempts to reach AT&T (next problem is AVR requires social security number which we didn’t have!) we got through to an operator to give our US credit card number over the phone … that wasn’t easy either! We had 2 pre-pay accounts to top up so when we attempted the 2nd one the card was flagged for possible fraud and declined because 2 transactions in quick succession at the same place was suspicious! Ended up in a 3-way call with AT&T and Bank of America where we overheard a bit of a cat-fight between the 2 of them deciding whether or not the 2nd payment would be processed. Needless to say tempers were lost and we stuck the 2nd charge on our NZ credit card. And to this day we’ve no idea if it worked because we can’t get on the damn network in NZ so can’t even use the credit we’ve got. ARRRGGH! AT&T operator did apologise and say they shouldn’t have recommended pre-pay – I just wish they’d done it at the time so we could’ve chosen to stay on account.

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