September 14, 2008

"Some companies like to spell out words so you can remember their names, but they use too many letters. 'Give us a call at 1-800-I-LOVE-BRAND-NEW-CARPET.' I like to press all the buttons, spell that fucker out 'til the bitter end." — Mitch Hedberg

I like memorable phone numbers, even in this age of big cell-phone address books. I smiled when a recent project at work involved an engineer whose phone number ended in "1337." Amazon.com's main switchboard is on an appropriately-numbered exchange: AMazon-6 1000. I've used PhoNETic since it came online over 10 years ago to try and find words in my phone numbers, stymied by the numbers I've been given that contain letterless 0s and 1s.

Area codes in the U.S. and Canada used to have a second digit that was a 0 or 1. In the 1990s codes with other middle digits came into use, like 888 and 360. It wasn't until this month, though, that I saw the most brilliant use of these area codes: the 10-letter word phone number. From a press release by GPS maker Dash Express:

Whether their GPS is near or away, owners can simply call 1-DIRECTIONS (or 1-347-328-4667) on any cell phone and speak their destination. The destination appears instantly on their navigation device.

1-DIRECTIONS. Genius! The area code they used, 347, is allocated to New York City. Normally it would be a long-distance call, but on cell phones even 800/888/877/866 calls cost just as much as long distance calls. The only other all-letters phone number I've seen has been 1-TV-TIPS-KOMO, the toll-free tip line for Seattle's ABC affiliate. Dash gets bonus points for using a single 10-letter word.

I've been racking my brains to come up with other words or phrases to use as all-letters phone numbers. The Museum of Modern Art in New York could get a Manhattan 646 number and use 1-MINIMALISM, for example. Why haven't any other forward-thinking companies picked up some relevant 10-letter words as their phone numbers?