Pay Phones Becoming a Thing of the Past

KFSN 1/22/2008 It's a sign of the times. Pay phones are disappearing.

There were nearly three million in service nationwide ten years ago. Now there are just one million and the numbers are dropping.

Ever wonder where all the pay phones have gone? Well, there are about a hundred of them in Mike Golden's back yard. He used to be in the pay phone business.

"So, now everybody and their brother's got cell phones out there and the pay phones collect cobwebs" said Golden.

The FCC de-regulated the pay phone business in 1996 and lots of small entrepreneurs moved in buying phones from some of the big companies.

It was a good ride, while it lasted. "Where at one time I had 150 to 200 phones pulling down $200-250-thousand a year same number of phones now, you're lucky to pull in $18 to $20-thousand" said Golden.

Mike still owns a few phones at convenience stores, but says they don't make him any money...because few people are calling.

Valley resident Jeremy Johnson said, "I haven't really used a pay phone in a long time, I like to stop and look at the phone book though because my phone I think charges me a dollar to get a number so I'll go check out the phone book but I never really use the phone."

Some see the payphone as a form of insurance, in case your cell phone dies. But they're not always a reliable way to communicate.

Brandi Nuse-Villegas of Dinuba recalls, "Last year I was down in la and my car broke down and I didn't have my phone in a town I didn't know of and I was trying to use a pay phone and that time it didn't let me use the coins, because you couldn't call long distance and so it ended up really, really kind of scary."

Many small pay phone companies have gone under, and AT&T has just announced it's getting rid of its 8-hundred-thousand pay phones by the end of next year.

If you really want a pay phone, Mike's trying to sell his collection on e bay.

"I'm selling them for the nostalgia value and people are calling, they're interested" said golden.

When they were new, pay phones sold for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Mike is selling his used, but working phones for around $25 dollars.

You can find refurbished pay phones on line for around $150 dollars.

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