Dial '1' Before the Area Code

What happens when the first seven digits of your number match a toll-free number?

When did it stop becoming necessary to dial “1” before the area code when making long distance calls? I don’t know if that’s even the case, but it seems many people have never heard of that procedure. 

Recently 855 became the newest toll-free area code, following 800, 888, 877 and 866. Where we live, 855 is the local exchange. As luck would have it, our phone number comprises the first seven digits of the contact number for Medicaid transportation. That means we get many (MANY) calls from people trying to arrange a ride for medical appointments.

When this number was first assigned, our phone was ringing non-stop.  I’m talking 35-40 calls every day, into the evening, and in the middle of the night.  We tried talking to the people who own the number and the business it reaches and asked them to please advertise the number with the “1” in front of it.  Many calls come from people visiting the same hospitals and clinics, so we also have told them about the problem and asked them to please post the same near the phone they allow patients to use. That seems to have reduced the calls we get to maybe 15-20 per day. Often, each person tries twice, like the person who called last night at 3:30 am.

The message on our machine politely states that this is our residence and that if you have reached this number in error, please hang up, dial 1 and then the number. But many people don’t even listen to the message. They just hang up and try again. If I’m home, I often answer and, feeling like I’m doing my good deeds for the day, nicely inform people that they have to dial 1 before 855 to get the right number. Some people are apologetic, which I appreciate. Others, not so much. 

If we don’t answer the phone we have to listen to what happens. We’ve had people carrying on a conversation or yelling at their kids while the message is playing and then they leave a message when they hear the beep. Some people insist they did dial "1" and it didn’t work. Others hit “1” in the middle of the message. Many people leave long messages about when and where they need to be picked up. Some people are actually waiting for a ride at that moment and wondering why it hasn’t arrived. 

Some people are obviously very elderly, others don’t speak English. If I’m in a very helpful mood I will return calls to people who leave their name and number to let them know they haven’t reached their desired contact. For the most part though, this situation is very annoying. I suppose it’s our own fault it’s continued as long as it has since we could just change our number. But then who knows who else’s number we may wind up with. 

My son says that with some cell phones you don’t have to dial 1 before the area code. So maybe that’s at the root of this issue. But I am left wondering when did I become so old that things I’ve learned to accept, other people have never heard of? 


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Ashley Tarr October 03, 2012 at 02:27 PM
What a pesky situation, Betsy. Are you able to turn off the ringer at night? I always dial 1. Next time I make a long distance call, I'm going to try without.


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