What happens if a cell phone alarm goes off while it's in the mail?
February 14, 2013 2:55 AM   Subscribe

So I broke the screen on my new Nexus 4 and just mailed it off yesterday to be repaired, and I realized too late that the daily alarm clock may go off while it's in transit. What will be done with the package if that happens?

I mean, hopefully it's in some cargo hold at the time (6:50 am) and no one hears it, but if someone does, will they open it and turn it off and deliver it in one of those "damaged mail" bags? Will they return it to me? Will they discard or destroy the whole package? Call in the bomb squad? Fine me for the nuisance?

I'm sure postal employees have seen it all, and there are other gadgets that could also turn on or make noise accidentally during shipping ... just curious if there's a standard policy in these cases.

Also, do most cell phone alarms "time out" after a certain time or will it just go off until someone turns it off? (or the battery dies?)

Bonus question: if I had remembered to do it, how WOULD one even turn off a phone like this with an internal battery, if the screen doesn't work? Holding down the power button just restarts it. And don't some phone alarms work even when the phone's off?
posted by pete_22 to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They'll probably just ignore it, if anyone even hears it.
posted by empath at 3:08 AM on February 14, 2013

For a few minutes, sure. But if it keeps going off? It's a pretty loud alarm.
posted by pete_22 at 4:14 AM on February 14, 2013

The alarm on the Nexus 4 (and I guess Android in general) stops after 10 minutes, IIRC.
posted by attente at 4:31 AM on February 14, 2013

Two thoughts:

1) alarms on devices generally go off automatically after a predetermined length of time

2) for most of the time during which packages are sent through the mail, their transit is automated and occurs away from people.

So, nothing to worry about, I'd think.
posted by dfriedman at 5:28 AM on February 14, 2013

Someone I know mailed me a carbon monoxide alarm a few months ago. It was not in its original packaging, and the batteries were in the device. When we received the package, it was continuously emitting a godawful, high-pitched, loud EEP! EEP! EEP!. If the postal employees noticed (and I'm not sure they could have missed it), they didn't do anything about it.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:45 AM on February 14, 2013

Is it a vibrating alarm? The vibration motor takes more battery power to run than just an audio alarm, so it'll use up its battery faster.

If it's still trying to connect to towers, it'll also use up battery faster (if the received signal level is low, the phone will boost the power to try to connect to a "further away" tower), so within 24 hours it'll probably be dead and no longer trying to ring the alarm.

Also, the "internal battery" you refer to is accessible by removing the back cover of your phone. If you remove the battery (you can put it back in right away), the phone will power off.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:50 AM on February 14, 2013

Thanks for the replies. I actually just got a confirmation email that they've already received it, less than 20 hrs after sending. Wonder if the alarm actually made them deliver it faster?

Also, the "internal battery" you refer to is accessible by removing the back cover of your phone. If you remove the battery (you can put it back in right away), the phone will power off.

Like the iPhone, the Nexus 4 does not have a removable back cover.
posted by pete_22 at 7:19 AM on February 14, 2013

When I worked for a large shipping company, we occasionally had boxes that shrieked, rang, alarmed, vibrated, or were otherwise unquiet*. We just put them on the truck and figured the recipient would figure out what to do with it when it arrived at its destination.

And yes, often the drivers delivered those boxes first to get them off the truck.

*(I never dealt with it, but we did have rules that if boxes were making animal noises, like meowing or barking, we had to open it. The noises we ignored were always of the mechanical variety).
posted by RogueTech at 7:19 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

This anecdote is about 10 years old now, so take it with a grain of salt...

I was shipping everything I owned from NYC to Austin, and "everything" included a whole bunch of teacher supplies. I thought I had taken the batteries out of everything. Really, I did.

One of my packages showed up about when I was expecting it, but the rest totally did not. The rest of the packages showed up about a week late, and they had all been opened and resealed with tape that has USPS branded all over it. Inside each box was a note that said basically "We had a good reason to open these up, so we did. We put this note in so you will know that your packages were opened on purpose by us." When I opened up the first box, I realized that I had left batteries in one of my electronic timers, which turn on when you hit a certain button, and make progressively faster beeping noises for a minute, until it lets out a long sustained beep. Basically, the same noises that a bomb makes in an awful movie.

Nothing of mine was missing when I eventually got the boxes. They were all shipped to the address in Austin, and none were returned to the address in NYC. They all made it to me in the boxes that I sent them in.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:22 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just have to share a similar story:

My freshman or sophomore year in college (about 10 years ago), my mom sent me a sound activated dancing ostrich. When you clapped at it, music started playing and the ostrich legs clacked up and down.

I didn't know that then. All I knew was that I had a package in the campus mail room. When I went to pick it up on the way to lunch that day, the attendant said, "Oh, you have the singing package!" I'm sure he was glad to get rid of it, since he had been sitting with it for his entire shift. But the point is, it made it to me just fine.

And then it made a scene when I opened it in the dining hall because I was so curious... :)
posted by natabat at 9:15 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

In Russia, a vibrator brought the bomb squad to the post office. So it depends on the sound; postal employees might not always take noisy packages in stride.
posted by beagle at 10:04 AM on February 14, 2013

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