Acronym Survey

I don’t often have good work stories to tell, but one emerged last night that’s worth sharing.

About 3am I received a call from a gentleman who I believe was in Alaska. He came in on a toll-free line set aside for one of our services in Texas which has, to my knowledge, been discontinued. For some reason these defunct lines are sometimes not disconnected, and we end up getting a lot of wrong numbers on them.

This guy hadn’t dialed a wrong number. No, he dialed exactly the number he meant to.

“Are you aware your phone number has negative connotations?” he asked me. I told him I didn’t know what he meant, and he informed me that our phone number, when spelled out, might be detrimental to our business. It was nothing obscene, just two innocuous little words which, when put together, conveyed a message which might be construed as negative.

When I thanked the man for the information and bade him a good night, he began to get irate. I suppose he was expecting me to investigate the conspiracy behind the phone number? Begin a crusade to have it changed? I’m not sure. But he didn’t like the idea of ending our conversation without getting his point across. He began asking questions about the company I work for, and what services we provide. I told him. That only managed to make him even more certain there was some evil force at work here.

“I’m doing an Acronym Survey,” he explained. “I’m calling companies with negative acronyms for phone numbers, trying to find out why they use them.” He said, if he had a business, he wouldn’t want to get saddled with a phone number that didn’t instill confidence in his clients or customers. “How many customers have you lost by having that number, I wonder?”

I told him I didn’t know.

I amused myself by poking and prodding the guy for nearly twenty minutes. In that time he ranged from cordial to abusive, his arguments flip-flopping from well-reasoned to absolute lunacy. He about lost it when he found out my physical location was a call center in Florida. “How can you work for [our client] in Texas, if you’re in Florida!? And I’m calling from Alaska!”

I’m sure to him it all made perfect sense. The negative phone number, the remote call center, the apathetic phone rep in the middle of the night. I envisioned him furiously sticking pins in a giant map on the wall, connected with lengths of colored string, as all the pieces fell into place.

The call ended rather abruptly. Once he became convinced that I wasn’t going to do anything about the phone number single-handedly ruining our business, he declared he had “more important work to do” and hung up.

Godspeed, o patriot of phone number acronyms. May your thankless toil save any number of struggling businesses. I sincerely hope we cross paths again.

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