I am off-the-grid.

Not our actual phones, but close.

Not our actual phones, but close.

My wife’s cell phone keeps dropping calls. It is a dumbphone (as opposed to a smart phone). They weren’t even top of the line when we got them almost four years ago. They were the most basic ones available and I think they were more-or-less free to us at the time.

Anyway, since my wife’s phone keeps dropping calls, we thought we’d check into replacing it. We don’t text, we have plenty of talk minutes, and we don’t need any apps or doodads, so we just need basic phones. Also, we have something of a vintage service plan and if we make any changes, we’ll automatically boost our bill by twenty dollars per month. So we’ll be paying the full retail price of the phones in order to keep our current contract.

We did a bit of research online, but decided to head into a store to see the selection and hold them in our hands before making any decision. We were greeted at the door and put on some kind of wait list, as though this was the hottest club in town and the bouncer was taking a minute or two to decide if we got in. We wandered among the many bright screens vying for our attention, each promising its own mysterious enlightenment for a cost of only hundreds of dollars each month, hidden fees not included.

“Do they even carry dumbphones here?” my wife asked me as we strolled through the greedy screens.

“Um,” I said. “Maybe over there.”

More looking.

Finally, we found the saddest display that the store had to offer, replete with almost five models of basic phones. It was at this time that the salesman found us.

“Josh?” he said, tentatively.

“That’s me,” I said. “My wife and I are looking to replace our phones with something nearly identical to what we have, but new. We don’t text, take pictures, or surf the internet on our phones. We only use them to talk.”

“Huh,” said the salesman. “So you’re pretty much off-the-grid. Well, you found the phones we have. If you sign up with a new two-year contract, these two models are only a dollar, plus a thirty dollar activation and setup fee of course.”

“We like our current plan,” I said. “We’ll pay the retail price for the phones. Can you tell us how much these phones are?”

“Sure,” he said. “No one asks for that information anymore. Almost everyone just does the two-year contract.”

“Also, if we aren’t setting up a new contract, can you waive the thirty dollar fee?”

“I’ll have to check,” he said. “As for the prices, the cheapest one here is $150 and this other model is $200. I’ll just go chat with my manager.”

He went off, my wife and I looked the phones over. We were nonplussed.

Have basic phones ever cost $150? Shouldn’t these things get cheaper with time? Since when did having any kind of cell phone put you off-the-grid?

We haven’t bought anything yet. Maybe we should just let the phones die and start using smoke signals instead. That’s obviously how old-fashioned we already are with our dumbphones.

Technology, bah!


7 responses to “I am off-the-grid.

  1. Ting has brand new dumb phones, starting at $52 (refurb) or $88 (new). https://ting.com/shop

    The way their pricing structure works (there’s no contract) you can disable the web/data part and the photo messages part and only use talk minutes … and only PAY for talk minutes. https://ting.com/rates

    I also have a referral code you can use to save $25 off the purchase price of a phone or get a credit toward the service itself. Our highest bill ever with them (for two lines, using talk and text and data) was $33.74, total, including all taxes and fees. Not trying to shill, but since we’ve benefitted so much from Ting’s service I do think it’s helpful to tell others who may be unfamiliar with them (including your readers, if they’ve bothered to read this entire blog entry and then the comments).

  2. Wow, that’s crazy. How can they justify so much money for a dumbphone?
    I bought one the other day and it was £15. I don’t even know what that is in $$$ but certainly no where near £150. More like $7.50? If that?

    • the £15 is about $26 the think that I have noticed recently is that they seem to have started making it so when you get a new phone you have to have a new sim card and they are making old ones less compatible with the new phones, I was with Orange but have just started looking to change since they merged we EE but looking at new handsets have noticed nearly everything is 4G rather 3G so even if I wanted to stay with the same company they would get me off my old plan by making me sign a new one.

      • $26? I scaled the wrong way! D’oh, okay. That’s still better than $150 though.
        I think I’m going to end up with a similar problem if I ever decided to switch up too.

        So far my ‘fun’ phone is with EE and I’ve managed to hold onto my number with each changed handset, simply because I decided to upgrade and keep everything else as it was. But my plan is actually kinda cheap and each time I upgrade the only reason they don’t manage to bump me off it is because I threaten to leave (I switched to them from Orange where I’d been for almost eight years).
        I’m only going to get away with it for so much longer though, before I get totally conned. -_- Here’s hoping it’s not for a while.

    • The only barrel that cell phone companies have is the one over which they keep customers. Alas, it does not contain free phones (that I’ve seen, anyway).

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