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The Death of Vanity Telephone Numbers

I discovered today that Vanity telephone numbers are on their way out. What do I mean by this? First a little history: In the 1960’s, the telecommunications industry created the DTMF (dual-tone multi-frequency) system. This technology is the basis for our touch-tone telephone which replaced the old rotary phone systems. Long story short, it made dialing a telephone number much easier. Growing up, we had a rotary phone in our home (in fact, my grandmother still has one in her apartment!). Our telephone number was (415) 397-0973. If you are old enough to remember rotary phones, you’ll understand how difficult this number would be to dial (especially the 9’s and 0’s). It would often take me many attempts to dial home, as I would put my finger in the wrong hole, or forget which number I was on.

Alas, I digress… Back to the topic at hand…

So, today I was in my car talking to my insurance agent, trying to file a claim. My agent gave me the claims number and said ” just dial 1-800-allstate“. She even offered to do a conference call and dial the number for me. Being the independent person that I am, I declined and stated that I would make the call myself and hung up.

Here’s where the story gets interesting…

So, I’m driving in my car, trying to dial at the same time. On my previous cell phone, this would not have been a problem, as the keypad had the alphabet stamped on each number. You know the sequence right? ABC, DEF, GHI, JKL…

Guess what? I just got a new BlackBerry! Here’s what my new phone looks like:

Notice anything different about it?

Yeah. The letters under my keypad are different than my old cell phone.

So I’m driving in my car, trying to remember what letters are associated with what numbers. I’m trying to call 1-800-allstate by dialing 1-800-144-6717. I get a message stating “The number or code you have dialed is incorrect”. Darn! I try again. Let’s see, #1 is ABC, #2 is DEF, #3 is GHI… Still no luck. I then called my girlfriend for help. Only then am I reminded that the letters start at #2, not #1. How stupid is that? So the actual number I should have dialed is 1-800-255-7828.

With the BlackBerry phone’s rising popularity, maybe allstate should change their number to 1-800-EDD-ZXEX. On the other hand, maybe they don’t want people dialing their claims line anyway…

  1. aty1776

    I would definitely disagree. Vanity numbers are far from ancient history! In fact blackberries have this cool new feature that allows you to spell the word and it will automatically convert to the numeric equivalent. In a recent study the Vanity number was found to be 45% more memorable than the URL. The fact is Vanity 800 numbers are here to stay, and no Smartphone can change that.

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