December 10, 2007
AT&T to ditch the payphone business

The day in which our nation's youth will completely fail to grasp the whole Superman/phone booth thing draws ever closer.

AT&T Inc. plans to exit the pay-phone business by the end of 2008, company officials said Monday.

The largest telephone company in the United States is pulling out of the market at a time when consumers are relying more heavily on alternatives, such as wireless phones. AT&T also operates the country's leading wireless company.

AT&T's Public Communications unit will continue to honor existing contracts and customer service commitments until the business is phased out. The unit holds numerous contracts at government correctional facilities. All of these customers will receive advance notifications of the company's specific plans as well as information on other pay-phone providers and product options.


AT&T officials say pay phones in the United States have declined across the industry from about 2.6 million phones in 1998 to an estimated 1 million phones today.

I've racked my brain, and I can't think of the last time I used a pay phone. They just don't register on my consciousness since I started carrying a cell. Do you remember your last time?

Dave Mock remembers scoring some change as a kid by checking coin return slots regularly. I don't think I ever found any money that way, but I do recall a trick a high school buddy of mine used to employ to make free calls from pay phones. There was about a two second grace period after your call connected before your dime (or quarter) was fully consumed by the phone. If you hung up right away after the call connected, you'd still get your money back, as if you'd hung up without a connection being made. I'm not sure why this was the case - answering machines weren't exactly ubiquitous back then, and the duration was too short to ascertain you'd reached a wrong number - but that's how it was. Anyway, my buddy had a prearranged deal when he called another friend of his at that friend's house from a payphone. When the friend answered, Buddy would quickly shout out the first three digits of the payphone's number, then hang up. After retrieving his dime, he'd call again, this time announcing the last four digits of the number, and again hang up in time to get a refund. His friend would then call the payphone to talk to him. Slick, no? File it under Great Obsolete Scams of the 20th Century. Thanks to Dwight for the catch.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 10, 2007 to Society and cultcha

The last time I used a payphone was from jail, to call my fiancee and tell her where I was and to have her come bail me out.

I don't think it was AT&T/SBC, and the rates were v. high. I'm not even sure it took cash, since I didn't have any.

They're needed in jails.

Posted by: Michael on December 10, 2007 7:23 AM