Truckers, Collect Calls, and Fake names...

The assertion:

Back when long-distance calls were outrageously expensive, truckers worked out codes with their companies to alert the company if the trucker ran into trouble - without actually placing a call.

It went like this:

Trucker places a collect call to HQ. Operator asks “Who is calling?”, trucker uses a code name - the first name indicated the problem (mechanical failure - 1 day delay, etc.), and the second name indicated his location (Wilson = Libertyville (a trucker’s nightmare)).

The company would, of course, decline the charges, no charge was incurred, and HQ knew what was happening.

Anybody remember actually using this (or similar) system?

No but I had heard of college students doing the same sort of thing. Sometimes the parents would call back since placing a direct call was cheaper than accepting the collect call.

“Hello, Collect Call from Blown Piston Rod Johnson, will you accept the charges?”

The trick I remember from my college days to let your parents know you had arrived safely was to call home person-to-person* and ask to speak to yourself. When the operator said that there was a call for “Joe College” your parents would (truthfully) say that you weren’t there. No charge for the call, since it wasn’t completed, but the message was delivered.

*For those who are too young to remember, at one time long-distance calls could be made station-to-station, where the caller would speak to anyone at the number being called, or person-to-person, where the caller would only speak to a particular person at that number. Station-to-station calls were cheaper because person-to-person calls required the operator to announce that there was a call for X and then wait for whoever answered the phone to get X; charges for the call did not start until X was on the line, and if X was not available the caller was not charged for the call.

I’ve also heard of the modern 1-800-COLLECT version where there was no operator, but people still got their messages across.

How it worked is you dialed 1-800-COLLECT (or whatever phone company #) and a computerized voice asked you to say your name. Instead of saying your name you’d blurt out an extremely short message (e.g. “I’m home”). You were then asked to enter the phone number of the person you are trying to reach.

On the other end, after someone answered the phone, the computerized voice would ask, “Will you accept the charges from I’m home”? - the last part of course was your recorded voice. “Press “1” if you accept the call, and “2” if you don’t”.

The receiving party would press “2”, nobody paid any money, but the message still got across.

Note: I’m in no way advocating doing this, I’m just answering the OP.

Doesn’t anyone remember the Bob Wehadababyitsaboy commercial?

When my ex and I went on vacation, her grandmother wanted her to call every day. The code was that if she used her name, everything was fine and to decline, but if she used our daughter’s name then she needed to take the call.

I used to do a slightly similar thing with my mobile phone. In Australia, it doesn’t cost money to recieve calls or call people if you don’t get through. Thus, I usually had just enough credit to be able to make a call to my parents phone. They would reject it and call back because they were on a MUCH cheaper plan.

“Collect call from Bob Wehadababyeetsaboy…”