The last time you looked for a pay phone, you probably couldn't find one - InfoNews

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The last time you looked for a pay phone, you probably couldn't find one

Alyza Combes makes a call from the Greyhound bus depot pay phone in Vernon.
August 01, 2014 - 11:15 AM

VERNON - Like rotary dial devices and the flip phones that came after them, the once ubiquitous telephone booth is vanishing from society.

You probably haven’t noticed their gradual disappearance over the past several years— not unless you found yourself in the strange position of needing one. Maybe you dropped your phone in the toilet? Forgot it at the beach? Lost it doing the Carlton at the club?

Jokes aside, you might have need for a pay phone one day, and that necessity is why providers like Telus are keeping at least a few around.

Liz Sauve, a spokesperson for Telus, says the company operates 13,000 pay phones across B.C. and Alberta, though she wouldn’t comment on how frequently they are used because of competition with other providers.

“As anyone can imagine, the demand for pay phones is continually dropping with the proliferation of cell phones,” Sauve says. “Where you used to see a bank of pay phones at the mall, that might have been reduced to just one.”

There are two ways Telus has been cutting down its fleet of telephone booths. If data shows a pay phone isn’t being used much, Telus may choose not to replace it when the time comes. In other cases, Telus is  approached by local municipalities or by shopkeepers who want them gone.

“A lot of times it’s a convenience store that has a pay phone and they’ve noticed it’s being vandalized or used for illicit activity and is impacting their business, so they contact us and request it removed,” Sauve says.

You’ll still find the skeletons of pay phones in parts of Vernon; the boxes are still around but  the actual phones are ripped out. And in a few places, you’ll find functioning pay phones.

One of those places is the Greyhound bus station. Alyza Combes, 24, used that pay phone recently while traveling home to her family. She’d been at a treatment facility in Vernon, a place she wasn’t permitted to bring her cell phone, usually within reach at all times.

“It’s hard to find pay phones,” she says. “They do come in handy when you really need them though.”

Another place you’ll find telephone booths is at the Vernon Army Camp. Spokesperson Wayne Emde says their eight pay phones are busy in the evenings with cadets lining up to call home.

“It’s one of those operating antiques,” Emde says. “Most of our grandchildren would say ‘What’s a pay phone?’”

Pay phones at the Vernon Army Camp see lots of use when cadets are in town.
Pay phones at the Vernon Army Camp see lots of use when cadets are in town.
Image Credit: Captain Debbie Middleton

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2014

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