Next on Wal-Mart’s Low-Price Hit List: Cell Phone Service

Wal-Mart logoIf you’re like many people, your monthly cell phone bill has been creeping higher and higher over time. The addition of second and third lines, family plans, text and data messaging has provided big leaps in functionality at the cost of just modest additional fees … but those fees do add up.

Today, just in time for the recession, the average monthly cell phone bill for Americans, at nearly $80, is as high as it’s ever been. So it’s no wonder that new suppliers have been nosing around this market for awhile now, including those offering VoIP phone services over the web at a fraction of the cost.

And now Wal-Mart has gotten into the fray. On course to become the low-price leader in seemingly every imaginable consumer product and service, Wal-Mart has decided to roll out a new wireless cell phone service called Straight Talk.

Instead of the plethora of “complicated, convoluted and confusing” contracts that seem to be so common in the industry, Wal-Mart’s Straight Talk is offering just two plans – and neither of them requires a signed contract.

One plan offers unlimited minutes, texting and mobile web user for $45 per month. A cheaper, $30 monthly plan allows for 1,000 voice minutes, 1,000 text messages and 30 megabytes of web usage. Consumers may refill their monthly balances by buying refill cards at Wal-Mart stores or by registering online.

And what about those irritating “add on” charges that always seem to add $10 or $15 extra to your monthly bill? Wal-Mart’s aiming to limit those as well. For example, 411 directory assistance calls are free.

A pilot program, conducted this summer partnership with TracFone Wireless at 234 stores, was so successful that Wal-Mart has decided to introduce the program nationally in time for the holiday shopping season. In fact, the rollout begins this week at 3,200 Wal-Mart stores across the country. Wal-Mart is promoting the service as one that will save consumers ~$500 a year.

Considering how cost-conscious people are at the present time, the promise of savings like that are enough to encourage even those families saddled with early termination penalty clauses in their service contracts to ditch their current suppliers.

Here’s a prediction: It won’t be long before Verizon and AT&T begin to offer similarly discounted and/or no-contract services to their customers. Now, if only they had done so before … they might actually have higher customer satisfaction scores than their current mediocre (or worse) ratings.

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