Playing a numbers game

BUYING a 1800 number can be fraught with pitfalls for the unwary, as one West Perth firm recently found.

Office Solutions, a West Perth-based computer firm, allocated its marketing budget to a Yellow Pages advertisement with a 1800 number. The business was not informed, however, that the number had only recently been disconnected by Diners Club.

“When the phone started ringing we were excited. Then the elation turned to dread, as each successive call was for Diners Club and not us,” Office Solutions co-owner Andrew Sutherland said.

“Of course the real sting in the tail is not only the staff resources tied up in answering the phone, but that each of those unwanted calls is charged to us.”

Mr Sutherland said that, of the 30 to 40 calls that come through the 1800 number each month, 90 per cent are for the obsolete Diners Club promotion.

“When we contacted Telstra and reported what we thought was an error, they informed us that the number had been used by Diners Club and the Commonwealth Bank in a joint promotion, and that it was therefore not Telstra’s problem,” he said.

According to Office Solutions, Diners Club said the mix up was not its problem and the Commonwealth Bank merely stated that some customers obviously had old brochures. They were unable to assist further.

“As a result of this experience, we decided that the $24,000 spent on the Yellow Pages advertisement would be better spent on hiring another staff member,” Mr Sutherland concluded.

Telstra group product manager Marina Sneddon said that “since this error occurred, the regulations pertaining to number quarantine times have changed”.

Numbers now were required to be vacated for six months before being reallocated.

To make matters worse, another advertising telephone book, Perth City Search, placed the telephone number of Office Solution’s competitor next to the name Office Solutions. This telephone book was compiled without reference to the entities listed in it. Mr Sutherland said that, like all telephone book errors, his business would be stuck with the mistake for a year.

Conversely, some businesses have made sizeable profits by obtaining competitors’ telephone numbers when they have lapsed.

An accommodation provider in Scarborough, Seashells Resorts, made a windfall profit when its competitor ceased trading.

“We purchased the number from the old owner. It had inherent value for us because we provided a similar service in the same location,” Seashells manager Owen Cook said.

“We have picked up in the order of 6 per cent of our business from the use of this number.”


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