Cellphone Storage Thriving Near New York City Schools

By    April 10, 2014

cellphone storage truck

You can store furniture. You can store business records. You can store wine. You can store cars. Now, there’s a new high-tech wrinkle in the business of stashing stuff: cellphone storage.

A recent New York Times story points out that several shops near public schools in New York City’s borough of Queens are ringing up extra money by charging students to store their cellphones during the school day. In New York City, students aren’t allowed to carry cellphones in public schools.

These stores aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the cellphone ban, which took effect in 2005. The Associated Press reported in 2012 that thousands of New York City students are paying a $1 a day to leave their cellphones at gadget-storage trucks parked near schools—namely those campuses equipped with metal detectors, which can be set off by cellphones.

“It’s interesting to see the totally unforeseen and occasionally bizarre economic side effects that crop up when disruptive technologies collide with societal rules,” Core77.com noted.

‘Growth Industry’
In 2012, the New York Post calculated that students in local public schools were paying $4.2 million a year to store their phones at trucks or stores. Marketplace.org reported last year that 11 gadget-storage trucks were operating in the Big Apple.

The New Yorker magazine observed that in New York City, storage of cellphones and other devices has become “a growth industry unto itself.”

That certainly is the case in Queens. There, according to The New York Times, “storing cellphones has become almost a matter of economic survival” for some shops.

“Not only do the merchants reap a small but welcome source of income,” according to the Times, “but they have also come to rely on the ancillary sales of food and drinks they make to the students dropping off their phones in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon.”

Storing Stuff and Buying Stuff
Ali Ahmed, owner of a Queens candy store, told the Times that he stores about 30 cellphones each school day. The cellphone competition among Ahmed’s store and nearby businesses has grown so intense that they’ve cut the daily storage rate from $1 to 50 cents.

Mohammed Mia, who works at Sunshine Grocery in Queens, said he takes in several dozen phones a day.

“We don’t make money on the phones,” he told the Times. “We offer it as a service. But, of course, when the students come in, they buy stuff.”

John is editor of The SpareFoot Blog. He first moved to Austin in 1999, when downtown Austin wasn't nearly as lively as it is today. John's loves include pizza, University of Kansas basketball and puns.

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