Virgin Mobile USA Support Tips

In light of the truly sucktastic service we’ve gotten from Virgin Mobile USA this week, I felt I should write a post in the hopes that it might help others who use VMU but can’t get things to work. Most of this post has to do with iPhones in particular, since that is what we have experience with, but I’m sure a lot of it will help with any device you have using the Virgin (which uses the Sprint network) service. This post is about USA service only. BTW, Sprint is dying and it will take VM with it. I wouldn’t advise spending a lot of dough on a phone with either of them. It’s a shame, we’ve used VMU for over a decade. I’ll miss them, shitty customer service and all. :(

Basic Virgin Mobile FAQ:

– Virgin Mobile shares bandwidth on the Sprint network in the US. This used to be a good thing, now, not so much. Sprint is dying. America is the land of the oligopoly and eventually there’ll be just AT&T for phone and satellite TV, but for now there is Verizon (CDMA network) and AT&T (GSM network). VM uses the CDMA network. That means the phone must be CDMA. You cannot use a CDMA phone on a GSM network or vice versa. Here is an article about bringing a phone to Verizon, FYI.

– NO, VMU will NOT be getting [insert iPhone model] back in stock. Every VSU employee will tell you “Yes! It’ll be any day now!”, which is a lie. The front page of their site is a lie. The fact is that VMU buys their iPhone stock and then it sells out. Their inventory is finite. Just buy a phone off of eBay. Which is generally not a problem, just make sure it’s a VMU phone with a clean ESN. If it’s a 5 series, you’ll need to also buy a new card for it (it is a UICC card, which is just a newer generation SIM card).

– YES, a used iPhone 5 and up WILL require a new UICC card. Do not listen to the VMU employees that tell you otherwise. NO you do NOT need a card for a 4 series phone. Actually these require NO CARD in the slot. All iPhones require a card from series 5 onward. You can buy these on ebay, too. They are labeled Sprint, T Mobile, Boost and VM.

– VMU has really horrible support. Which is probably why you’re here. It will not get better, so it’s something you must make peace with. Hopefully something in here will help you.

– Don’t even bother with trying to use the website to swap phones. Just suck it up and call.

– The Twitter people (@VMUcare) suck just as much as the phone people. Don’t bother.

– If you have a “support” person who clearly does not understand what you are calling about, just say goodbye and call back. You may have to do this many times. Be prepared to spend a LOT of time on the phone. You simply have to persevere and keep cycling through support people until you find one that has a clue. No way around it.

There is a glitch in the VMU system that will render your iPhone 4 series unable to send/receive calls when you update the OS. Virgin support is apparently unaware of this and cannot help you. But I can. Simply call ##873283# and your phone service will be restored. I am not sure if this applies to 5 series (or 6 series) iPhones. I’ll update this when Nick updates his 5c. **He did have to call this number to turn on phone service on the 5c after he got the card working. This seems to have been worked out with iOS 10+. I’ve not had to use the # since iOS 10 on my 5c OR my new 5s.**

How to buy a new iPhone and get it activated with VMU:

– Go go eBay and look for phones specifically labeled Virgin Mobile. Make sure they have a clean ESN – which means they are not stolen and/or bricked.

– If you are buying a 4 series iPhone, you’ll need to REMOVE the SIM/UICC card that might still be in it. My phone had been used with TMobile, apparently, there was a card in the slot. I know this because when I called to activate the phone, it kept giving me an “incompatible SIM card” error. Of course the “support” person in Philippines did not know what this meant. I am a nerd, so I knew to pop out the card, but the “support” dude kept telling me I had to take the phone to Apple. Yeah, NO. 4 series iPhones do NOT need any card in the slot to work with VMU. Ignore whatever else you’re told, just pop out the old card and then call VMU to activate. You can google how to remove a SIM card, it’s a snap.

– If you are buying a 5 series phone, you’ll need to buy a NEW SIM/UICC card for it. They sell those on eBay, too. Once you get your new phone and the card, this is where the fun begins. And by fun, I mean soul sucking hell. :( You’ll have to call VMU to get the phone and its card activated. The problem is that most of the “support” people don’t know how to do this. They will attempt to activate the phone w/out activating the card, which, of course will not work. It took my husband FOUR DAYS to find a support person who could understand this issue and activate the UICC. Once the card was paired with the phone’s id#, all was well – BUT you’ll probably have to call the super secret number (##873283#) to get phone service working (no longer w/ iOS 10). **I got a good support guy who got my 5c working in minutes. That is rare!**

Those are the biggest issues with iPhones and VMU. They won’t get any better. My advice is to go with another provider if you’re just setting up cell phone service (TMobile, maybe?). As I said at the top, Sprint is dying and with it, Virgin Mobile USA. We assume another provider will buy up the bandwidth and service (Verizon most likely) but the heyday of good VMU service is gone. We’ll stick with VMU until it dies. I, personally, love my $30/mo unlimited text/talk and 1gb data. It works for me and I can deal with spotty support. I don’t need a lot of hand holding.

Do not get into a contract with any provider. Just buy the phone that will work with one of the two networks and then shop providers. Like I mentioned, there are only two networks in the US and AT&T (GSM) is dominant. Their non-contract division is called Cricket. Even tho I detest AT&T, I think Cricket is the best choice for non-contract. If you have a Virgin/Sprint phone and want to switch, your only choice is Verizon – which may or may not take your phone. TMobile is still around and they offer good deals. I’ve no idea how they are service and support-wise.

Cell phone service is as screwed up as broadband and TV in the US. It won’t get any better. Just try to find the best deal you can and don’t be afraid to change if you’re not happy. I think too many people in the US are afraid to change their providers. In addition, make sure to support efforts to break up and/or regulate our broadband, TV and cell services. The reason American services are so bad is due to the government being paid off by monopolies and oligopolies that collude to keep prices high and service low. You must speak out about this to your US House Reps and Senators. American cell service sucks because we let it suck. Remember: we are a third world country when it comes to broadband/TV/Phone services.

Good luck with your cell phone service! I hope something here may have helped.

Avoid Zweeko, mates! (They are GONE anyway!)

Zweeko does not exist any more. Good thing we ditched their sorry asses. I’ll bet they fucked over all their clients, too. They were far more interested in MONEY than SERVICE. Good riddance!

TWO UPDATES at end of this post. Our opinion of Zweeko has declined precipitously. :(

We are done with WiredTree. You are reading this from our new server at zweeko.com in the UK!

I’m really shocked at the behaviour of WiredTree, our host for about four years. When our sites (this one in particular) started getting hammered by ddos and wp attacks, they did LITERALLY NOTHING about it. They blamed us for the constant outages and basically had the attitude of “it sucks to be you”.

All they could recommend was that we buy more RAM or upgrade our plan: WHICH WE DID. We moved to a more robust SSD plan that cost $15 more than the other plan we were on ($40 -> $55). Today I wake up to a notice about the sites being down (third time THIS WEEK) and they jacked the billing up to $59 without notice.

Really, WiredTree? REALLY? Wow. It’s become a clear pattern that hosting companies are great for about four years, then they get too big to care. I’ve consistently had to find a new host every 4-5 years for this exact reason: support goes to shit. I expect the same from Zweeko and that is OK. I just have to deal with moving every 4-5 years. Whatever.

So a coupla weeks ago I was kvetching on Twitter about the shitty service we were getting from WiredTree, when I got a message from Sal at Zweeko.com. He enquired about what was going on and offered to bail us out of WiredTree. After much discussion, we decided that we’d give them a go. Sal even called me from London to chat about what they could offer us and that they’d do all the grunt work of moving the sites. As we were chatting, he told me that he and his staff were “having a laugh” about how shitty WiredTree is being to us and that sealed the deal for me. You know what? WiredTree IS being shitty to us. They offer no protection from ddos or wp attacks. There are plenty of server side firewalls available, but they can’t be bothered. Sal uses CloudFlare to protect the servers from attacks and doesn’t even charge extra for it – it’s included in the $70/mo hosting package. WiredTree did suggest that maybe WE should look into CloudFlare for our server, but they can’t be bothered. Assholes.

So the upshot is that we are in the process of moving to Zweeko and WiredTree can suck it. I doubt they’ll even refund the jacked up fee they just charged me and I don’t really give a shit. KEEP IT. Clearly you need it worse than I do (maybe use it for some better support people?). Assholes. [They did not refund anything. Assholes.]

We’ll have plenty of protection from various attacks and we’re adding SSL for $18/yr for further protection. WiredTree wanted $60 for an SSL certificate. Assholes.

UPDATE Feb 2016:

While Zweeko has been better than Wiredtree, we have had plenty of issues. We had several hours of downtime over the end of 2015 – mostly due to growing pains for Zweeko. They had hardware issues and support issues. Sal was a champ through my endless grousing and bitching. Once they got moved to their new data center, however, the problems seem to have planed out. Overall, we are happy with Zweeko after six months. Cloudflare has stopped all the attacks on our sites and buying the certificate has turned out to be a great thing since Google has decreed that all sites must have a certificate or be labeled “unsafe”.

UPDATE #2 June 2016:
Sadly, Zweeko has gone to shit VERY quickly. Less than a year. :( It’s mainly due to the owner abandoning the business to the support team, who are simply not that capable. They are fine with written instructions (the manual), but they cannot THINK outside that and actually FIX issues. All they know how to do is reboot the server, blame us or delete an error log. That’s it. Our sites were down for NINE HOURS Sunday June 4 to Monday June 5 and they didn’t even bother to fix the server until Monday morning. So I guess 24/7 support has been discontinued. The night shift had no idea what the issue was, so they just left it for the day shift. NICE. All the day person did was reboot the server and call it a success.

There is only so much bullshit “Well, so what, it was down for 9 hours! But now it’s UP! Yay! No worries!” attitude I can take. They really DGAF if our sites are down. I reamed them on their fucking FB site and Twitter and we are looking for a new host. Fortunately, I have a buddy who used to work for Zweeko, who can still access my server (hey-o zweeko has shitty security too!) and he went in and fixed a few of the server side problems that the Zweeko staff simply could not figure out. This guy also recommends a host called Kualo, which is at the top of our potential relocation list.

UPDATED
We are culling our sites – taking down the defunct comic sites and making them redirect to indigodragon.net – and we’ll be moving probably before the end of the year. Make that immediately. The absent owner of Zweeko, the one who always says “no worries!!” when something goes wrong, booted us off the server. He threatened to delete all our sites if we were not gone in 48 hours. (Which is why they no longer exist, no doubt. What an ASSHOLE.)

OVERALL REC:
DO NOT USE ZWEEKO. The owner is crazy and very, very unconcerned about the business and clients. He is retaliatory and will screw you over. We are on SITEGROUND now, which has been a big improvement. Our sites are still fucked up with bot attacks, but we are getting them under control. When we are attacked, the server is typically down for only a few minutes rather than HOURS.

It’s referral time!

Noticed a big spike in my page views yesterday, so I naturally went to investigate. I went back 100 pings, which goes back a few days. Here are some highlights:

– Got several views from Daniel Davis’ FB post. ? No idea why.
– Got 40 views from the State of Alabama Information Services department in Montgomery, AL. HI LISSA!! Email me, Auntie Social!
– Hello Looney Tunes fan in Pepperell, Massachusetts!
– Hello Beijing, China!
– Hello AGAIN, Beijing, China! Nín hao!
– Hello, Cincinnati, OH! Yep, Chantal customer service does indeed suck.
– Hello, older Mac user who shields the IP! Hope you enjoyed my artwork!
– I saw this in a search ping: Angela Kell date sites OK. ?
– Hi, Morrisville, Vermont! Hope you liked my haiku!
– Hi, Heather! Cox.net in Vegas!
– Hello Cedar Rapids, Iowa! I’ll bet you’re the one who emailed me about hair colour! Hope you got it sorted!
– And of course the myriad bots!

Cheers, y’all!

AOL 2.0

It saddens me that Facebook has become AOL 2.0. People never leave there. I’ve watched my blog stats erode horribly since FB has taken over the goddam internet.

I am a Twitter girl, I admit it. I tend to hang out more on Twitter than anywhere else. I like the immediacy of it and the massive amounts of information that flows in the stream. It’s perfect for news junkies like me.

It pains me that the various social sites have pretty much ruined blogging as we know it. If I don’t cross post to FB that I made a BLOG post, it will quite literally never get read. I has a sad about that. Truly.

I would leave FB altogether if not for the pages I run and the sad fact that no one would ever read this blog if I didn’t link to it from there. ;_;

Having a FB page has become more important than a website these days – so FB would have you believe. I just have to disagree. While YES, FB is free and has billions of eyeballs, I still think a site is better if you actually want people to FIND you via search. Site + FB + Twitter = good coverage, IMO. For ALL of these, you gotta work it! Especially FB and Twitter.

As for the other social sites begging for eyeballs and time, here’s my take on them:

Google Plus: I tried, I really did. If they made it work BOTH WAYS so I could post TO it as well as FROM it, it would be relevant to me. But since G+ expects you to drop everything and use it exclusively. Well, NO. Just NO.

Pinterest: I just don’t see the point. It’s been said that Pinterest is for FB people who can’t read. I would have to agree. I tend to post articles and stuff, not just a picture. Not for me.

Formspring: The Ask Me Anything site. It was interesting for about 10 minutes. Again, I just don’t see the point.

Instagram: Hipster hangout. ‘Nuff said.

Tumblr: I think this is trying to give more of a blog feel. Don’t need it, I’ve GOT a blog. Redundant.

iMood: An OLDIE but a goodie. I’ve used iMood since my very first blog back in 1998. It’s silly and I love it. Very old skool.

Twitpic: I use this to post pix on Twitter. Twitter is going to “phase out” (read: fuck over) all third party apps soon, so I guess twitpic will be going away. I may keep using it anyway. I’ve got a lot of pix over there!

LiveJournal: Still crosspost to it and still read several feeds there. I still have a soft spot for LJ, despite the huge number of truly fucked up people there. :)

MySpace: MyWho? Ha! Rumour has it that MS is trying to relaunch as a music hub rather than the sad excuse for social media it became. I deleted that profile long ago. I hope it works out as a music hub, tho. We need one.

And my take on other online resources that we use:

WordPress: I love using WP for my blog. I also love that you can get a FREE BLOG over at wordpress.com if you don’t want to mess with software, etc.

Etsy: Where my little handmade earring shop (Boneless Cat Designs) is hosted. I like Etsy for the most part. I hope they don’t let it become overrun with commercial people and screw up the handmade vibe.

Spreadshirt: Our comics T Shirts provider. They do good work, although not particularly cheaply. We don’t do enough volume to order shirts in bulk, so the print on demand availability of SS is perfect for us.

Storenvy: Where the rest of our comics shwag is located. Ease of use and FREE are the keys to Storenvy. If we were bigger, we’d do something else, but for small biz, Storenvy totally rocks!

I realise that the FB people probably didn’t even read to the end of this post. It’s long and it talks about stuff other than Facebook, after all. Facebook is the new AOL. And it’s a shame that so many people really don’t even know what they are missing! It’s a big internet, people. Why not leave the safety of FB and explore? FB really is NOT the internet. I promise.

Made it!

[And almost exactly 3 years later, we had to leave WiredTree for getting truly shitty service. They offer absolutely NO protection from DDOS or WP attacks. They blamed us for our sites being attacked. On THEIR server. We even upgraded our account and they still did nothing. I cancelled in the middle of the month and I GUARANTEE YOU we’ll get ZERO refund. Because they have become so terrible. We moved to Zweeko Hosting in the UK. And it’s been smooth as silk. We have better hardware, faster overall speed and THEY protect all their clients with CloudFlare. We highly recommend them. Let’s see if they can continue to be great for longer than THREE years. -A, Aug 7 2015 Welp, Zweeko barely made a year. AVOID. Now we use Siteground. They are pretty good so far, but they are not cheap. BAH. – A 3/11/17]

We have moved all our sites to our shiny new hosting provider, WiredTree.

After multiple outages and shitty customer service at InMotion Hosting, we made the decision to change hosts yet again.

It was harried and crazed, but not due to WiredTree – it was US! We are so used to shitty service and having to set up WordPress databases and all sorts of crap that when it was done FOR us, we freaked out. Yep, excellent customer service freaked us out. What does that tell you about the state of web hosts?

These dudes moved ALL our shit, whole, intact, unmolested and WORKING from our old server to their server. We didn’t have to fix databases or lose mail or reconfigure WP. Nothing. It was too easy and we lost our shit about it. It’s like when a Winblows user goes to Mac. It’s TOO EASY!! GAH!!

I’d like to publicly issue an apology to Jake, Kyle, Stephen, James, Eric, Hector and Danielle (even tho she called me m’am!) for being stressed out FREAKS and clogging up your email with our pathetic whining. You’ll get your reward as soon as I ferret out your mailing address up there. :)

As I told you in those emails, if you treat me right, I’ll be your biggest cheerleader. RAH RAH for Wired Tree! I’ll recommend you to my clients in a heartbeat.

And: THANK YOU!