How to get a US cellphone number in 46 easy steps! (You won't believe Step 41)

  1. Do some background research online, and ask friends in the US, to figure out which company to go with and which plan to choose (how much you want to spend).
  2. Find their nearest store. 
  3. Go to the store.
  4. Ask for a SIM card, go through all the registration details and tell them what plan you want. 
  5. Observe store assistant clicking and typing painfully slowly; swallow the anger.
  6. Try to pay for the SIM card and some initial credit on the account (because you don't have any credit history having just moved there). 
  7. Try again when it fails. 
  8. And again.
  9. Eventually discover that their till system doesn't like foreign cards, unlike everywhere else you've been using the cards in the USA.
  10. Go withdraw some cash from a nearby ATM, sucking up the $4 ATM withdrawal fee which you're gradually realizing is pretty standard in the USA.
  11. Return to store with cash. 
  12. Go through much of the registration process again because it couldn't be saved.
  13. Pay with cash and put the new SIM card into your phone. 
  14. On store assistant's advice, try calling the store number. It doesn't work. 
  15. Store assistant remembers it takes up to 24 hours to become active. 
  16. Go home and wait overnight. 
  17. Keep trying to make the phone work. Get frustrated. 
  18. Try calling phone support line (the only thing that works) every few hours. Enjoy getting sent round in circles, listening to hold music, and being bounced between departments of equally-clueless people. 
  19. Return to store after 24 hours have passed (third time including ATM visit). See a different store assistant, explain problem. 
  20. Wait while store assistant does a really good, thorough job of trying to figure out the problem, but failing, for around one hour. 
  21. Eventually store assistant discovers that your new SIM card is not yet active. It is apparently impossible to sell a SIM card without activating it, and yet, you have been sold one that is not active. Discover that previous (first) store assistant was brand new to the job... 
  22. Helpful store assistant clicks a single button on-screen to activate SIM card. 
  23. Restart phone, and it immediately works. 
  24. Celebrate! 
  25. Go home, register for the online account management service with your cellphone provider. Sign in. 
  26. Discover that you've been put on a completely different (more expensive) price plan to what you wanted. Panic briefly. 
  27. Remember that you paid cash so they don't have any way of taking more money from you yet, and that you are currently getting Unlimited everything despite having asked for much, much less. 
  28. Celebrate again! 
  29. Enjoy making and receiving calls, sending texts, and using cellular data, for the next 24 hours or so while you organize your new life in the USA.
  30. Become puzzled when network signal disappears around 24 hours later. Assume it's a temporary blip for maintenance. 
  31. Become more puzzled when it doesn't sort itself out. 
  32. Optimistically (foolishly) call customer support phone number again. Enjoy the same going round in pointless circles as previously. Give up. 
  33. Tweet the network's customer support people. Spend an hour working with a much more helpful rep over direct messages, establishing that there's no network maintenance and it should be working fine, but unable to fix things. 
  34. Go back to store for the fourth time. See Newbie assistant again. 
  35. Wait while assistant tries lots of simple tests that you've already done or know to be pointless. 
  36. Eventually get a second new SIM card and find that works perfectly: conclude the first one just happened to stop working by chance. 
  37. Celebrate again!
  38. Get on with life for the next week or two. 
  39. Become puzzled when network signal disappears again with no good reason why. 
  40. Learn from past mistakes: go straight to store at soonest possible opportunity. See different assistant, number 3.
  41. Assistant rapidly discovers that your new (second) SIM card you've been using successfully for the last week, is in fact also not activated. 
  42. Assistant clicks the magic button to activate this SIM card and, yes, it immediately starts working. 
  43. Don't even try to figure out how an unactivated SIM could work for a full week before stopping out of the blue. The answer would probably induce nightmares. 
  44. Walk out of store for the fifth time (in under 3 weeks) with a once-again functioning phone. 
  45. Try to summon the will to celebrate. Fail, because you don't really know how long it's going to last... 
  46. Make plans to switch to a different provider once life is a bit more sorted out.


  1. This had me in stiches 😊. I think a new provider definitely sounds like a plan.


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