You see two numbers side by side on your screen. One is a “real” phone number, with an area code you recognize. The other starts with 800 or 866. Which would you rather call? Which would you be more likely to put in your contact list?
I never use a toll free number, and I have a theory that a lot of other folks feel the same. It’s been years since I paid by the minute for a long distance call. (When’s the last time you heard somebody say, “He’s on long distance”?) So I figure when I use the toll-free number, I’m just subsidizing an outdated service that nobody needs any more.
But there’s a little more to my logic:
- A toll free number is really just an alias that hides the “real” number. I don’t know if I’m calling a local business in Shreveport or a call center in Singapore.
- The toll free number will almost certainly connect me with a switchboard (or recording), which will entail extra steps to get the person I need. A “real” number may still take me to the switchboard, but there’s always hope that it’ll get me straight to the right person.
- It seems inflationary to me. If we’re all paying (even a little bit) for 800 numbers we don’t need, we have a needless cost.
I’m aware that I could just be overthinking this because, as a former telephone company guy, I understand the situation better than some. But if I’m right, it could be that — at the very least — businesses might think twice before putting in additional toll-free lines. Still, I’m curious as to what you think.