Early last week, the self-proclaimed, "leaders of the toll free industry," made a bold and fearless announcement.
"The Pre-Release Request process begins on Tuesday July 6th at 3:00pm EST at 855numbers.com. Customers will be able to request any 855 Numbers from the phone company of their choice."
Not only that, they're going to, "instantly verify, free of charge, that no one else has requested this 855 number with your phone company." [Update-- This obvious fabrication and the slot machine itself has been removed from their live site, but is available here]
If only this were true!
Mind you, they didn't say "Our" Pre-Release process; they said "The" Pre-Release process, as though this was an industry collaboration -- or at least a collaboration among the listed phone companies. And they said they would "verify" with "your phone company," not just check that the requested the number was unclaimed in the slot machine's database.
They further declared that, "We’re expecting to process tens of thousands of requests at the insanely low price of just $8.55." Well, they just may be right about this claim.
A few hours into the opening, their request indicator read 71 "players" and over 8,500 requests. At $8.55 a request, this one-armed bandit may have already made off with over $65,000! Since that first night, though, the request count has been taken down. [Update-- A true and correct screen shot of the 855numbers.com on the morning after the launch follows. At the time, they reported 18,345 requests, but then deactivated the counter. That would infer $156,849.75 in sales].
Trouble is, the "recognized leaders of the toll free industry," have no more of an inside track to get requests into the listed phone companies than you do. We suspected as much, and were able to confirm that several of the phone companies listed had no idea they were even listed on this site, and certainly had not given Tollfreenumbers.com authority to take 855 number requests on their behalf. Within days, though, further research into these associations became moot.
In a July 8th post at Tollfreenumbers.com, "The World of Phones is Changing," they confessed that they had assembled the list of phone companies -- not by actually establishing working agreements with these 85 phone companies -- but by looking at transfer logs. Yet, as of July 15th, they continue to state that 855 Numbers is "your clearing house for 855 requests," here to "maximize your chances of getting the number you want when it becomes available."
Let's put aside the obviously false inducements, imaginary associations to actual phone companies, and fictitious verifications in real-time -- as well as the utterly speculative assertion that 855 numbers "will" be rationed -- and just assume 855 Numbers com is merely going to "help" get your requests into each of these 85 phone companies. They use the word "help" twenty-two times. They really, really want to help!
Should you buy a "chance" on the 855 slot machine? Like any other form of "gambling," you have to look at the pay tables. You put $8.55 in, but what’s your expected return?
Let's look at just three major issues that affect to odds of 855 Numbers actually submitting a "competitive" request for you, which I'll define as a request for a very desirable 855 number; one that will surely be requested by others.
- Many companies will not compete-- Of the 85 companies listed, there's no way of knowing that any of these companies will actually be involved in the land rush for 855 numbers. Most won't, from our experience. In the companion ebook, page 4, our purported "leaders" states, "We recently contacted the resporg administrators of most of the major carriers and none of the major carriers have anything significant in place yet for 855 numbers yet [sic], or even know what they're going to do.” Even those phone companies that "gear up" for the release may not be effective. After all, this is not something they have done for years, as we have. So, what are the odds? Let's call it a 1 out of 5 chance that any one of these phone companies will compete, i.e. 17 of the 85 companies will technically gear up for the land rush; not just manually enter orders after the noon opening.
- Phone companies take care of their major accounts first-- If history teaches us, toll free 888 replication requests in 1996 were only taken seriously by the major account representatives within AT&T, when the FCC mandated these requests be taken on short notice. The little players were largely ignored, including 1-800-Blossom who, with our help, successfully filed suit to stop the launch of 888 and reopen the request window. You can bet that virtually all carriers will place the 855 number orders from their own major accounts ahead of anyone else. Let's call this a 1 in 3 chance that the little guy actually gets in on a competitive request.
- Phone companies will not allow a 3rd party to place orders: If you enjoy any account privacy at all, which you do-- it's the law -- you can be sure "your phone company" will only take orders from you, not some 3rd party with a spreadsheet. Let's call this a 1 in 2 chance, although I think we all know from experience this is really a 1 in 10! It stands to reason that you'll be placing your own 855 number orders with your phone company. For each $8.55 invested is seems that they've only actually promised to do is, "let you know about their specific request processes as well as when they become available."
So just looking at these three major factors, the odds of randomly getting a competitive request from 855 Number Slot Machine with any of the 85 listed phone companies -- because all three factors have to go well -- are (1/5) AND (1/3) AND (1/2), or something like 3.3%.
Yet, the good news is that the major players like AT&T, Verizon, and others will be involved in the land rush -- their major accounts will demand this -- so you can safely assume they will have a process in place. Therefore, your odds of getting a competitive request with one of the large carriers are more like (1/3) AND (1/2) or 16.67% -- you just have to somehow get ahead of their major accounts. The bad news, though, is that you're going to have to call them yourself to make this happen.
Oh, and did I remind you? A request is not a reservation. These requests only "pay off" if your phone company actually gets the numbers you want, so the odds of getting an actual reservation are far less!
I don’t know if this 855 number slot machine qualifies as "gambling," but I find it inconceivable that any reputable carrier would involve themselves in such a scheme ahead of their own customers. Couldn't they just create their own list and cut out 855 Numbers? Yet, you've got 85 unsuspecting carriers to choose from... Cute huh? 85 carriers for 855 numbers at $8.55 each!
Then, there's the issue of incentives. What sort of special effort will our purported "leaders" put forth on your "competitive" request when it’s just one of, "tens of thousands" -- all pre-paid with no reward for results?
So, what are you actually buying when you take a "chance" on the 855 slot machine? Dreams? You can dream about landing 855-Flowers or 855-Lawyers for $8.55 -- and I’m sure they’ll get something for somebody -- but are these low odds worth the investment? Do you really need to pay $8.55 per number, per company to learn about a process your phone companies will announce anyway?
In their final confession last night on LinkedIN our "leaders" now say of 855 Numbers, "It's a service to collect and bring the reservations to their carrier... We're just helping the regular phone companies and their resporgs by facilitating the communication. It's a win win." We know they're doing great, but who's this other "winner?"
By all appearances, this one-armed bandit does exactly what every slot machine is designed to do; make money! No worries, though. If you can't seem to quit playing the 855 slot machine, just dial 1-800-Gambling.
The site's owner and purported, "leader of the toll free industry," Mr. Bill Quimby, says, "I do sleep soundly and feel good about my business model and that I’m helping not only my customers but the industry as a whole, much more than any of the vanity number brokers and sharks ever could."
Our "leader?" Hardly, but no one can deny he's fearless.
Update-- After their tactics were exposed late last week, on July 15, 2010, the crew of 855Numbers.com stayed up late Wednesday night to dismantle the slot machine, remove some of most egregious language, defend their position, and, of course, to lavishly trash Loren for "whining" and having "questioned what we're doing." Yet, there's been no change in business model, so it' just Lipstick on this 855 pig.
Vanity International is a San Diego-based consultancy that specializes in toll free and Internet domain branding and acquisition for almost 20 years. Vanity International is taking requests for 855 numbers, but for FREE; with payment made upon success!