My iPhone is now a nibblefest for fish. What to do?
June 17, 2015 10:47 AM   Subscribe

My iPhone was dropped in the lake. Sticky situation all around, best solution?

I went camping with my family last weekend. I brought my iPhone on a pontoon boat, which had open edges, but was incredibly careful with it. (Everyone else brought their iPhones/cameras, too. I've brought my iPhones/phones on that boat for many years now.) As I am deaf, I had to use my iPhone to communicate with people, in addition to taking photos.

As I handed my iPhone to my brother's girlfriend to ask her how she was doing, she fumbled with the iPhone and dropped it on the floor, and the iPhone dove right into the water. It was a freak accident, and literally happened in seconds. Everyone was in shock, and she was terribly apologetic about it. I was devastated - I had lost photos I took at camp (which wasn't backed up, due to there being no signal), and especially being deaf, having my iPhone with me was important to communicate.

So, as I was outside my upgrade (AT&T), I had to go to the Apple store to pay full price. It was quite a financial hit - about $600.

I'm still a bit upset about the incident, because my brother's girlfriend didn't even offer to pay anything. If I dropped my friend's iPhone in the lake, of course I would offer to pay something, but alas, she didn't. It felt very awkward, and as she's my brother's girlfriend, I wasn't sure if I should have asked her or not to help pay towards the cost of a new iPhone. Some family members said I should have had insurance covering loss/theft. I do have AppleCare, but it doesn't cover loss/theft, unfortunately. And, everyone else had their iPhones, too, and I needed the device to communicate. It was just an awful situation all around, and being told I should've had insurance didn't help matters. I even asked the lake security staff if recovery of the iPhone was possible, and was told no due to cliffs underwater. I was able to get a letter from them documenting the loss of my iPhone, but this did not help at the Apple store for matters of replacement via AppleCare, as they HAD to have the device to swap.

So. Now, I've purchased a full price iPhone from the Apple Store, for $600ish, and I am trying to explore my options here.

a) Ask my brother's girlfriend to help a bit. Awkward, but she was the one who dropped it in the lake.

b) I am considering renter's insurance with a technology rider which covers loss/theft with a $50 deductible. I called the renter's insurance company and asked about loss/theft that occurred before the policy was effective, and was told it would not be covered. I'm not sure of the ethics surrounding this, but as this has happened just recently (on Saturday), would it be a good idea to sign up for the policy/rider, then next week, return my newly purchased iPhone to the Apple store (which is returnable), buy another one, use that receipt to get reimbursement, and just say I dropped the iPhone in the lake on the weekend (this upcoming weekend)? I hate hate hate lying like that, but if I can recoup my costs for the most part, minus the $50 deductible, that would really help. I'm afraid, though, that it would flag suspicions/red flags within the renter's insurance company, especially as the loss happened pretty much right after I signed up for the insurance. I'm also not sure if that's ethical, or something many people do.

c) Any other ideas?

It's pretty much a sucky situation all around, and I'm not sure what the best option is, financially. I would appreciate your thoughts and ideas.
posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (24 answers total)
Do not try plan B. Do not commit insurance fraud.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:56 AM on June 17, 2015 [27 favorites]

Find out if your brother or his girlfriend have renter's insurance that would cover this. That will serve two purposes. One, it will possibly find a way to get paid. Two, it will sort of hint to the gf that you need help with the cost.
posted by AugustWest at 11:04 AM on June 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

You could try talking to your brother instead of talking to the girlfriend directly - that would probably be less awkward. I do think she should offer to contribute to the cost of a new one if she can.

Insurance fraud is a very bad idea. Making a claim a week after getting a policy is suspicious, plus there is quite a paper trail (letter from lake staff, purchase record from Apple store, and multiple people know what actually happened).
posted by insectosaurus at 11:05 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could return the new iPhone and get a cheaper smartphone - pretty high-quality new Android phones can be had off-contract for less than $300 (or even $200) which could tide you over until your next upgrade. Or you could get a used iPhone for nearly half the cost of new.
posted by muddgirl at 11:08 AM on June 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

Okay. I didn't realize that what I was considering to do was insurance fraud. Thanks for the heads up!

Any suggested scripts on talking with my brother/his girlfriend, that may sidestep the awkwardness of this situation?
posted by dubious_dude at 11:14 AM on June 17, 2015

Also (sorry for the threadsit), I'm kind of locked into the Apple ecosystem, so Apple is pretty much my only option. Any hints or tips on how to find used iPhones? Would AT&T give me a SIM for free and not count that as an upgrade? Good idea there, too!
posted by dubious_dude at 11:15 AM on June 17, 2015

The search term you want for hunting down a used iPhone is probably "refurbished." Good luck, I'm sorry that all of this even happened to you.
posted by Andrhia at 11:17 AM on June 17, 2015

In my experience, carriers like AT&T will give a new SIM card or will re-assign an old SIM card to your account for free, or for a slight fee (like $10 or less). It does not count as an upgrade.
posted by muddgirl at 11:21 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

When you bought the replacement, did you talk to anyone or explain or ask for options? I dropped my iPad in the pool and went to the store with it and got a new (refurbed, but actually a newer model than my original Air, and the new one was even gold) one from AT&T for $99. Now, I think I might have accidentally had not Applecare but some AT&T insurance on it, but they were totally looking for ways to help me.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:27 AM on June 17, 2015

I'd feel OK about going after the girlfriend if she behaved in a way that's negligent or intentionally spiteful, but this sounds like a freak accident. Accidents happen and if she didn't offer to help, I'd probably just leave it like that. She may not be able to afford it either.

Are you fully insured now? For all sorts of accidents or issues? If you depend on the hardware a lot, I'd make sure you're not set up for a similar heartbreak/pain in the rear when something inevitable happens again.

Sorry, though. Accidents suck. Especially when they're expensive.
posted by quince at 11:41 AM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

It sounds like the phone fell as you were handing it to her, but later you say she dropped it into the lake. If she were hanging it over the edge trying to take a picture of a fish and dropped it into a lake, then yeah, I'd expect her to pay. But you chose to take it on a boat that you acknowledged was potentially unsafe for small electronics. You had your phone out and were passing it around. I understand your communication issues, but those were risks you assumed, it turned out badly, and the consequences are yours to deal with.

I wouldn't talk to the girlfriend about money. Talk to your brother. I'd just start asking if he saw what happened. See what his take on the drop is. Maybe she wasn't expecting you to let go of the phone (I wouldn't have. The boat doesn't have any sides! Hold on to your phone, man!) Maybe she has some other perception of the event. Then you can segue into the cost. I'd only go there if there were some acknowledgement of fault on her side. But even then I wouldn't hold my breath.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:43 AM on June 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

As I handed my iPhone to my brother's girlfriend to ask her how she was doing

You initiated the event that lead to the dropping. Don't blame her for the freak accident.
posted by LoveHam at 11:53 AM on June 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

Almost everyone I know who has taken their phone on a boat has had an incident where it falls overboard. It sucks, but this particular loss isn't really anyone's fault. If $600 for a replacement is too expensive, return it and buy a refurbished one or an older model until your carrier allows you to upgrade.
posted by MsMolly at 12:16 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just came back to add that I regularly put my ipad in a ziplock bag for kitchen work and bath time reading. If you find yourself around water again, ziplocking your phone may be a good idea. You can touch-type through the bag without problems.
posted by quince at 12:40 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Where would you guys recommend I search for refurbished iPhones? Any good places? I'm a bit leery of Craigslist.

My therapist also suggested I write a letter or contact Apple HQ, because (her words) it's unrealistic for the Apple Store to not do an exchange, especially given I have a letter of documentation from the store proving my loss. Also, she said that Apple should retain me as a customer, so hopefully the letter would help. I understand AppleCare doesn't cover loss, but what do you guys think of that argument?
posted by dubious_dude at 3:28 PM on June 17, 2015

Go ahead, but approach it with the mindset that it's a longshot. When/if they do turn you down, shrug and get a refurb.
posted by asockpuppet at 3:38 PM on June 17, 2015

You can get a cheap one on eBay from a dealer for a lot less than $600. Is this a 5S, a 6, or a 6+?
posted by Slinga at 4:11 PM on June 17, 2015

FYI they have things like plastic pouches for cell phones for use while boating. Definitely a good investment. As mentioned above, a zip-loc bag will do in a pinch.

One of the advantage of these is that they make the phone float. Even the zip-loc--when you put the phone in, make sure to trap some air (in fact, you won't be able to avoid it) and now when you drop it, the cell phone is floating on the surface of the water instead of sinking to the bottom. It makes all the difference in the world.

/Voice of experience here--one of my cell phones along with all my photos I forgot to back up etc etc etc is swimming with the fishes at the bottom of the Missouri River . . .
posted by flug at 4:43 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Check with your service provider for refurbs first. They have more recourse to offer you than Apple does.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:10 PM on June 17, 2015

I have local folks selling used iPhones for $200 -$500 depending on the model on Craigslist. I know you said you're leery of Craigslist, but I'd feel better about it than eBay! At least you get to look at who you're buying the phone from.

For the next phone, they make waterproof cases of various types for the iPhone---I have s cheap bag-like one from Amazon (dandy case?) that seems to work ok although I haven't actually tested it, that I use when I'm in the hot tub.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:26 PM on June 17, 2015

"My therapist also suggested I write a letter or contact Apple HQ, because (her words) it's unrealistic for the Apple Store to not do an exchange, especially given I have a letter of documentation from the store proving my loss. Also, she said that Apple should [want to] retain me as a customer, so hopefully the letter would help. I understand AppleCare doesn't cover loss, but what do you guys think of that argument?"
I'm going to just speak plainly, as I think you've gotten some really crappy advice so far from your therapist.

I think the argument given above is bad, terrible, horrible even...

because I feel that your therapists advice is both naive and irresponsible. It is needlessly getting your hopes up about something that is never going to happen.

The fact alone that she refers to "an exchange"...
Apple's supposed to do an "exchange" for what, exactly? The lake sitting on top of your old phone?

Now you, yourself, admit that AppleCare "doesn't cover loss".

So what possible reason would Apple have to want to cover your loss; to give you a new $600 iPhone for absolutely free?

Apple makes great products, but they are a company that is loathe* to give out money—especially, especially when there is even a whiff of a mention of water being involved.

Case in point, in addition to loss, AppleCare also does not cover water damage. So, even if you had grabbed your phone just after it had gone under the surface, you would still be out $600 for a new iPhone.

While it is regrettable for everyone that you brother's girlfriend happened to be the one who was holding it when it inevitably (yes, inevitably with no lanyard) went into the water...

—regrettable for her, because she feels bad,
regrettable for you, because you somehow feel that, even though she wasn't acting recklessly with it, she now owes you $600— actuality, the mistake was yours.

People drop their phones all the time... on land!
The iPhone is an especially smooth-and-slippery hand-held electronic item that will be destroyed by water, and costs $600. Your iPhone had no business being an an open-air pontoon boat without being encased in some sort of 100% waterproof enclosure that then had a lanyard or a floaty thing on it.

Taking this unprotected item into an open air boat in just your hand—akin to getting into the boat and saying "I'll just take off my gold necklace and hold it here in my hand"—was the mistake that lead to this happening; this was not your brother's girlfriends fault, and I hope that neither she nor your brother are the target of any unwarranted resentment, because that would really be unjust.

Chalk it up to "That sucked, but it would've happened to anyone!" and use your shiny new phone as a reminder to buy it a new protective case—especially if you're planning on being anywhere near water again this summer.

* I have only, 2 weeks ago, finally received a check from Apple for a repair that they said they would pay for back in August. This was for a repair reimbursement that they said they would pay for--and still it took close to 20 phone calls back and forth, and almost ten months to receive the check!
posted by blueberry at 9:29 PM on June 17, 2015 [12 favorites]

Swappa has used iPhones for a little bit cheaper (and less overhead) than eBay.

Also Apple has a little-known program called the out-of-warranty replacement program, in which you can give them whatever's left of your phone and they will give you a refurbished one for half the price. Apple refurbs are often like-new. Unfortunately it doesn't sound like you can take advantage of this program since your phone is still in the lake.
posted by meowzilla at 10:58 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, the link blueberry linked to is a bit misleading. The phone, if purchased in the last couple years, most likely had AppleCare+, which does cover liquid damage, with a deductible. You do need to have the phone to return in exchange for the replacement, so it would not apply in this scenario. You can contact AppleCare to get a pro-rated refund on whatever warranty was left on the lost phone (depending how long you've had it, this may or may not be worth your time).

I also agree that it would be unrealistic to expect Apple to cover a lost device, considering the AppleCare+ terms specifically state "The Plan does not apply to Covered Equipment that has been lost or stolen. This Plan only applies to Covered Equipment returned to Apple in its entirety. (Section 4.2, iv)" Your best bet would most likely be Craigslist. Make sure the phone works with your carrier, and if you're concerned about safety or communication issues, bring a friend along for the purchase.
posted by bluloo at 11:40 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Update for anyone still watching this thread:

I've ordered an used, unlocked iPhone 5 from Amazon. That'll tide me over until the 6s comes out this fall. Hopefully upon arrival, the iPhone will work properly without any odd problems.

I've also signed up for renter's insurance with a personal home computer/electronics rider.

Thanks all for the feedback!
posted by dubious_dude at 8:34 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older What TV show should I watch with my friend while...   |   Obsessively nursing toddler -- help! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.