Why I Never Pay For AA Batteries

free AA batteriesThis trick isn’t for everyone, but one that I use to my advantage and anyone willing to do a small bit of networking can also do. If you use a lot of batteries for high powered electronic devices, then you likely want to purchase a good set of rechargeable batteries, but if you need a lot of batteries that don’t require a long life, this may be just what you’ve been looking for.

My situation is that my wife sells a lot of Hello Kitty items, many of which require batteries. While we could easily send these devices without batteries, it’s always nice when you receive something to be able to test it out right away. We therefore decided that including batteries with the items that need them when they are sold is one of the things that we will usually do. The problem is that we really didn’t want to spend the extra money buying batteries for all these items.

With these circumstances, it makes sense for us to get free batteries. While I realize this won’t apply to many of you out there, I’m sure that there are a few that need extra batteries on a fairly consistent basis for various reasons and so I’m sharing this trick with you. It comes in handy if you have kids with a lot of electronic toys.

Most people don’t think about it, but disposable cameras have a battery in them. The battery is needed for the flash. If every photo is taken using the flash, the battery will be pretty well drained. If none of the photos are taken using the flash, however, the battery will be like new (please realize these are standard batteries and not long life alkaline batteries). That means that these batteries still have life.

When you take your disposable camera to have the film developed, rarely do you ask for your camera back. That means that the parts of the disposable camera are either recycled or thrown out, including that battery. We simply found a few drug stores that develop film and asked that they save these batteries for us instead of throwing them out. We go by and pick them up every couple of weeks and they are perfect for putting in the toys that require AA batteries.

Since we get a fair amount, I also use them for my electronic equipment that need AA batteries. They don’t last long in these high power drain devices, but since I don’t mind changing them often, they work for me (I’m sure that others would hate having to change them so often). For those that don’t mind changing them, you can save quite a bit using this method.

Not every store will automatically let you have the batteries. We had to visit a number of different stores before we found three that were willing to let us have theirs. A lot depends on the manager and it helps if they know you at the store. Still, it costs nothing to ask and as I have said, we finally manged to find 3 good sources. If you use a lot of batteries, it could be something that you might want to investigate and see if it is worth the effort for your circumstances.

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32 Responses to Why I Never Pay For AA Batteries

  1. Traciatim says:

    You have a pretty unique scenario to require chep and/or free batteries. I’m sure most people don’t need to go through quite as many.

    I just wanted to point out Sanyo Eneloop NiMH batteries. They work very similarly to regular NiMH batteries only they don’t drain as much over time, keeping something like 85% of their charge over a year.

    Normal NiMH batteries can’t do this as they usually have high self discharge rates. This fact makes the Eneloop batteries great for things like remotes, cordless computer accessories, and other low drain long lasting devices. They are also equivelant to a 2000mAh regular NiMH so it’s still good (if not great) for your digital camera.

    I now use a mix of the eneloops and other NiMH batteries depending on how long I need them after I charge them. I spent about $120 on batteries recently, but won’t need to buy anymore for a couple of years.

  2. I like the tip, but I’m just curious, why do you go through so many disposable cameras? It sounds like you go through a lot of them. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to just have a digital camera?

  3. Stingy Student,
    I don’t believe all the batteries are from Jeff’s cameras, but from anyone who drops off a disposable camera at the drug stores that are saving the batteries for Jeff.

  4. pfadvice says:

    I like the tip, but I’m just curious, why do you go through so many disposable cameras? It sounds like you go through a lot of them. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to just have a digital camera?

    Accumulating Money is correct. I don’t buy any of the disposable cameras myself (I have a digital camera), but receive the batteries from others that take their disposable camers to those drug stores for developing.

  5. Steven L says:

    Jeff, I think that is a great idea. I never thought of it that way!

  6. Joe W says:

    So what you’re saying is that you can chop up disposable electronic devices that are meant to be sold as cheaply as possible to extract batteries that you admit aren’t very good in the first place to stick in something you may have spent good money on. You seem to forget, or perhaps are totally ignorant of, the fact that cheap batteries, especially dry cells, are prone to leakage. Perhaps you should go get yourself an EE degree before you start handing out advice in this area since you clearly aren’t capable of training yourself in this area of science. Sorry for being an ass, the retardosphere is starting to wear thin. Merry Christmas!

  7. SomeDude says:

    Check out musical theaters or other concert venues where they use lots of wireless mics. Sound people involved with high profile shows are not willing to take the risk of having a wireless unit run out of the batteries, so they always change them before every show. The discarded batteries are often more than half full and they tend to be of the highest quality (ussualy ProCels, the pro version of the Duracel line).

  8. foo says:

    joew: How about you keep your trap shut.

    The retardosphere is wearing thin alright and you’re part of the problem.

    I thought this was a great idea. He didn’t mention leakage but did explain that they don’t last long. You have some kind of problem? Why don’t you start your own battery blog and give us all the benefit of your vast battery knowledge. In the mean time, shut up.

  9. Eric says:

    Joe W,
    He’s selling hello kitty toys. Hello?
    Not to knock the product.
    This is a great idea, and you are right to apologize. I know its fun to see your name in print and all..

  10. cdill says:

    I have been pulling apart “one-use” cameras for years. The Kodaks tend to have excellent brand name batteries in them. The cameras roll the film into a canister as you take pictures, so anyone can ppull them apart without exposing your film to light. Even at ISO 800, they produce good pictures and are great to hand out to kids as young as two or three. My daughter grew up snapping a lot of pictures with these. She has been using a digital (w/ NIMH) for three years now and at eight is a fine art photographer of her own “Andrew Goldworthy” images.

    True about the sound guys, too. Whenever I work with one (I am a video camera operator) I always score a bag of nearly new batteries.

    Be sure not to throw the dead ones out with the trash. Your local ACE hardware store should take them and maybe your recycling company.

  11. YouSuck says:

    Title of article should’ve been “How to Stretch a Paragraph into 2 Pages”. Most high school students will love your example, but you can’t get away with that in college.

    As for the time you spend on fishing out batteries from disposables and then taking them out of the devices after only a week, it would be better spent getting a recharger with batteries on sale for $20. Factor in your gas money and time to drive to get to the photo store, and you’ll see the cost-benefit analysis favors getting a rechargeble.

    BTW, I do think it’s ingenious of you to figure out the wasted battery in disposables could be used again which would help with conservation, but that would make you a tree-hugging conservationist and environmentalist. 😉

  12. John says:

    The batteries contained in such devices are surely of poor quality – Think I’d rather buy them in bulk off of eBay from someone in China for a few cents!

    Either way, disposable cameras are ideal for hours of family fun when you convert them in to stun guns.

  13. postjosh says:

    i’d recommend an alkaline battery charger. you could then recharge the camera batteries before you send them out. i’ve been using one for a year since our daughter was born and it’s great. two caveats: you have to recharge before the battery is completely drained and you can’t recharge more than about ten times (after that the batteries tend to leak).

  14. mike says:

    it’s recycling, but I worry wouldn’t those batteries be of lesser quality-they could maybe hurt your electronic.

  15. Killjoy says:

    You should add a disclaimer that there are high voltage capacitors inside of a flash circuit, people ripping apart cameras should be careful or they might get a shock. Or, from the ’10 commandments’ we were given in my first week at tech school,

    “Beware the lightning that lurketh in undischarged capacitors, lest it cause thee to bounce upon thine buttocks in a most un-technician like manner”

  16. Al Gore says:

    I like the tip, and I went out and bought 100 disposable cameras, and took out the 100 free batteries! Whenever I need to use a camera I just pop in a battery and I’m good to go. 100 batteries for free AND 100 cameras! This is a great tip!!!

  17. contrary1 says:

    I’ve been picking up bulk batteries from the Nintendo offices here in WA state for years. They always send out new batteries on any system that comes in for repair, which leaves them with TONS of batteries and a disposal problem. Since there were so many, I would arrange pick up 2X a year and have enough to share with a non profit group I was involved with.

  18. Steven L says:

    Merry Christmas Jeff and PF Advice team. This post has become a flame war!

  19. Thanks for the clarification…. and why all the hate? I think it’s a rather ingenious idea. He’s including the batteries in the products for his customers, but he’s minimizing the cost for himself. How many times have you gotten something only to realize that you don’t have the necessary batteries lying around? Sure, these batteries may die pretty quickly, but at least you get to test it right away.

  20. fractal brothers says:

    It seems that with all these new readers, the average reader IQ dropped from somewhere in the 130’s to around 90. Maybe you should put up some of those “beat up the monkey and get a free ringtone” ads!

  21. Matt says:

    While not necessarily new, this is a really neat idea that’s rarely used. (Not sure why so many completely missed the point of what you’re doing?) For the batteries you keep for yourself, they make some battery chargers that are meant to recharge the batteries that aren’t supposed to be rechargeable.

  22. Ryan says:

    Here is also another tip for people who use alot of batteries. Look on ebay for some $1 off coupons for the batteries you want. Then wait till they go on sale for $1 each. When you goto checkout make sure you have something so your total isn’t just the sales tax, and you got free batteries(-ebay price for coupons)

  23. low quality dry cells may leak if left in a device unused for a long time. but that doesn’t happen all that often these days. the disposable camera manufacturers don’t want their cameras going bad on the shelf, so obviously they’re not going to use crap quality to begin with. all that’s really necessary is to use a multimeter to check the voltage on the batteries. toss the ones with low voltage. the rest are likely in near-new shape.

    ignore joew. anyone who tosses out ‘get an EE’ while talking about dry cells is the one in need of remedial retardocorrection. sheesh.

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  25. SCapitalist says:

    Wow, this is an example of true entrepreneurial spirit. It would be “easy” to just go buy them. Way to think outside-the-box to maximize your profits! This is an example of capitalism in action.

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  27. Harlock001 says:

    I ended up with a box of about 30-40 cell phones with batteries/chargers.

    The batteries are 3.6v. I took a 3 D-Cell flashlight and rigged it to use a cell phone battery. Only needed some jumper wires with alligator clips on ends, and some duct tape B^).

    The light lasts for hours, and unwanted cell phone batteries are abundant. Easy to find friends with outdated cell phones & accessories that they don’t want.

  28. Walgreens Worker says:

    This was a tip we used actively in a Walgreens I worked at several years ago. Devices in the store would constantly need new AA batteries, and there was a constant supply of nearly-new batteries from the disposable cameras that customers would leave in the photo lab (my department).

    It takes about 5 seconds to extract the battery, depending upon the manufacturer. All you need is a common screwdriver. I’d consider that a high value to time ratio and a high ROI, especially since you probably already have a screwdriver or something equivalent.

    In general, the batteries didn’t get much use in the camera (25 flashes at MOST, less on average), so they’re definitely good enough for low-drain items (remote controls, clocks, etc). Most have an almost full life.

    Kodak had consistently the best batteries, while Fujifilm was a close second. Almost all other brands were sub-par. Occasionally we’d get one with a genuine Energizer or Duracell, just like you’d get off the shelf. Oh, the glory!

    The only moderately dangerous part is the capactior for the flash. That said, the compartment for the battery is normally not open to circuitry. It’s been a few years, but if I recall the Kodak cameras had the battery on the side (the other side held the film) while Fuji had them on the bottom (under the paper). You shouldn’t need to jam the screwdriver deep into the camera, just enough to pry open the flap which covers the battery.

    If you get a relationship with the person at the counter of one of these retail stores they may just let you go through the cameras yourself. We always saved them, as they would be recycled rather than thrown away. Just stop in and fill up!

  29. CompareTheLoan says:

    I like the tip, but I’m just curious, why do you go through so many disposable cameras? It sounds like you go through a lot of them. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to just have a digital camera?

    Accumulating Money is correct. I don’t buy any of the disposable cameras myself (I have a digital camera), but receive the batteries from others that take their disposable camers to those drug stores for developing.

  30. Schmee says:

    Yeah I never pay for batteries either. I work for a DSL/DTV company and people turn in their remotes or old equipment for new stuff and they never take out the batteries. So I have an unlimited source of AA and AAA batteries for free.

  31. He's dumb says:

    What a waste.

    It’s wasted time going around trying to talk retail stores into giving you free batteries that you are giving away to customers who already bought your product just to be nice… If it were me, I’d bulk-box them and sell them on ebay…

    now that’s real entrepreneurship!

  32. Geeky says:

    Did you actually read the whole article or skim through? He explains where he gets them and everything. It is actually a pretty good tip. I hate spending money on anything I can get for free.

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