From The Tips Box: Emergency Phone Charging, Customer Service

From The Tips Box: Emergency Phone Charging, Customer Service

Readers offer their best tips for charging your phone during a power outage, avoid long customer service conversations, and getting the most out of your wireless peripherals.

About the Tips Box: Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons—maybe they’re a bit too niche, maybe we couldn’t find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn’t fit it in—the tip didn’t make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favourites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Email it to tips at

Use a UPS to Charge Your Phone During Power Outages

Photo by Jack Zalium.

Evan Gilmore shares a good tip for using your tech when the power’s out:

Emergency power tip: If you have a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that your computer is plugged into, unplug your computer from it, and use it simply to charge your essential devices (cell phone, GPS, etc.) in case of a multiple-day blackout. It also comes in handy to power an AM/FM radio (or even lights) if you don’t have a battery-operated one on hand. It should last for multiple charges.


Tell Customer Service Reps You’re Leaving the Country to Avoid Long Conversations

Photo by Dailyinvention.

Mike shares a tip for getting around long customer service conversations:

Talking to over-the-phone customer service is already awkward, but when you have to cancel a subscription it can be even worse. During the past couple of months I’ve been cutting back on my budget and removing or reducing a lot of monthly subscription fees, such as satellite radio, cable and auto insurance. Not looking forward to the barrage of CSRs I would have to deal with, and their annoying questions, I decided to try something which has worked flawlessly so far. When the operator asks why you’re cancelling just say “I’m leaving the country.” They’ll ask no more questions, cancel whatever service you’re calling about, and you’ll be off the phone in less than a minute.


Swap Keyboard and Mouse Batteries for Efficient Peripheral Power

Photo by Webhamster.

Brendanwbrown reminds us that some devices use less power than others:

Those of us who have wireless mouse & keyboard kits are always frustrated by how much sooner the mouse runs out of batteries than the keyboard. Just trade the low mouse batteries for the keyboard’s and they will both run out around the same time.

For the record, this really applies to all battery-powered devices. When I was a kid, I discovered that a dead Discman could still contribute batteries to my Game Boy. Lots of devices don’t run on AA batteries anymore, but it’s worth checking which of yours are lower- and higher-power.


Remove Air Pressure from Toothpaste Tubes to Squeeze Out Every Last Bit

The Lansey Brothers show us how to get the most out of that confounded toothpaste tube:

Getting the last drop of toothpaste out can be a breeze if you just follow this one easy trick: Before closing the lid, squeeze all the air out of the tube. This will push the paste right up to the edge of the cap as shown in the image.

Once you get nearer to the last drops a tug both ends for about 2 seconds, that should quickly suck enough paste into the cap region to temporarily relieve any pressure and allow you to easily squeeze out some paste and re-cap in the right condition.

You can read the full blog post here. Thanks, James!


  • I have used my ups to charge my htc mobile since my area of Townsville lost power 20+ hours ago. If the ups loses charge I can then use my car charger but I’m hoping power will be back on before I need to do that.

    I have put my mobile in flight mode when not in use to preserve the charge after letting my family know I would be unavailable.

    A ups can also be used to power cordless phone base stations if you don’t have a corded phone. Fortunately neither mobile or land line service has been disrupted at this stage.

    • My GF’s mums place, has a electric garage door opener, but the emergency release can only close the door (or if it lets you open it, it requires super human strength). So i’m trying to convince them to get a UPS for that so they can get the car out in case of power failure.

  • Re the toothpaste tube tip. We had an issue with baby creme tubes, until I cut and stuck two lids to fit end to end, and drilled a hole through inside.
    Now when we find ourselves with that little bit in the tube that requires Herculean pressure to force out, we simply screw a almost full tube and the almost empty one together and stand on the almost empty one until all it’s contents enter the other side. Too easy.

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