Toll free numbers are all about customer convenience, right? Maybe, but maybe not. Too many U.S. based companies neglect the fact that there is civilization outside of the U.S., locations from where U.S. toll free numbers cannot be called. When I was in Europe a few weeks ago I ran into this problem, and ended up having to call a co-worker in the U.S. and having him dial the toll free number and then conferencing me in. And today I ran in to the problem again! I am in London, and need to contact a financial institution but can’t because they only provide a toll free number. And when I contacted them via a form on their web site, I received a message asking me to call – can you guess? – yep, their toll free number! And I’ve only run into this on occasion, and am guessing that those who actually live outside of the U.S. have to deal with this regularly. Toll free numbers are all about customer convenience, but they must be optional, and good old fashioned paid call numbers must always be provided, too! Grrrr!

9 thoughts

  1. Skype, baby! Skype! I don’t have a land line or an "unlimited" cell phone plan so I have to watch my weekday minutes. I got sick and tired of wasting minutes calling companies’ toll-"free" numbers and being put on hold. I checked the Skype call rates (http://skype.com/prices/callrates/) and found that TADA toll-free calls are free on Skype. Free to several countries in fact.
    Now any call I make to a business regarding a bill or anything I’m likely to get put on hold for I just Skype. It’s a beauty.

  2. On a related note, last night I was entering my credit/debit cards into 1Passwd and I noticed that pretty much all of the cards listed a non-toll free number for international calls and said to call said number collect. Now I know why!

  3. Actually, I heard about it on the Clark Howard show. I was then told by a co-worker who travels to Europe and India that it works great for calling back to the US, including toll-free numbers. If I was not stuck in a 2-year contract with TimeWarner Cable for my home phone, I would have already switched to Magic Jack.

  4. I wonder if these companies are doing it on purpose.
    1) if their customers are US based they minimize costly (tech support, sales, etc.) international callers that they don’t intend or can’t easily service anyway
    2) for domestic US calls, its a subtle way of winning good PR with the customers
    3) for those who do call, its generally unknown that the 800 system feeds the calling number to the owner of the number (I think). This is a great way to get demographic information and verify the origin of the caller without them knowing, even when the person has a blocked number (I think, since one assumes that an 800# owner gets to know the #s of those who cost them money)

  5. @Ryan:
    Most phone systems can get your basic demographic information without an 800 number. If you have an ISDN-PRI line (which most call centers would), they would get the BTN field, which is the BillTo Number. There are databases you can purchase tha

  6. Being a non US resident, what really annoys me is when I fill in an address form for something, it has a country selection available, and I can pick my country, but the State field is a drop down with only US and occasionally Canadian States listed, and no option to put down ‘Other’ or ‘non-USA’ or anything else relevant.

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