Are Toll-Free "800" Phone Numbers Becoming Unnecessary?

Back in the days with land lines and higher costs for long distance, 800 numbers were a great business idea. People could call and talk to customer service and not worry about any long distance charges.

Now, however, most cell phones and even many land line plans offer unlimited long distance - assuming you have enough minutes left that month. Still, it doesn’t make a difference if you call next door, or cross country.

Is there really any need for businesses to continue with 800 numbers anymore?

It probably depends on your customers. My department at work has a toll-free number because most of our employees make around minimum wage and work in rural or lower income communities. It would not be wise for us to assume that they all have unlimited long distance, or even cell phones. Hell a lot of them don’t even have phones at home (or they’re disconnected half the time).

Oh, it’d be nice to not have 800 numbers. As an expat worker, it sucks trying to track down companies’ non-800 numbers. You see, toll free numbers don’t work from out of the country, even if you’re willing to pay. (Admittedly, there are some workarounds, but you have to know about them ahead of time.)

I suspect that at this point they’re more of a marketing tool than anything else. If I know that a company has an 800 number that I can call them on for service I’m going to be somewhat calmer (and less angry at the company) if I get stuck on hold for a while - after all, I know it’s their money that’s being spent while I’m on hold, not mine.

I don’t have numbers at hand, but I for one don’t carry long distance service. I know there are others who post in a frugal Usenet site. I think it would be short-sighted to exclude such potential business as a matter of policy.