Why doesw ordering something to be shipped require a phone number?

Oh, I understand, Lynn, and I always try to make the first contact by email (that’s better anyway because I have written documentation). I do want the phone number as backup, though, if I don’t get a response to the emails.

I’d be a lot more willing to give out my phone number if I could have some sort of WRITTEN guarantee that it wouldn’t be used for marketing purposes, even if I am in a business relationship with the merchant. I don’t know how many times I’ve been assured that the company only wants the number “in case there’s a problem” and then somehow I find myself fielding calls about my purchase…and from the “business partners” too. Yeah, I know that companies are legally allowed to telemarket to me if I’m in a business relationship with them. And that’s the quickest way for a company to find itself on my personal blacklist.

Example: I buy my prescription medications at a chain pharmacy, including insulin. This chain kept calling me, trying to get me to use one or another of its services. I kept requesting that they put me on their do not call list. I finally had to get in touch with their headquarters, and explain that while I wanted them to be able to call me if my insulin wasn’t in yet, I didn’t want to be called to be informed about their latest offers, and if they couldn’t manage to keep me out of their telemarketing database, I’d be switching pharmacies. THAT got through to them. Thing is, I had been assured, when I first filled out my patient information sheet, that the company NEVER used the phone numbers on that sheet for telemarketing purposes.

I recently had this happen. I ordered some (pricy-ish) concert tickets and received a call the next day that my phone number didn’t correspond to the one affiliated with the account. I assume I’d neglected to change the number from when I used to have a land line, so I gave them that number and the transaction went through fine. These were for tickets that were going to be downloaded online so it didn’t have anything to do with delivery.

So somebody else who doesn’t want to be bothered with phone calls then gets all the phone calls from people who are trying to reach you.

Some years ago, I got a whole bunch of misplaced phone calls from angry merchants, bookkeepers, collectors, etc., because some teenage deadbeat twerp in my community got checks printed up with a wrong phone number (which happened to be MY phone number), and then she went on a bad-check-writing spree. (I figured out the “deadbeat teenage twerp” description from bits and pieces of descriptions mentioned by various people who called me.)

If you’re in the US, you can get a Google Voice number for free. It can be configured to not ever ring your phone, and voicemail messages will be emailed to you. I’m sure there are other similar services if you’re allergic to Google or something. I hate phone calls too, with a passion. But with services like that around, I don’t think there’s much excuse for using a made up phone number in these situations.

As everyone else has said, it’ just a faster way to clear up questions. I ship stuff out and often times I need something answered right away if it’s going to get out on time. I know you have a smart phone and answer emails really really fast but a lot of people don’t and I’ve found in all my years it’s just a helluva lot faster to call the person and get the answer now rather then email them and have to make a judgment call as the shipping deadline is getting closer.

I really hate the angry calls I get when someone is mad because something didn’t get to their Grandma’s house on their birthday and I have to say “I’m very sorry about that but I had a question* for you about the order, I emailed you and tried calling at 10 in the morning and you didn’t get back to me until 3:30 and our UPS pickup is at 3:00 so it went out the next day”

*This could be anything from the shipping address is clearly wrong and I need to correct it to the greeting card seems wrong and I want to go over it with them to the CC isn’t going through to me suspecting fraud and the shipment isn’t going anywhere until I hear a voice on the other end of the phone.

This conversation just reminded me of something. Back when we used to take paper checks we required phone numbers for them. My dad (the owner of the store) was taking a check and asked the writer for her phone number. She declined. My dad asked again, she declined again and he asked her why. She said that she didn’t trust him with the number (implying that we would use it to telemarket/cold call her). He simply said “You won’t trust me with your phone number, but you want me to trust you that this piece of paper is worth $80?” All these years later I still think it’s a great line.

It’s also really nice now that we can put the recipient’s phone number into the UPS software. Before that if the address was wrong UPS would call me, I’d have to call the sender, they’d call the recipient, get the new address, call me back with it, I’d call UPS back and they’d re-route package. This could easily delay the package by two days if the sender took too long to get back to me. Now UPS just calls recipient (and charges me $11).

And in these cases you have to wonder if it was even legit to begin with. Who gives a bad phone number, doesn’t check their email and doesn’t start wondering after a month and call you to ask about the order?

Actually there are a few people. I recently had someone call me. She had been doing research on a ton of websites on a product I happen to carry. Then ordered it from one of the websites and forget which one. She called me to see if I got an order from her.* I also have a lot of customers that are a bit older and don’t check email that often (or ever) so if they give me the wrong phone number they tend to be difficult to track down.

*It wasn’t me, so I gave her the name of my main competitor to see if that site looked familiar. Then I was going to help her go through her history to see what sites she had been to, but when she didn’t know what “Internet Explorer” was, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort for someone that didn’t actually give me any money.

Actually, I agree with that, and I have my (real) phone number printed on my checks. And back when I was in retail, we’d also get some people who didn’t want to give out their phone numbers, or their birth dates. And they’d get upset if we wanted to see some ID. And their checks had a PO box, or a private mailbox, as the address. The way I see it, if I give someone a check, I’m asking them to take my word that the check is good, so I’m willing to offer some information in exchange for the convenience of using a check.

But for the most part, businesses seem to want my phone number so that they can add it to their telemarketing division, and so they can sell it to other businesses. I usually don’t really need that widget that badly.

You won’t trust me with your phone number, but you just gave me your physical address, spouse’s name, and bank account number?

For online retail, I’ve been known to use a bogus phone number, either dial-a-prayer or the city sanitation department. I will answer the email if there’s a problem, though I use a throwaway alias which I change every so often, when I have no uncompleted transactions. I also use a credit card which has a virtual number feature. The last measure is for security - the first two are primarily to cut down on spam and telemarketers. I don’t have to wonder if an etailer might sell my contact information if I can assure that it won’t work. Killing the temp alias also nicely keeps the online retailer from sending me sales tripe, without having to find some opt-out mechanism which they may or may not honor. Now somebody needs a system for temporary physical aliases for delivery.

It could still be a worthless check and if I was handing out worthless checks I’d rather the people I was giving them to didn’t have my phone number. Even if you bounced the check by accident or even if you promise the check won’t bounce or whatever you want to tell me…if there is a problem with the check, I’d much rather be able to call you then have to drive over to your house or drop something in the mail.

Here’s the thing with checks. If one bounces and I can get someone on the phone, that’s great. If I have to mail something to them because I don’t have a phone number or they won’t return my calls, it’s going to be my standard registered mail with return receipt with my form letter that indicates they have five days to clear it up before I take it to the police. If I can’t get them on the phone, I’m not going to send a nice letter in the mail and sit on my hands for a week and a half to see if they show up.

But it’s mostly moot anyways as we take very few checks and the ones we do take (about 5 to 10 a day) are all done electronically via Telecheck.

If you’re* that concerned about giving up your phone number go to a brick and mortar store, pay with cash or a valid credit card, take your merchandise and deliver it yourself.

PO Box and when you’re done don’t have your mail forwarded.

*Not ‘you’ Gary, ‘you’ people in general that are that concerned about giving up your phone number.

Oh, the memories of starter checks and counter checks and those credit card checks are coming back to me!

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about…a counter check is a check that the banks used to offer (and maybe still do) which only had the bank’s information on them. You were supposed to fill in all the other information, and this check was supposedly as valid as a customized check. And if you wanted to cash it at your bank, yes, it was as valid. However, most stores wouldn’t accept the things. Starter checks had the checking account number on them, as well as the bank info. These were given out to people who had just opened a bank account. Needless to say, most merchants were less than thrilled to be presented with such a check. And in the 80s, the credit card companies used to send out documents which looked like checks to all their account holders, which had just the name of the account holder printed on them. The CC companies told their customers to use these documents “just like a check”, while usually only noting in the fine print that these were actually cash advance documents. The store that I worked in didn’t accept those suckers.

A phone number is usually the quickest and easiest way for a freight company to resolve a simple delivery issue.

Phone numbers are also useful when the receiver is in a remote area. Sometimes the driver/depot will call people who live in a remote area to make sure they will be home to receive the shipment.

Lol. Reminds me of back in the middle ages when checks were still used in stores and the cashier would demand a phone number. I didn’t want to give it and she would insist that the check have one…so I would give her one.

Hey, she just asked for a phone number…

Here was a perfect example: I just received an order online. In the shipping section was a note that said “Please deliver this to her on Monday the 11th”

Now, I wasn’t sure if she wanted it delivered today (Monday), next Monday, or Wednesday the 11th. I called her up but didn’t get an answer. I was starting to write an email when she called back and cleared it up (Wednesday the 11th). Then she thanked me and said (no kidding) “Thanks for calling, I’m on vacation in the woods and I’m not sure when I’ll be back near a computer” (she placed the order a few days ago).