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But is the rise in popularity of cell phones the whole reason for pay phone extinction? I think not.

Nope. A lot of jurisdictions are removing them because drug dealers use them on the street and many druggies congregate around them, upsetting people in the community. BTW, is it payphone or "pay phone"? -- Zoe

Either. Payphone is probably slightly more common and grammatically less ambiguous -- Derek Ross MS Word picks up "payphone" as a misspelling, but "pay phone" passes muster. (talk) 21:10, 3 April 2008 (UTC)jeff

Another reason for the extinction is the fact that it is the payphone owners have to go collecting the 49.4¢ mandated by the FCC, for each toll-free (1800) call. They have to find out who owns (completes the call to) the toll-free number and then go after that company. This process takes from 3-months to several years. Once upon a time it was the inter exchange carrier the call was passed off to that had to pay, but on 7/1/2004 the new rules went into effect which placed that burden on the completing carrier. Since then, MANY unscrupulous calling card operators have charged the 50¢-$1 to their customers but never passed those on to the payphone owners. (talk) 21:10, 3 April 2008 (UTC)jeff

This page need serious cleanup. It needs to be divided into sections, as well as cited for "statistics" within it. -- Joe

" lot of jurisdictions are removing them because drug dealers use them on the street and many druggies congregate around them, upsetting people in the community"
That doesn't make sense. If I were a drug dealer, I'd get a cheap pre-paid cellphone (less than $10) and throw it away when finished with my days transactions. Why would they bother with a payphone? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:07, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

In Canada, at least where I am, there's been a distinction between indoor and outdoor payphones, with outdoor ones seen as important because homeless people use them. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:19, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

Yank history[edit]

Add a history section. I want to know when the payphone was first introduced and when the different styles came out. Also, how those styles worked. I think the sound of the dropped coins used to be recognized by an operator who manually placed the calls in the early days.

What about payphone hacks? Phone phreaks used to use them.

Try looking for an article in the IEEE magazine, c. 1990 plus or minus 3 years. Talks about blue, red, and black boxes along with the whistles included in cereal packets that kept disconnecting trunk calls. --Nick4mony (talk) 08:04, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

And there were all these simple tricks for getting free phone calls in the 80s without using special equipment (i.e. without blueboxes). If you took a paperclip, stretched it out like a wire, put one end into a hole in the mouth piece so it made contact with the metalic membrane in there and attached the other end to ground (the keyhole on the payphone usually made a good ground), you could get a free local call that way. No idea why that worked though.

Coin phone lines usually worked on a 'Ground-Start' arrangement until more complex features and options came along later. The grounding referred to above gave the central office equipment the same signal as if you had deposited the basic local rate by coins. It only worked for making a call within the local area because other equipment and system came into play if you attempted to make a non-local call.An805Guy (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 00:01, 4 May 2010 (UTC).
Collect and return worked by simplex DC when I was repairing them in New York decades ago, while coin dedection was by AF filters picking up different tones for each value of coin. Sources, I don't have, nor do I remember much of the specifics since it was only a small part of my job. Jim.henderson (talk) 05:18, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

To use the public phones of my youth (Chicago, 1950s and 1960s), you dropped a dime into the slot and dialed your number. For a long-distance call, you dialed the operator, read her (they were invariably women) the number verbally, and were requested to deposit a certain amount, which you did by dropping in quarters plus a few dimes and nickels into the designated slots for each. Each coin made a distinctive sound as it was ingested.

I am told that some genius figured out that he could record, on a portable tape recorder, the sounds made by the coins. When, later on, he made a long distance call, the operator might say "Please deposit $1.40." Our man would then use his portable player to play the sound of five quarters, one dime and one nickel. Bong-bong-bong-bong-bong-ping-clink -- and he'd get connected. Apparently, the operator (or some machinery) relied upon the sound and trusted it. Pre-computer machine exploitation. WHPratt (talk) 15:34, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

IIRC there was another article (different issue of the IEEE magazine, c. 1990 plus or minus 3 years) dedicated to payphones - the cover showed a disassembled NyNex payphone. Something for Popular Culture: it referred to a TV program clearly demonstrating how to make a free call (but putting the payphone out of action in the process); the NyNex engineer complained bitterly about the spike of incidents after that episode was broadcast. I don't have these magazines any more. --Nick4mony (talk) 11:15, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

The article currently contains a very doubtful statement: "Between 2007 and 2008 the number of payphones in the United States in operation declined by 58 percent." The lone citation offered is to a CNN article, which states (without any specific attribution) that "According to the Federal Communications Commission, the number of them in operation declined by 58 percent between 2007 and 2008."

That seemed high, so I attempted to verify that figure. The FCC publishes annual reports entitled "Trends in Telephone Service" (or sometimes "Trends in Telephony") containing -- among other things -- detailed figures on pay telephones in the US, including total numbers, year-to-year trends, and even a breakdown by state and whether the phone is owned by a LEC (Local Exchange Carrier) or "Independent" owned.

According to the September 2010 edition, there were 872,256 operating payphones in the United States as of March 31, 2007, versus 700,826 operating payphones on March 31, 2008. (Table 7.6). By my calculation, that rounds off to a 19.7 percent decline. Substantial, yes, but nowhere near "58 percent." The 2010 report can be obtained at Reports for earlier years are available at

If someone has a more accurate source then by all means cite it. (talk) 00:18, 8 March 2012 (UTC)

British charges[edit]

The charges on the page go back to 10p in 2000 but when did it change from 2p to 5p and then to 10p? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:42, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

I remember when it was 4d (old pence). Biscuittin (talk) 13:13, 23 April 2010 (UTC)
I can't quote the exact years off the top of my head, but here's a very rough guide. It's complicated by the fact that for some years there were two different types of coinphones in use which charged differently. The original "Button A/button B" prepay coinphones introduced in 1925 charged 2d. for a local call. By the 1950's that had risen to 3d., then again to 4d. sometime during the 1960's. Local calls were untimed. While the majority of these phones had gone by the end of the decade, some continued in use into the 1970's and were converted for decimal coinage (in fact the very last one remained in service in a remote spot in the Scottish Highlands until 1984).
The STD-capable postpay phones started to appear from 1959 onward, and largely displaced the prepay phones during the 1960's. The minimum call fee on these was 3d., but local calls became timed. Just prior to decimalization, the postpay phones were being produced with mechanisms which accepted 6d. as the smallest deposit, then after decimalization they were changed to accept 2p. as the smallest coin (the old 6d. being equivalent to 2.5p. for younger readers). Again, I don't have the exact date to hand, but the 1970's was a time of high inflation, and the 2p. coin slots had gone by the end of the decade, making 5p. the smallest possible deposit by about 1980. (talk) 23:29, 19 August 2012 (UTC)

Picture clutter[edit]

Too many pictures. Rather than gallerize, I'd like to nominate for deletion the Toronto, California, and Verizon photos as ugly or uninformative or poor in quality. Jim.henderson (talk) 04:59, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

US Interstate Charges[edit]

This happened to me,

Interstate 2 minute credit card call $24
Interstate 2 minute collect call $44 including all the taxes

I had no idea the charges would be this high until I got the bills. It seems that this is a good place to warn people, but since I am the source, I thought I would post here first. Robert - Northern VA (talk) 07:48, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

I sympathise, but Wikipedia is not a place for user experiences, unless it becomes notable because of media exposure (even then, a 3rd party should write it up in a neutral manner). May I suggest Slashdot, the US version of Whirlpool (if any) or similar?. Of course, you may seek out the payphone company's rate sheet, and provide an example (cite the rate sheet using <ref>). --Nick4mony (talk) 04:21, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

Now, how do we nominate this section for deletion? AfD? --Nick4mony (talk) 04:21, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

Re: In Popular Culture[edit]

In the film Damn Yankees, set in the 1950s, Mr. Applegate (who happens to be The Devil) calls "home" from a pay phone, and appropriately has to deposit an ungodly number of quarters for the connection. WHPratt (talk) 12:34, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

Does anybody remember that Superman used to change into his costume in a phone booth? ;-) Samatva (talk) 14:49, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

Australia - retrieving your change[edit]

Telstra has made a security move with most of their payphones, ensuring that money, including change, cannot be retrieved from the machine without opening the cashbox.

For retrieving change, I don't believe it. The coins drop into a refund slot.


The payphones don't give change, as such, but will give back unused coins (the most common case being you call a number but it doesn't answer).

So if you put in a 50c coin, and the number doesn't answer, you get it back. But if you put in a $1 coin, you can make two local calls (use follow-on button), but you only get your coin back if neither call was answered. --Nick4mony (talk) 04:55, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

Security 'move' is badly written. Will rewrite this section Mr.weedle (talk) 13:24, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

Australia - Tritel to toll-free[edit]

I will attempt to prod them into a fix (either to the actual payphones or their T&Cs), for various toll-free calls. It's a bit inconsistent, as shown below.

Call type Dialled prefix Tritel charge
Domestic toll-free 1800... 50c/15min
Short numbers 1802... Not available
International toll-free 0011 800... $2.00 (per minute?)
Dial Before You Dig 1100 $1.00
Telecards 189xy Not available

The payphone cuts out with a tone after dialling digits 189 (eg 18918) and 1802 (eg 1802007 - the swine flu hotline). --Nick4mony (talk) 07:55, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

Merger proposal[edit]

Payphone, Red telephone box and Telephone booth are all much the same, so I suggest the articles be merged. If we are to have several articles, I think it would be better to split them on national lines because there are differences between countries. Biscuittin (talk) 16:50, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

Payphone is the general principle - whether in a box by the roadside or on the wall in a restaurant beside a fistful of business cards from local taxi firms. A telephone booth/box is a specific setting for a payphone and the red telephone box is a specific example of a telephone booth (box). Similar progression from vehicle - automobile - Ford Escort. I don't think a merge would be constructive. GraemeLeggett (talk) 19:31, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
There is a lot of overlap between the three articles and then there are Public telephone, Public telephone (disambiguation), Callbox, Emergency telephone and Police box. I think a tidy up is needed. Biscuittin (talk) 20:16, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
I have done some tidying up on this article and expanded the disambiguation pages. I think it now looks better but please say if you have any suggestions for improvements. Biscuittin (talk) 19:32, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
Some of the articles are about telephones that exist for specific purposes; others are about the structures that contain the equipment. I had expected Call box and Telephone booth to be about the same topic, but "call box" seems to be about something more specific in the United States. Peter E. James (talk) 01:17, 12 May 2012 (UTC)

More history of Payphones in Europe? History of the term?[edit]

It would be interesting to see more information about the history of payphones in Europe.

Also, when did the term for these devices become a single word? I can recall times when they were referred to as "pay phones," and it was two words instead of one. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Regayov (talkcontribs) 14:51, 7 April 2012 (UTC)

Organisation of photos[edit]

The photos in this article, grouped into one single section, should be organised throughout the sections of the article. I find, however, that this might be difficult for some of the specific images. Qxukhgiels (talk) 00:25, 4 March 2013 (UTC)