Monday, December 9, 2013

I stumbled upon an ecoATM a few weeks ago while at Northlake Mall. I decided to pay it a visit this evening, with old cell phone in tow.

If you aren't familiar with ecoATM, it's an automated kiosk that allows you to sell your old mobile phones, tablets, and MP3 players and get cash instantly. That is, if it's determined there's a value for it. There are, reportedly, about 650 ecoATMs around the country, including eight in the Charlotte area: two each at Northlake, Carolina Place, Concord Mills, and Eastridge (Gastonia) malls. At Northlake Mall, there's one on level two just off the food court, near the path to AMC Theatres; and the other is on level one near the entrance to Dillard's.

The ecoATM on level two at Northlake Mall. Photos credit: Jarvis Holliday

The ecoATM on level one.

According to ecoATM, it is able to assess more than 4,000 devices. I experienced firsthand just how easy it is to use. The kiosk makes it clear that the company wants you to be able to get money quick and easy, but that it wants to deter criminal activity, i.e. if someone tries to sell a stolen iPhone they will probably be tracked down. You're required to scan your driver's license or some other form of state-issued ID early on in the process. (If you get to the end where you're about to complete the sale, you'll also have to scan your thumbprint and your photo is taken).

The machine spits out a small tracking sticker, which looks like a QR code, for you to place on the back of the device. Then, you place your device inside a box on the machine, where it works its magic. After about a minute or less, it determined that there was "not a market for my device." So, the (stingy, LOL) ecoATM wouldn't offer me any cash for it, but it did offer to recycle the phone for me. I decided to hold onto it (even though it's practically useless to me).

That's the other advantage to using this machine. If devices taken in by ecoATM can't be resold, they're recycled, which helps the environment by keeping the old electronics from ending up in landfills. In April, the company announced that it had recycled its one-millionth device; it's now approaching two million. There's a large market out there for this service, considering it's estimated that Americans have as many as half a billion old mobile devices lying around that they are no longer using. That happens because the average shelf life of those devices, the majority of which are phones, is less than two years. Because, you know, you usually upgrade to a new phone or it breaks. And the old phones likely pile up in a drawer or box somewhere in your house.

I think a lot of us hold onto them because of all of the data, particularly photos and videos, that we've accumulated on them (ecoATM advises you to delete all of your info from the phone before selling it). I went through my old phone last night and it was like scrolling down memory lane as I looked at photos I took on it between 2009 and 2011. I got my current phone in November 2011, and I plan to replace it in about a month or so (I know, I use a phone longer than most of you; that's probably because I'm not #TeamiPhone). This one has a ridiculous amount of personal data stored on it.

Here's a tip. The two ecoATMs at Northlake Mall are slightly different. The one on level one requires you to stick your driver's license in a reader/slot similar to a cash dispensing ATM, whereas the one on level two requires you to place it against a small glass surface that acts as a scanner. The latter will probably work better for you if your license is old and/or has a crack in it, which could prevent it from successfully sliding through the reader.



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