Hand-me-down Cell Phones

by Carrie Kirby on 29 February 2008 7 comments
Photo: compujeramey

I was hard on cell phones as a carefree single gal. Now that I have two little kids, I'm impossible. Teething slobber and juice in diaper bag knocked out the first two phones of my parenting years.

When phone No. 3 slipped from my sweater pocket into the toddler's tub shortly after I'd extended my service plan to replace phone No. 2, I was stuck. I wouldn't be eligible for an upgrade for at least a year. I couldn't bear the thought of paying over $100 out of pocket for a new phone, but -- pregnant and with a small child -- I didn't feel right walking and driving around Chicago without the safety net of a cell phone.

I mentioned my trouble to my father-in-law, who laughed and said he had two unused phones from the same carrier sitting at home. He'd changed providers, and the phones had belonged to members of their family plan. With relief, I switched my SIM card into one of them. It was old, a bit clunky, with no camera or other frills, but it worked great.  

Last weekend, on a work/family trip to California, I forgot to zip the pocket of my ski jacket on the slopes of the Sierras. One major wipeout later, it was good-bye, hand-me-down phone. 

I checked in with AT&T, and no, I couldn't get a free or cheap new phone until April. Being on vacation, trying to meet up with old friends, and working a trade show as a reporter with no cell phone was agony.

At some point in our trip, the battery door fell off my husband's  Motorola Razr. On our last night in California, a friend offered him the battery door from his own Razr, which he had just replaced with one of those phones with all the buttons for the thumb typing. Since he had been planning on recycling the old phone, he was quite happy to pass it on to me instead.

When we got home I called At&T, and the customer support person told me to go to my local outlet for a free replacement SIM card. She even called me back today to make sure the shop had given it to me for free. How I ended up with such a kind and conscientious customer service rep at a WIRELESS COMPANY is a mystery unto itself.

So here's the moral of the story: If you lose or drown your phone, don't despair. Just tell everyone you know, and someone is bound to have a used handset sitting around, waiting for them to figure out how to recycle it. One of the few consumer benefits of industry consolidation is that you have a good chance of finding someone with a phone equipped for your carrier.

If you can't get a free one, you can of course procure a replacement phone on EBay, but what with shipping and not knowing how much oomph is left in the battery of used phones for sale, I like hand-me-downs much better.

 

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Guest's picture
Carol

We've always done the 2nd hand phone thing, because I really hate having that contract hanging over me...but just last September, I realized I had been with Sprint for 6+ years, and if I got a contract, I could get a free phone and a cheaper price for a better plan, so I bit.

Prior to that I had been using my usual second hand phone, which still worked fine.

This past week, my DH's phone started to kind of fall apart. Money is tight, so I suggested he give my old phone a try. He called Sprint and was told that "the phone is too old to connect it."

But it wasn't in September!

Fortunately (or not), I've run into this before, and the trick is to find a Customer Service Rep who's been there for a few years, and has connected the older phones before. The instructions to connect the older phones aren't included in the how-to books any more, but the old-timer reps still know how to do it.

Viola, cheap phone....

Guest's picture
Guest

You can sometimes get free phones on Freecycle.org

We have PAYG monthly with Virgin in the UK & it's a lot easier to get an upgrade as it goes on how much your bill is.

Guest's picture
Guest

You can sometimes get free phones on Freecycle.org

We have PAYG monthly with Virgin in the UK & it's a lot easier to get an upgrade as it goes on how much your bill is.

Guest's picture
Lucille

Ditto on Freecycle. I see phones offered and asked for all the time. We also have a local retailer that buys and sells used phones. That would certainly be an option for a cheap option.

We also kept our old phones when we got a free upgrade for renewing with Verizon. If we destroy one of our new ones we have the old ones as backup.

We are getting rid of our landline in the near future. One of our old cell phones is going to get left plugged into the charger on the shelf in the kitchen as an emergency 911 phone if anyone ever has to call 911 and doesn't have a cell phone on them.

Guest's picture

I would check out the local Craig's List if it is active in your area. I can also recommend buying a cheap pre-pay phone, if you have a SIM card. Wal-Mart sells these for around $40, so you aren't an indentured servant to your wireless plan for the next 50 years. These phones are usually a year or so behind the most current technology, but they work just fine. My sister is on my family plan, and she is REALLY hard on phones, so we are always on the look out for a replacement for her.

Guest's picture
Greg

Yea, try telling that to teenagers or 20-somethings. They just won't understand.

Guest's picture
Musa

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