Walmart customers unhappy without ‘Straight Talk’ cards

By Guy Page

The coronavirus this week hit Vermonters where they live — again — after the Berlin Walmart roped off access to the Straight Talk phone cards, in response to Gov. Phil Scott’s ban on in-person sale of “non-essential products” at big box stores.

Straight Talk serves 25 million Americans, according to online sources. Wednesday, three of them were standing in front of a roped-off cellphone/computer section, wondering what they were going to do now, when happened by. The purchasing options — buy online, curbside delivery — were either not fully understood or just not an option. One young mom said she doesn’t have a bank card, doesn’t order stuff online. “What the ___ am I supposed to do now?” she fumed. Another shopper, a young dad, wondered where else he was supposed to get underwear for his daughter.

Guy Page

With non-commercial personal contact outside of the home virtually forbidden, telecommunications has become more important than ever — note the 10-fold increase in the use of Zoom nationwide. And while Vermont internet and cellphone carriers say their systems can carry the load (see yesterday’s post), for an individual the possibility of losing cell phone use is a serious matter. Straight Talk phone users can’t use any other service than Straight Talk, cards for which are available only at Walmart. It’s cheap and easy but it doesn’t play nicely with other calling cards. For many users, it’s Straight Talk, or no talk at all.

Gov. Scott is painfully fully aware of the difficulties caused by his decisions. ““We basically had to shut down our economy in order to save lives. I know how hard it has been,” he said at his press conference Friday morning.

But for Vermonters already frustrated with being told where (or not) to shop, visit, travel and work, news about the “non-essential” calling cards was a lightning rod. It went viral, Vermont-scale. As of 11:30 a.m. Friday it had been shared 136 times, with 85 comments falling roughly into two camps: sympathy with the shoppers and frustration with the governor, or sympathy with the governor and frustration with the shoppers. (To see the post and its Thursday followup, search on Facebook. To read comments, you may need to click on the photos.)

Facebook friend Jackie Barnett summed up both sides with her comment: “I think Phil Scott has done a great job by shutting us down before it gets too bad, but I also think someone wasn’t thinking when they said phone cards not essential and personal clothing such as underwear not essential. Not everyone has credit cards and many children grow out of their underwear-and before this is over many grown ups will need smaller underwear!”

Thursday, the cards were on display at the front of the store and were available for in-person purchase. As Thursday’s follow-up post notes, “A sales clerk laughed and explained, “I think the governor’s office had a little talk with Walmart.”

And she’s probably right about that. Facebook friend Kay Shutt of Milton asked, “who decides what are essential and non-essential items?” The answer — in broad strokes — is that Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development is charged with implementing the governor’s plan for workplaces and business. He gives that agency the Big Picture and then tasks them with the details, with oversight from him and his staff.

And as the quick turnaround from no cards Wednesday to cards on display at the front of the store Thursday shows, applying common-sense solutions to unexpected problems is built into the process. Vermonters with questions or suggestions about essential products and jobs should contact the ACCD; concerns about health matters should contact the Health Department. Contacting the governor’s office (802-828-3333) should probably be a last resort, because it’s likely you will be referred back to an overseeing agency.

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott is hoping Vermonters will heed the folk wisdom (said to have originated with Boyd Packer, a Mormon church leader who died in 2015): “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without.”

Read more of Guy Page’s reports.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Walmart

18 thoughts on “Walmart customers unhappy without ‘Straight Talk’ cards

  1. I think that the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development didn’t think when they included phone cards as electronics and not a necessity. When the Governor recognized the problem, he immediately fixed it. He listened. I think underwear is a necessity, too, for some, but be that as it may, there are still some things I would like to see as not restricted. I continue to thank Governor Scott for saving lives by not putting too many people in danger at the grocery and retail stores. I thank those that do have to be out there. The Governor has made the hard choice and has done what a leader should do, he is working to save Vermont lives rather than playing politics. Thank goodness, we have enough of that from Washington. Stupid is as stupid does, and it’s darn stupid of anyone to not follow and appreciate these “impositions” recommended by the CDC. I’d rather be home bound than dead. This is not the flu, this is a pandemic that we have not had to deal with before. Anyone that thinks this is a communist imposition and a hoax should move to Georgia or Louisiana or especially Florida. Please stay there until this is over and then self-isolate for a month (or more just so you don’t impose your non-thinking (and I am being kind) actions on the rest of us. For those that still don’t realize it’s not just Vermont who has an economic problem right now, as soon as this is over the economy will straighten out here and Nationwide.

  2. Oh, those poor babies. Did it ever occur to them that this regulation is designed to PROTECT them as well as everyone else????

    • Did it ever occur to people who make such statements that the regulation is in violation of both Constitutions and is designed to exert absolute control over every aspect of everyone’s life on a permanent basis?

      • What is communism?
        Communism controls you, your money, your jobs, your housing, your travel, your health care, your children, all education, restricts religion, your right to join together and assemble, your health care, the items in the stores,

        Anything look familiare here???

        • Thank you Doug, was at a local store today and apparently all the people are going to be refusing cash here. Huh….that makes things pretty vulnerable for everyone.

          Now….money is dirty, true, but how is everybody using the same machine going to be clean? Everybody uses the same door coming in. Everybody uses the same cooler door. Are they going to wipe everything clean? Can everything be clean.

          Then they are announcing that Walmart in select location will be only admitting so many people in the store. Huh….

          In Cuba, my friend tells me they ration the water, only so many hours in a day, certainly makes people compliant huh?

          Now if 1.2 million people on the outside were to die in one year, do you know what that is equivalent to? All the people who die of heart disease and cancer in one year. Now granted this is on top of that.

          If only 1% die in the worst case scenario, should be become a communist dictatorship because of that? Should be put our entire country into a depression because of this?

          How about we start looking for ways to make people well. The flu vaccines we currently have only have a 47% efficacy rate. Why would this be any better? But they say, we must close up the world, waiting for this, Tom provided a link indicating the virus and the vaccine are conveniently patented as we speak.

          Interesting developments happening really, really fast. They better get it done before everyone figures out what’s really going on.

  3. Either Close Wal-Mart entirely or leave it open, the governor should not micro manage what they are allowed to sell when he allows them to stay open!

    Talk about creating more stress and issues that are not necessary, if people are in the store, let them buy what they need!

    But no, you draw them out of their homes because you didn’t close the store, now you send them on a fools errand when they find they can’t buy what they came for, go figure!

  4. Gov. Phil Scott’s ban on the in-person sale of “non-essential products”
    at big box stores………

    Who and why is the Governor stating what’s ” non-essential “, what may
    be essential to you ” phone cards” may not be to me, and all sorts of other
    items such as clothes, electronic products …… essential, yes when you’re
    locked up in your house !!

    The golden dome doesn’t have a clue, followers not leaders.

    Again Vermont’s elected officials, jumping off the cliff before looking

    • Reminds me of the useful idiots of the Left,who say you don’t need a semi auto rifle to hunt deer.

      They forget the 2 nd. isn’t about deer hunting and it’s entitled the Bill of Rights,not the bill of needs, so the Leftist governor deciding what it essential falls right in line with his fellow travelers.

  5. I had to go to Walmart today and saw the areas roped off. I needed fire starters to light my wood stove so I just went under the plastic rope. They were five feet away from me and I will be damned if I was walking out of the store without them. Finally found toilet paper too!! It was a win-win!
    Does the Gov realize he is just causing people to have to get closer to each other if he blocks off half the store?

    • HA!! So funny!! Good for you Donna. But on a different note, the bizarre uncertainty of our situation is quickly going from inconvenient to extremely scary. We need to do more then just go under the rope.

        • Oh that’s a great cure!

          Perhaps Bill Gates could demonstrate that for us. Apparently he has patents on this whole deal. There are far too many coincidences happening at once.

          Somewhere somebody wrote that once they find out Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are involved with this virus cover up, it’ will be cured instantly and it will be business as usual.

  6. It isn’t just phone cards although in outlying Vermont that could be life treating.

    I know of some who recently lost a job in their workplace and found a new position, however to remain employed they needed steel toed safety boots.
    The employer said they could be had at Walmart reasonably priced, they may have been if Mr. Gov. hadn’t used a Leftist tactic of control by ordering other than food and prescriptions closed to customers.

    So when the Gov.s order, soft Martial law causes more unemployment, he and his fellow Lefties win.

    • The problem is these politicians are completely out of touch with how people live. And none of them will listen if you tell them.

      • They don’t mind telling you that they won’t listen or care what your thoughts are, like they are your lord and master.
        They are employees of the People and it’s past time to Fire 90% of them, including Mr. Benedict Scott.

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