On Your Side: Pay Phone Problems

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News 12 at 6, January 7, 2008

AUGUSTA -- Ten, 15, even 20 years ago, pay phones were everywhere. But now, they're hard to find. And if you don't have enough change to use one, you might want to be careful.

Van Yarborough did something recently many of you probably haven't done in years.
He used a pay phone. "I know they're becoming scarce," he said.

Van was in Augusta and late for work in Aiken. "I said I know I’m not gonna’ make my clock in time at my current job," he recounted.

Trouble is he didn't have any change to make the call either. He ended up using a bank card to make the call through an operator. It turned out that was one expensive phone call.

"I checked it shortly afterward and I was billed $39 dollars for a call that didn't go three minutes," he said.

That's right; he paid more than $13 dollars a minute for a phone call. All that for what should have been a 50 cent call.

So how do you avoid this?

First, if you need a pay phone and don't have change, consider getting a pre-paid phone card if possible.

If you can't, you can charge a call. The FCC says payphones are required to post the name and phone number of the company that operates the phone. You can call that number to learn what rate you will be charged. If you can't find that information on a phone, don't make a call and report the phone to the FCC.

As for Van, he says it's been an expensive lesson. And the money he spent could have gone to something that would have prevented this in the first place.

"The money you paid for that call could have gotten you cell phone service," Van said.

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