For the last time, I am not selling a Chinese restaurant!

A case study in the dangers of typos and the importance of copy editing:

Starting on Saturday, around noon, I began receiving many, many phone calls from New York City area codes. I’d say that I’ve received 30 calls in the past 48 hours (make that 31 – I just got a call while writing this). I deal with a lot of media people for my job, so getting calls from NYC isn’t out of the ordinary for me. So I pick up the first call – non-English speaker. I tell them it’s a wrong number, for what it’s worth, and continue on with my day.

Until I get another call 10 minutes later. Another non-English speaker. Then another. And another.

Finally, after 10 calls in the span of a few hours, I get someone who speaks somewhat coherent English. I ask them where they got my number – it turns out there’s an ad in a Chinese newspaper in New York advertising a Chinese restaurant for sale. The number in the ad? Mine. We actually shared a good laugh over this.

The problem has persisted throughout the weekend and into today, and while it once seemed hilarious (I tweeted about it with the hashtag #mylifeisasitcom) now that I’m at work it’s very, very annoying.

When one of the voicemails that was left was in (broken) English, I called the person back to try to figure out where the ad appeared, but they couldn’t tell me. All they could say was “newspaper” and when I asked which one, they said they didn’t know.

Oh, and I’ve also tried calling the 212 equivalent of my number (DC’s area code is 202) but it appears to be either busy or not functioning.

I suppose the only thing I can do is wait for the ad to fade into obscurity and hope the calls stop. Unless someone on here has a brilliant scheme for figuring this out.

Oh well – at least it entertained my friends on Facebook and at the baby shower I went to yesterday.

Do you take Visa and Mastercard?

  1. Profit!

Wahahaha. Consider me entertained as well. I don’t have anything that could be called a “brilliant scheme” but here are a few possibilities:

How many Chinese-language newspapers can there be in New York? Is there perhaps some kind of press organisation that has a list of all the newspapers published in NYC? If there were, say, three or four, you could phone each one, hope you got hold of someone who spoke English, and ask them? Or if you could get hold of a friend or a friend-of-a-friend who could speak and read Chinese it would be easier; he could:

Phone the advertising departments of all the newspapers for you

Go to a Chinese shop, buy a copy of each paper available, and go through them in search of the offending ad

Change your standard voicemail message to one in Chinese explaining the situation and asking anyone who could tell him the name of the paper to call another number (his). You could then leave your phone off for a few days until the calls died down. Of course, it would also completely confuse all your friends and family :smiley:

Hang out with you all day, waiting for another of these calls. When you get one, he could talk to the person and persuade them to look for their copy of the newspaper and tell you what it’s called.

Good luck with that. if the person who placed the ad elects to renew it without proofreading it, this could go on for a while.

Try typing your phone # into Google in various permutations - with/without area code, parentheses, etc. to see if maybe the ad also appears in an online classified section. That might help you pin down which paper it’s appear in in.

Also, change the outgoing message on your answering machine: “If you’re calling about the restaurant, please leave your name and number, and tell me what paper you saw the advertisement in.”

I’ve thought about doing that, but based on the limited conversations I’ve had, anything left in English would be useless, and if I use the word “restaurant,” they’re just as likely to assume I’m saying that it’s still for sale or something.

And I’m about two degrees removed from anyone who speaks Chinese well enough to help me on this – not to mention the problem of different dialects. (Though based on what I’ve read, I’m pretty sure the messages I’ve gotten are in Cantonese.)

I had this problem a while ago - some banking website in the US had my cell phone number listed as their support line. People would leave me voice mail messages with their SIN and banking information. I finally managed to track down the site when I talked to one of the callers and I managed to resist the urge to profit. I recommend waiting it out if you’re attached to your number. If you’re not, call your provider explain what’s happening and request a number change. Those are about the only options :frowning:

For a while my number was something like 1 digit off from a hospital’s emergency department. The wrong numbers we got were sometimes very disturbing. When someone is really worried about the immediate health of a loved one, they don’t often hear “This is not the hospital, it’s a private residence.”

Have you considered answering the phone with a Chinese name? Yu Wung Wong.

The upside is that you might be able to buy a Chinese restaurant for a good price, since the seller probably isn’t getting any other offers.

Oh man, I’m so sorry, I did this as a prank while kinda drunk and angry after the Mets lost to the Nationals over the 4th of July weekend, after yet another K-Rod 9th inning implosion… I NEVER thought I’d find out who I hit with that random 202 area code number! And on the SDMB at that!

… just kidding. Heh.

There are lots of Chinese newspapers in New York. Including free ones. You won’t know which unless you ask them, which as you don’t speak Chinese, is going to be difficult.

In your situation, I’d find someone who speaks Mandarin (the most commonly understood dialect of Chinese - most Cantonese speakers will at least understand Mandarin) to record a short blurb about the number being wrong, and playing it for anybody calling. Or else just hang up every time you get such a call, but you’ll probably get the people calling 2 or 3 times each before giving up (maybe more). Either way it’s draining and sucks your time/energy, but at least the ad will stop running at some point.

And here’s a link to something on YouTube that may be useful :slight_smile:

My number when I was in college used to belong to a dentist, and about once or twice every week I would get a call asking for “Dr. George”. That wasn’t too bad though.

I’m a native Cantonese speaker, although I’m not anywhere near DC and I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do to help.

You’re in DC and you can’t find a Chinese speaker? Certainly any university?

Chinese Student & Scholar Association

One of our office phone numbers is one digit off from an IRS help number.
Come about February, everyone in the office knows this correct part number by heart.

“No ma’am, I’m sorry, this isn’t the IRS. You need to call XXX-XXX-XXXX. No really, I can’t get you that form. Sorry, I can’t make an appointment for you.”

But people are lazy. Damaged Brick stupid and lazy to the core.

I work with product X, which also interacts on various levels with Companies A, B, and C. I regularly get calls from people who want me to sort out their issues with those companies just because they’re capable of using OUR PRODUCT to interact with those companies. Many of whom are happy to scream and swear at me when I tell them I can’t sort out their account with another company.

When I did desktop computer support, I’d regularly get people who wanted me to help them navigate other people’s websites, because “I’m doing it on YOUR COMPUTER, so you have to help me!” (hint: no I don’t)

When I worked Armored, we almost lost a customer because instead of calling our automated ordering system - and you know, getting the actual automated menu system - she was calling a slightly different number and getting someone’s personal voicemail - and leaving them angrier and angrier messages demanding delivery of bags and such. Then of course, screaming bloody murder at us - the delivery guys - because it wasn’t being delivered. Yeah, about that…our automated delivery system isn’t run by Suzy College Student through her voicemail system. Get a fucking clue.

I lived with my grandparents for a couple of years as a teen. A local medical treatment facility ran TV commercials which listed the facility’s number, and then listed an extension, like so:

EXT 1234

Grandma and Grandpa’s number was 555-1234, and they frequently got calls at inconvenient times, because stupid people assumed that their number was an alternate phone number. Complaining to the TV stations that ran the ads didn’t do any good, and Grandpa was tired of explaining to angry people that he was NOT the facility they wanted. So he looked up the facility’s CEO’s home number, and calmly said “Oh, sorry, the number you want is <CEO’s home number>.” Grandpa was a bastard, but shortly afterwards the TV commercials were changed to something that was a little harder to misunderstand.

I like my cubicle’s phone number because it’s easy to remember, but I hate it because it’s too similar to the main switchboard number.

The main number is X55-500X, while my extension is 55500. Somehow, nearly every day, the phone rings from an outside line and someone asks to speak to a random person in the company (of which there are several thousand). I occasionally go online and find the employee directory and help the person out, otherwise I just tell them to hang up and try calling the main switchboard again (I should find out how to transfer them…!)

This story should be made into a 5- or 10-page children’s book (like a board book). It is a much better parable on practical ethics than, say, “The Rainbow Fish”.

Arthur … it seems he arranged people shifts. They would call at 6am, 4pm and around midnight. They didn’t believe he wasn’t there. They were annoyed that a woman was answering the phone. They insisted they had called the right number.

After a few days of this I got his number from one of the callers, one digit different and we had a little chat. He said “Oh, so you’re Boo”. At work we had some government office number taped up on the wall since it was wrongly printed in the directory. On occasion people would call back asking for other numbers because we were so helpful.

With the language barrier it’s quite different. In your case I’d try to learn a phrase of Cantonese (?) saying “wrong number printed in newspaper, please call paper to complain” Some dude is wondering why his restaurant won’t sell.

The most interesting thing about all of this is the calls tend to come in waves. Yesterday I thought things had died off, until I got 3 or 4 calls around 11 p.m. No calls today so far, though they’ve never started before 10 a.m.

Bam Boo Gut, I never thought of learning how to say “call paper to complain”! That’s a good idea and I’ll look into that if this continues.


Now, about that Chinese restaurant you have for sale…

When I moved to my apartment in L.A. I got several calls enquiring about Nicewonger ice cream equipment. Apparently my number used to belong to a dealer. I’d also get calls from people trying to reach Washington, DC, since my prefix was 202.