Thursday, November 22, 2007 (prepaid debit card)

This company really sucks. That strong opinion is based on my 6+ months of experience trying to do business with these folks. WiredPlastic offers a prepaid Visa debit card (issued by BankFirst in South Dakota). They really have no clue how to treat their customers and prey on people who have little or no credit history.

I started out with an excellent prepaid debit card (STASH) which Virgin Mobile provided as a service to its customers. They offered a Bill-Pay-type feature that I really liked and the customer service was excellent. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and for whatever reason Virgin Mobile abruptly stopped providing the STASH card to their customers.

That was when I discovered WiredPlastic. From the get-go, it was a nightmare for me when one of their online third-party affiliates captured ALL of my personal information that was submitted on the application form and I started receiving 50 spam e-mails every few hours to my Gmail account. My persistent phone calls and even complaint letters didn't result in one response from WiredPlastic or BankFirst or anyone connected with these companies. I was greatly inconvenienced by having to start a new Gmail account because of the spams that they wouldn't put a stop to.

The reason I signed up with WiredPlastic was to take advantage of the benefits that STASH had offered, which included a Bill-Pay-type feature so I could pay a collection agency for an old debt without using my real bank account (something you definitely want to keep secret from ANY collection agency).

Recently, I scheduled payment to the collection agency in advance using the WiredPlastic Click-N-Pay feature (just 95 cents per check issued). Soon after, my dental insurance carrier notified me that if I didn't pay my dental premium right away, they were canceling my insurance. The only place I had money at the time was on my WiredPlastic card, but only if I were to cancel the Click-N-Pay previously scheduled for the collection agency.

I tried everything I could on the WiredPlastic web site, but there was no option whatsoever to cancel a scheduled Click-N-Pay on their web site. After numerous calls to the WiredPlastic customer support (which I later learned I was charged 95 cents for, per call), I was informed the only way to cancel a prescheduled Click-N-Pay was to delete the collection agency altogether. I immediately did that and the next day confirmed I had enough of a balance on my WiredPlastic debit card to pay my dental insurance premium.

Unfortunately, for technical reasons no one has yet explained why the balance showing on the WiredPlastic web page was negative, as was the balance given to me using the free automated telephone number. For weeks, the only way to find out my true balance was to pay 95 cents per call and ask a live person what it was. Needless to say, I was really pissed off that I had to pay for something that was their fault, and although they did not reverse all of the 95-cent charges, some were eventually reversed. I even had to pay 95 cents when speaking with supervisors to request that previous charges be removed, and that just isn't right!

Countless calls and e-mails to WiredPlastic customer service reps, managers, and even two calls to BankFirst in South Dakota resulted in NO resolution to the ongoing problem with my negative balance showing when I utilized the web site features. Numerous times, I threatened to file complaints against them with the
Federal Trade Commission and Ralph Nader at Public Citizen, but still received no resolution to the problems.

Then out of the blue, I received a call from BankFirst and presumed that someone was finally listening. Guess what? They weren't responding to my numerous complaints; they wanted a copy of my California Driver License and Social Security Card under The Patriot Act to prove that my full legal name is Crusader. I was told that until I provided said documentation, my WiredPlastic account was "being placed on hold" and couldn't be used.

I was told by BankFirst that they call people at random, but I am convinced that they were harassing me because of my threats to take action against them. Since my balance was at zero dollars and zero cents, I told them just to cancel the card, and informed them I was going to write an article about them so others can be educated to stay far away from The BankFirst employee could care less when I told her that.

Hopefully others will also care less about doing business with these jerks!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


GrandCentral (easy-to-use phone management)

Now, here is a "telephone management" service that actually works! Another Google "invention," this service is free during the beta phase. One can go to GrandCentral to request to be a masterbeta tester, just like me.

The best part about their service, which I quote directly from their FAQ: "We've tapped into VoIP technology to build our service, but GrandCentral works with cell phones, desk phones, VoIP lines, and everything in between. There's nothing to download, upload, or install. And you don't have to make or take calls using a computer."

In less than 30 minutes, I signed up for a "virtual phone number" in my area (Palm Springs, CA), and was able to diddle with a few of the settings and place several "test calls" to ensure that the features actually worked as described.

My situation involves always forwarding my business cell and personal cell to my GrandCentral number; that way, I can manage all my cell phones (3 total) from one phone.

I programmed GrandCentral to forward all of those calls (plus any calls directly made to my GrandCentral number) directly to my unlisted private cell number. When I make a call from the GrandCentral web page (or via their site on my MOTO RAZR V3xx web browser), the caller sees my GrandCentral number in their Caller ID, not any of my other phone numbers, which is sweet.

The features that GrandCentral offer are too numerous to mention here, but include audio Caller ID (for when visual Caller ID just isn't enough or the caller is Unknown); listening in while someone is leaving a voice mail message and then pushing a button on the keypad to retrieve the call while the caller is leaving the message; customized voice mail messages specific to callers in your GrandCentral address book; a variety of phone rings (or humorous voice announcements) the caller hears when they contact you at GrandCentral (customizable for each address book contact); compatibility with some cell phones to access some GrandCentral features via a mobile web browser. (Be sure you have a flat rate data or web package with your phone carrier if you plan on using this feature often.)

It's important to note that not all features of the mobile access work on all cell phones. Case in point, on my MOTO RAZR V3xx, I cannot play the voicemail messages because of how my phone defines those particular MP3 files. I thought the workaround for this would be to install the Opera Mini browser application (which GrandCentral recommends); however that did not resolve the issue. I sent some feedback to GrandCentral to find out if they have any suggestions.

On a positive note, since downloading the Opera Mini browser application on my phone, I have to say that it is 1,000 times better than the Opera 8.0 browser that MOTO (or AT&T) preinstalls with this model phone. In fact, it's definitely the best browser I've used on any cell phone.

From a business standpoint, GrandCentral really helps me because I am able to place a WebCall button on my proofreading web site (several styles to choose from) for potential clients to call me. All they have to do is click on the button and enter their telephone number. GrandCentral then calls me and connects me seamlessly to the potential new client. I also put a GrandCentral button on my activism web site and this blog to make it easy for folks to reach me.

Tired of annoying sales calls? calls from ex-significant others? calls from pesky collection agencies? Simply add the person or company to your address book and program that caller to 1) Always go to voice mail; 2) Always go to SPAM voice mail; 3) Play a recording such as "The number you have reached is no longer in service." If you select No. 3 above, you'll never get the call, but GrandCentral will keep track of the attempted call in your phone log, which is nice in case you want to be aware of who tried to contact you.

These are some of the features that paid services such as TalkPlus supposedly offer; however as mentioned in a previous post on this blog, many of the TalkPlus features failed more often than not. A similar outfit, RingCentral (which offers even more features than TalkPlus), has failed to return my inquiry to them after more than 24 hours, which is surprising as their web site is rather impressive.

Apparently, from my recent experience, GrandCentral should take off like wildfire and put any competition to shame. Many thanks again to Google for providing me (and others) with tools to stay informed and organized.

Click here to see the skinny on how GrandCentral works.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


TalkPlus (manage all your telephone numbers from one phone)

This would be a great service if only it worked. TalkPlus claims to offer all types of really cool features to manage several telephones (cell or land line phones) from one phone number.

In my situation, I have three cell phones. TalkPlus was supposed to make it convenient and possible for me to receive and make calls from one number, and program their system so that my call could be "mirrored" from either my business line or personal line. The outgoing call features appear to work; however, their incoming call features have failed repeatedly!

From the very start, it is extremely complicated to program the features the consumer or business owner wants to use with TalkPlus. Worse yet, once everything is programmed properly, the features do not work as advertised. Since the entire reason for paying for their service is to make telecommuting easier for business owners and consumers, that is what I expect TalkPlus to deliver. Unfortunately, they have failed miserably in that regard.

I have been paying about $30.00 per month for two "mirrored numbers" and two "virtual numbers" with 200 minutes. The minutes are only used when I accept a call on my "native phone" that is forwarded by TalkPlus OR when I make a call from my "native phone" (in this case, my private cell phone) and route it through TalkPlus to make it look like the call is coming from my personal OR business line. An application from TalkPlus needs to be installed on the "native phone" to use the outgoing call features.

After using the service for about five weeks, every time I attempt to add a telephone number to the Call Screening feature (which programs a call from a specific number to go directly to voice mail or replicate a busy signal), I receive an error message that I must input a valid numeric telephone number.

Other issues involve the fact that even though I have programmed the TalkPlus service to send all UNKNOWN callers directly to voice mail, that feature usually does not work, and the calls are routed to what TalkPlus calls my "native phone," the one

I am supposed to be able to manage all my phone numbers from. Anotherfeature that does not work consistently is when I have programmed a number in my Call Screening profile to replicate a busy signal, those calls sometimes come through on my main number, which isn't supposed to happen.

Finally, repeated phone calls and e-mails to TalkPlus about their glitches remain unanswered. In fact, I notice that during the past several days, it is impossible to reach a live person at their customer service number.

If TalkPlus expects to be a serious contender in their field, they need to fix their glitches and provide improved customer service, which right now is a big fat zero!

Note: Just a little update that on Tuesday, November 26, a live person finally called me from TalkPlus after my 10+ business days of trying to reach them via e-mail, online feedback forms, and telephone. They promised to cancel my account and refund me the equivalent of one month's service. I gave the employee and earful about their customer disservice AND technical problems, which they were happy to hear about. For now, I recommend that people pass on TalkPlus and (still hasn't returned my inquiry after FIVE business days), and try out, a free service that actually WORKS!