NOTE: "Uh-Oh" image above from the following YouTube presentation:

I haven't blogged for a while, and I'm sorry about that. It has been because so much has been going on, rather than nothing to write about. I'm also sorry that I take up the keyboard again here just to type out what is mostly a rant about lousy customer service.

Yet here we are.

What has earned my ire? A cell phone service provider, Mint Mobile to be exact. Understanding why takes a little bit of background.

First of all, we have started doing international travel once again, after the long Covid delay. This past fall we were in Greece, Istanbul, Vienna, and Prague for example. One of the things we used to make travel easier was the eSIM.

If you are not familiar, eSIM (Embedded SIM) is a feature of many modern cell phones. It allows you to add SIMS to your phone electronically, without having to have multiple SIM card slots. Gone are the days of swapping out SIMs when you arrive in a foreign land, and having your telephone number change to the local system.

Now, through a feature called Cellular Data Switching, you can purchase an eSIM for your travel destination and use it for data only. Your phone number stays the same, so you can still send and receive texts, get phone calls, and use the same WhatsApp number.

We used this method in Europe, and it worked beautifully. As we arrived in each country, we were immediately able to get data and access the internet. Calling for Ubers, getting directions, translations - all no problem outside of WiFi areas. The eSIM cost us only $20/month, so it was a great value as well. Once we returned, we just turned it off. When we return to Europe, we can easily add more time to it and re-activate.


Now the problem. Once back in the States, I succumbed to an advertisement from Mint. (I blame you, Ryan Reynolds) offering six months for the price of three. I switched both of our phones from Lycamobile to Mint, and lived happily ever after.

Until January 5th, when we left the US once again to spend ten weeks in Panama.

I of course had purchased us eSIMs for Panama, $18/month, and as soon as our plane landed at Tocumen International I turned on my phone, activated the eSIM, and went to allow  Cellular Data Switching.

And found the the  Cellular Data Switching option was greyed out.

Even worse, I noticed that if I turned on the eSIM, my Mint account automatically turned off, and vice-versa.

Perplexed, since it had been so easy in Europe, there was nothing I could do until we were in our condo and under the beneficent umbrella of WiFi. Fortunately, I was able to use the airport WiFi to communicate to our driver that we had arrived, and arrange to meet him.

After hours of searching on the Internet and chats with the eSIM provider Airalo, I finally was informed by Mint Not-So-Mobile what the problem was. I was told Mint does not allow  Cellular Data Switching, "since it is a pre-paid service".

This of course is crap. They don't provide  Cellular Data Switching because they don't want to. Instead, they want you to pay extra for International Roaming.

Okay, so far not happy, but I realize part of the blame is mine, since I didn't think to ask them before switching if they provided a service that is standard on virtually every other provider in the world. My bad.

Grudgingly I bought $20 of roaming for each phone, and confirmed it worked. We would be charged two cents for each text, and 25 cents per minute for phone calls. Since we needed it mostly to call Ubers, that wouldn't be too bad. In fact, by the end of the third week I had $9 left, and added another $20, which I was sure would get us through until we return to the US in mid-March.

Or so I thought.

Apparently the service is called "Mint" because they hope to make one.

Today I received an email cheerfully informing me that I have been screwed. They have instituted a new International Roaming plan called "Minternational" (so cute you could puke) that now charges on a different schedule. Instead of buying minutes to use whenever you need them, you can now only buy for blocks of time: 1, 3 or 7 days.

One day (24 hours) will cost $10. Three days can be had for $20, and one full week a whopping $40. When your time is up, it is up. Doesn't matter how many minutes or how much data may be unused, they are vapor at that point.

Oh well, I thought. By the time my data I already purchased runs out, we will be on the plane back home.

I was wrong again. I then found that they had also cheerfully transferred my remaining balance into a "wallet", so I could use it towards the purchase of one of the new plans. Never mind that when I bought them in good faith I was told "these minutes do not expire, they roll over each month". Apparently I missed the fine print codicil, "Unless we come up with a way to screw you over, then all bets are off."

So where we are now, is they would like to offer me the opportunity to spend up to $240 (six weeks times $40) to use the same amount of data I pre-paid $20 for. Pay twelve times what I have already paid, and end up using less than a tenth the data and minutes I would have to purchase.

At the very least, Ryan Reynolds owes me an apology.

Naturally, we are stuck until we return to the US and can cancel our Mint service and switch back to Lycamobile. I'll just have to try and buy only one or three days at a time on one phone as needed. Since we are mostly lounging at the beach for the next six weeks (don't hate me), we should only need roaming to call for Ubers coming back from the grocery store. Or just use the local cabs once we learn the going rates.

Bottom line, if you are someone who wants to travel internationally, I strongly advise that you do NOT sign up for Mint Mobile, and it wouldn't hurt to double-check that your provider allows  Cellular Data Switching. If you have an iPhone, look under Settings, Cellular, and see if you have "Add eSIM" as an option. If you do, then select "Cellular Data" at the top of the screen and make sure "Allow Cellular Data Switching" is not grayed out.

If you see this grayed out, and cannot activate, welcome to my world.

That's my tale of woe, and fear not - I will try to follow up with new blogs once we are in Playa Coronado.


Well, it gets worse. I broke down and bought the 3-day Minternational Pass, Activated it, and could not make or receive any calls with it. Data would work, but not voice.

After over an hour spent (wasted) on their Chat line trying to troubleshoot, they eventually opened a ticket.

Here's the best part - they asked for a callback number to reach me when they have a solution.

I explained in the smallest words I could think of, that the problem is I am in another country, and your Minternational Plan is NOT ALLOWING ME TO SEND OR RECEIVE PHONE CALLS!

Apparently they are not technologically advanced enough to either text me or email me.

The next day, I chatted again, and gave the ticket number. "Oh, we tried to reach you with a solution but could not reach your number."

YES, THAT WAS THE ORIGINAL PROBLEM!!!! I also reminded them it was working quite well under the old plan, until they took my minutes away and insisted on the new plan.

Anyway, they had me dial #766#, and eventually, it actually started working. 

Me - "Great, now can you add an extra day to my 3-Day Pass since I lost a day of service?"

Mint - "No, sorry, we cannot do that."

Me - "Why not? You took my minutes and added them to a Wallet. Can't you just add the amount there?"

Mint - "No, sorry, we cannot do that."

Me - "You have a 1-day pass. Why not just give me one of those to make up for the lack of service?"

Mint - "No, sorry, we cannot do that."

Again, I cannot WAIT to get back to the states and dump this incredibly awfully cell service.