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December 30, 2012

Gender and Cell Phones

In the U.S., cell phones have become a huge part of our lives - to such an extent that we forget that this form of technology is not as prevalent in other parts of the world, for minority groups or for the underprivileged.

Village Council in India Bans Cell Phones for Women

Earlier this month, the village council of Sunderbari Village in Bihar, India, banned the use of cell phones by women. The council apparently enacted the ban in response to an increase in the number of elopements by young women. The council believed that cell phones were being used to arrange elopements and explained that elopements were "embarrassing" for the community. The measure will be enforced by a fine.

Opponents of the ban argue that women need access to cell phones for safety purposes and in case of an emergency.


Gender Gap

An initiative launched in 2010 called mWomen would agree with these opponents, adding that cell phone technology can make it easier for women, especially underprivileged women and those in developing countries, to become employed and to excel in their professions. mWomen is seeking to address what it calls the "mobile phone gender gap."

Even in developed nations, this gender gap still exists, according to the 2006 study "Families in a high tech age" by Noelle Chesley. Chesley discovered that the occupational differences in the lives of women versus those in the lives of men shape how each gender uses technology.

The study also mentions that some feminists believe that, because new technologies are largely designed by men for use by men, the female market is, to some extent, alienated from using new cell phone technology. However, the study also says that mothers have taken to using cell phones as a form of "remote parenting" and to better manage household tasks.

What To Do?

You can help women have better access to mobile devices by donating used phones to local battered women's shelters. Also, visit mWomen.org/research for studies and information related to women and mobile technology.


December 14, 2012

How to Donate or Recycle Old Cell Phones

Whether you're getting an upgrade, your contract is up and you're ready for a change, or you've found a great holiday deal and you're treating yourself to the latest mobile device, you may be wondering about how to safely and effectively dispose of your old phone.

When electronics are dumped in landfills or improperly disposed of, harmful chemicals can be released into the environment. Some states even have laws against simply throwing away old electronics. For these reasons, recycling or donating your used device is a great option.


First, you need to make sure that the old phone no longer contains any of your personal information. Phones can contain anything from personal photos to passwords and bank account information. How to wipe a phone's internal memory clean and restore it to factory settings can be specific to each device, so consult your user manual or contact your provider to find out how to do this.

Phones usually also have a SIM card or similar memory device. Remove this card from the phone.

Also, make sure you've deleted any apps from the phone and cancelled your service. You also may need to remove the battery from your cell phone because some batteries may have to be recycled seperately.

Each carrier has their own program for recycling devices.

Verizon offers a trade-in that accepts phones from all carriers. You can get your device appraised online, send it to them, and Verizon will e-mail you a gift card - proof that responsibly disposing of electronics can have perks! They also work with the organization Hope Line, which gives phones to victims of domestic violence.

Sprint also accepts phones from all carriers and in all conditions. They have a program called Project Connect, which takes proceeds from collected phones and donates it to internet safety programs for kids. You can pick up a postage-paid envelope from any Sprint store to use to mail your device in, or print out a pre-paid shipping label online. You can also give them your phone in return for credit to your account.

AT&T also offers a trade-in when you bring in old electronic devices to their retail stores and T-Mobile collects devices at their retail stores and recycles them for free.

You can contact your provider and ask about their specific incentives or procedure for recycling or donating used cell phones. Keep in mind that chargers and other cell phone-related equipment can also be recycled.

The Environmental Protection Agency's website provides the following statistical reason to donate or recycle your phone; "For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered."

If you're concerned about the environment, you may also want to consider buying a refurbished phone the next time you switch devices.

Don't let your old phone molder away in the closet, and absolutely do not throw it in the garbage! Donate or recycle your used device today - it's an easy way to help reduce waste.

December 10, 2012

Cell Phone Tips From a Disgruntled Waitress

I've worked in various restaurants for seven years - first as a dishwasher, then as a hostess and server. I've worked in sports bars, fine dining and even at a theme park diner for two summers during college. I feel as though I've seen every form of bad behavior from restaurant guests, from drunken fights between customers to guests groping each other at tables. But perhaps the worst and most frequent dining faux pas that I've seen from guests is talking on their cell phones when restaurant staff is trying to help them.

Almost every restaurant has a set service guide that they teach to their employees, which establishes a rhythm with expected time frames for each step of service for every guest (greeting, taking drink orders, delivering drinks, ect.) Talking on your cell phone while being seated or while sitting at your table can disrupt this rhythm and make restaurant staff uncomfortable, and it's ultimately impolite and can affect the quality of the service that you receive.


Communication between guests and restaurant staff is extremely important. Your hostess or server wants to know what you need so that they can take care of you. You, as a guest, are seeking a leisurely dining experience in which you are treated with respect and hospitality. But don't forget the other side of the coin - your service is doing his or her job, conducting a business transaction with you and he or she also expects to be treated with respect at his or her place of employment.

When a server approaches your table and sees that you're speaking on a cell phone, the server will undoubtedly hesitate before greeting you, because he or she will not know whether or not you expect him or her to interrupt your phone call. They may even wait until you are off the phone, which, if it takes several minutes, could result in confusion on your part as to why there was a time-lapse before you were properly greeted.

The server may construe this as rudeness toward them because their serving rhythm has now been disrupted. While servers are expected to remain professional even in this situation, your server is still an emotional being and the perception of rudeness toward him or her can affect the quality of the service that you receive. It is less likely that you will receive excellent service if the server believes that you have been rude, particularly at the very beginning of the transaction.

In some circumstances, I have personally had guests shoot me an annoyed look when I tried to greet them while they were talking on the phone. This is particularly rude because by sitting at the table, the guest has agreed to the beginning of the dining transaction and the server is simply trying to do his or her job.

There is also the problem of distraction. I have often seen guests tell the person on the other end of the phone to "hold on" while they order. Because the guest's attention has been divided, he or she is more likely to make mistakes while ordering, which can result in service issues and confusion later on.
Another important point to consider is that servers communicate with one another about their experiences with guests. If a server believes that a guest has been rude, he or she will most likely vent to coworkers. This can quickly result in the entire staff having a negative feeling toward you as a guest. And servers remember things like that! Next time you visit the restaurant, the likelihood that you will receive excellent service will have decreased.

I would advise making your phone calls before you approach the host stand at a restaurant, or after the entire transaction when you have already paid the bill. If an important phone call comes up during your meal, leave the table so that your server knows that you do not expect to be served while on the phone. Leave a jacket or other article at the table so that the staff knows that you haven't left. If you are on a lunch break and you know in advance that you'll be on the phone during your meal, do not visit a full-service restaurant for lunch.

Your server wants to help you and give you a great experience! Make it smoother for all parties involved by staying off the phone.

December 03, 2012

Skype The Holidays

When my fiance and I were first dating, he ended up taking a job teaching English as a second language in Saudi Arabia. This was a job that did not allow him to come home for the holidays. He had an international calling card that he used, but the service was hit-or-miss. And sending mail to the compound he lived on was quite an ordeal. He did, however, have a pretty reliable internet connection, and Skype quickly became our best friend. It was great to have all the time, but particularly over the holidays when my fiance was missing home.

Skype Logo

Skype allows people to make free computer-to-computer calls for free. All you have to do is create an account on Skype and share your username with other Skype users that you want to connect with. They can search your username and find you, and you, in turn, can search other users' names and connect to them. (When creating a Skype account, make sure that you download Skype only from the official website. Downloading Skype from third-party websites can make your account more susceptible to hackers or eavesdroppers).

If you or your family members don't have an internet connection, Skype also offers calls to mobile phones or land-lines and even text messaging. These services are not free. They do offer calling cards for as low as $10, which would make a great gift for your loved ones who live far away or for loved ones who make alot of international calls.

Skype also currently has a promotion in which users can get free wifi at over 50 airports in the U.S. through Skype. According to their recent press release,

"Skype is setting out to make travel a little more pleasant this holiday season by offering a free hour of Internet access to third-party wireless hotspots within the Skype WiFi hotspot footprint in select airports across the U.S. From December 21st thru December 27th, travelers passing through or delayed in over 50 airports across the country will be able to access third-party hotspots using Skype WiFi and connect with loved ones via a Skype video or voice call for free."

Travelers simply have to sign in to their Skype ID and search to see if they're in a supported hotspot. They should make sure that they're using the most recent version of Skype. Consumers have expressed some confusion on Skype's website about the service, and it's important to note that the service is not offered at airports that already have free wifi, because it's not necessary - they already offer wifi!

Connecting with family and friends is the most important part of the holiday season. Make holiday connections easy this year with Skype!