I'm sorry I gave you an offensive phone number

A decade ago I worked in a Call Center for a now-defunct Wireless company. My day to day duties involved activating newly purchased lines of cellular service. After a credit check and basic account information, I would generate a new phone number for the customer, assign it to their SIM card an activate the account.

This particular company handed out random telephone numbers, unless you elected to pay a $10 “vanity number” fee. For this charge, the agent would attempt to assign the number of your choosing, as long as it was available. Obviously this is useful for people looking for any easy to remember number such as (xxx)-xxx-0123. Or maybe they wanted something for their pool repair business such as XXX-POOL.From: JamieFreaky @ Flickr

The sneaky trick here was that whether at random or with the purchase of a vanity number, agents used the same screen to select a phone number. There was no additional work or cost associated with selecting a ‘vanity number’ beyond keying in the 4-7 digits the customer hoped to find.  Because of this, I often gave customers what I considered to be good numbers just out of the goodness of my heart. Things like xxx-0111, 0123, 1234, 2345 and so on.

One particular afternoon I received an activation call from a customer who was activating a cellular telephone for her local Church. The woman was very nice on the phone, and we had pleasant chit chat about the weather while I was busy entering data into the computer. When the number selection screen came up, something inside of me decided it would be funny to assign them a vanity number. Something easy to remember would be good. Something that the congregation would easily remember when looking to get a hold of their clergy.

The number I selected? (xxx)-xxx-0666

I remember little of that phone call. I don’t remember her name, or the name of her Church. I don’t remember what City or State she was from. But I do remember her voice, and the conversation that followed.

Me: Alrighty, so here’s your new number. It’s Area code ###…

Her: Uh huh…


her: ###… yep…

Me: 0666

Her: ..Oh…

Me: Alrighty. So it looks like you’re all taken care of… anything else I can do for you today?

Her: … No… I… well, thank you…

To my recollection, we then disconnected the call. Somewhere in the back of my memory I have a vague memory of deciding at the last moment to change the number, and her being quite happy… but I can’t be sure I haven’t just made that part up to ease my conscience.

Looking back now, I very much regret that decision. This was essentially the one and only time I’ve ever made what I consider to be an unprofessional decision. Although I don’t work in a customer-facing environment anymore, I always took customers very, very seriously and delivered the best service I could… with this one, rare lapse in judgement. In my defense, I was only 17 or 18 at the time… but I regret it nonetheless.

Nice Christian woman who was in the service of her Church a decade ago: I’m sorry I gave you an offensive phone number. It is a decade later and I remember it, and would correct it if I could.

I would like to point out that this is the same job and time in my life in which this happened.