Pay phones
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  Posted July 30th, 2014 by Zdenko  in Edmonton | No comments yet.


By: Zdenko Kahlina

Does anyone still use pay phones?
I honestly can’t remember the last time I used a pay phone, and I’m wondering if the time has come to send the existing ones to museums. Do any of you still use them? Does anyone use them?

pay phoneDo you use pay phone?

It is probably an accurate statement that most people now own cell phones, so have pay phones outlived their usefulness? I don’t know for a fact, but I’m told that payphones are popular with drug dealers because they don’t show up on call display. All I know is they used to have payphones in the 2nd level of Sutton Place near the pedway to the mall, and it was usually some sketchy people who were using them.

Long before anybody ever heard of a cellphone, pay phones were everywhere. In addition to the iconic phone booths found at busy intersections, it was common knowledge that you could almost always find a pay phone at a gas station or the supermarket. In fact, there used to be so many of them that, as late as the turn of this century, there were still 2 million pay phones in the U.S.

Not anymore.

Payphones were the first casualty of the great mobile boom of the past 10 years. As recently as 1994, every single commercial break contained Carrot Top using the “Head-On” school of advertising to convince you to dial down the middle, and use 1-800-CALL-ATT whenever you didn’t have a quarter. The increasing use of cellphones doesn’t mean pay phones are obsolete, social planning councils and organizations warned federal regulators.

phone-history-07-story-topPeople lining up at the phone boot.

I don’t use pay phones often, but I like to have them there when I need it. I don’t have a cellphone anymore because I never wanted to rely on the phone. According to the CRTC, Canada had more than 90,000 pay phones in 2008. But they’re steadily disappearing. In 2011, the number had apparently dropped to 70,000. Because they’re presumably a pain in the ass to remove, payphones are still out there. Occasionally, you’ll even see someone using a payphone. When this happens, you can immediately assume one or more of the following things about them:

Pay phones are still used for emergencies and by people who can’t afford cellphones. I used pay phones to call for a taxi ride late at night, after my old cellphone battery died. I think it’s important to keep them for safety reasons because you never know when you might need one, is my opinion.

payphoneBroken payphone

Who still uses pay phones?
More people than you think. I use them on occasion because I don’t have a cell phone. In addition, if you don’t want to pay for 411 on your cellphone or use bandwidth to look up a number, you were able to access 411 for free from pay phones last time I checked. It’s been a few years since I used one but I know that shopping malls usually had a bank of phones close to major exits. I haven’t looked lately to see if the ones down here still have them. If they do, at least there won’t be any pee.


Making a call
Working pay phones can still be found in all LRT stations. And I noticed that Bonnie Doon mall has them at all the major entrances. City Center doesn’t. Calls currently cost 50 cents. Telus wants to charge more but the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says no.

You can hardly find a public pay phone in my area. My cell battery went dead (my fault – forgot to charge it) and I couldn’t find a pay phone to call my friends to tell them where I was. I ended up plugging in at a bus stop with a jimmied outlet (undoubtedly by a homeless person with a cell phone so they could charge it) and a cheap, generic charger purchased downtown. It was the only way to make the call after nearly an hour of searching.

PayPhoneInfographWhy are you using a pay phone these days?

Alberta isn’t hanging up on pay phones just yet. Residents who say pay phones provide an essential service are applauding a federal decision to reject Telus bid to charge up to $1 for calls.

The federal regulator is also asking the public to help determine the role pay phones play in the lives of Canadians, after acknowledging it doesn’t have current data on how often pay phones are used. For some of us pay phones fill in when Wi-Fi kicks out.

DSCN3844_002Can you find payphone in your area?

Just The Facts

  • Payphones are a thing of the past
  • Homeless people miss getting to overhear your conversations on the payphone they sleep behind.
  • If you see someone talking on a payphone, you should try to keep them talking until the police can triangulate their location.

I’m sure people would still use them – if they could find them. It’s like with everything else, people complain about rising costs until they actually need the product or service.

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