If you have carried around the same cell phone long enough that you’ve had the battery die, you may know a replacement battery at most local retailers costs in the neighborhood of $40. Online, you can pay as little as a penny.
I did. With shipping and handling, and no sales tax, the grand total came to $5.
Something isn’t right here.
Without warning, my Android went dark. No calls, no ominous sounding “Droid” notifying me of emails, text messages, or Facebook reminders that a friend was having a birthday. Also absent, the wake-up alarm at 2:45 a.m., critical considering the newscast is going to start at 4:30 a.m. with or without me.
Mike Linden, weatherman and go-to guy for widget advice, tells me my phone is okay. It’s just the lithium battery inside has died. What a relief. I’ll just drive down to my friendly and always helpful cell phone provider and buy a replacement. Hold on, Mike says, who informs me my friendly and always helpful cell phone provider will charge $30 to $50 for the same battery I can buy online for far less, even with shipping and handling.
I did a bit of poking around and sure enough, I found on Amazon a cell phone accessory store in Brooklyn, NY selling my Motorola lithium battery, the exact model number, for $0.01. A penny, plus shipping and handling. All the local retailers selling cell phone accessories had the batteries in the $30-$50 range.
So what’s the catch?
I know what you’re thinking. I bought a cheap, third-world country counterfeit that won’t hold a charge long enough to download a Google Map or will cause my Android to catch fire in my pants one morning.
And Accessory Market out of Brooklyn says it stands behind its products “with a 100% guarantee.”
So why are local retailers charging $30, $40, $50 for a battery?
I’ve asked more than one local sales person and received similar, ambiguous “I-just-work-here” shrugs. And the friendly and always helpful woman at my local, authorized cell phone provider says the store doesn’t even stock batteries. She referred me to a local battery store.
If anyone in the cellular industry wants to provide an explanation, I’ll gladly post it. The consensus among my morning cohorts and consumers posting comments in online discussions is that instead of selling you a new, outlandishly expensive battery, cell phone providers offer you a new phone free or at a discount–an upgrade, in exchange for another two-year commitment.
Now if you’re in the market for an upgrade and you don’t want to spend the penny, great. But my friendly and always helpful cell phone provider didn’t try to sell me a new phone–though the woman behind the counter did tell me I qualify for an upgrade.
But I didn’t need a new phone or a new plan. Just a new battery.
Sure, it was inconvenient to wait 7 days for the battery to show up in the mail, but I wasn’t about to pay $50 for a battery I could buy online for a penny–plus shipping and handling.