One of the most iconic Seinfeld episodes is "The Chinese Restaurant" in Season 2 when Jerry, Elaine, and George wait for the entire episode to get a table at a restaurant. George spends half the episode trying to use the payphone. It's such a situational issue that is no longer a problem since nearly everyone has cell phones.

 

However, there are times when your phone is dead, or perhaps you left it at the bar on Saturday night and need to get a ride home *cough*, it gets you thinking. You don't really see payphones any more, but are there any left in Grand Rapids, and if so, where are they?

 

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The Decline of Payphones

Considering that 96% of Americans have cell phones, the need for payphones is slim. The only time I've ever used a payphone was for fun just to say I've used one. Even in New York City, one of the largest cities in the entire country, payphones have become extinct. 2022 saw NYC's last pay phone become a relic in a museum, replaced with new WiFi hubs and phone chargers.

 

So surely, if not even NYC has any payphones left, Grand Rapids wouldn't have any either, right? Not the case.

 

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NYC Plans To Replace Pay Phones With Wifi Hotspots
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Grand Rapids Payphone Locations

Grand Rapids still has numerous payphones around the city, but very few in Downtown Grand Rapids. The Pay Phone Directory is a crowd-sourced directory of all the existing payphones around the country by state/city, showing that there are currently 7 working payphones around the city.

 

I decided to give these numbers a call and got mixed results. Two are no longer in service, one was a request line for a local radio station (imagine my surprise when someone answered my call), one was for a doctor's office, and another was a private line. From what I could tell, at least two numbers are still in service payphones on Plainfield Ave NE & NE Leonard St.

 

Photo by John-Paul Henry on Unsplash
Photo by John-Paul Henry on Unsplash
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Outside of the Directory, this thread on Reddit has people submitting pay phones they've seen around the city, but most are defunct or no longer there based on Google's Street View.

 

Either way, there are still payphones around the city, but whether they work or not is another story. If you need a pay phone, the best places to look are hub spaces like gas stations, train stations, or government buildings like libraries, post offices, or hospitals.

 

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