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If a survey were done to find the invention of modern times with the greatest irritation factor, I have little doubt that at the top of the list the would be the telephone - not just the mobile phone, though that would have a special place of its own, but phones in general.
It's a sad fact of human existence that every new invention of any significance will be used not only for our common good but also to exploit, subjugate or defraud other human beings. In the case of the phone, think of all those whose work goes home with them and who seem to be on call all day every day, even when they are supposedly on holiday. Think of call centres that give you an infinite choice of options apart from actually speaking to a real live human being. Think of all those calls to tell you you've won a "free" holiday, which will cost you an arm and a leg if you're gullible enough to believe them. And think of premium rate phone numbers that charge ridiculous amounts per minute. I'm sure you could add many other examples of your own to this list.
It's time to strike back, don't you think? In the case of nuisance calls, a little advance thought can produce strategies to deal with them. I've even known someone keep a piecing whistle next to the phone so that if a double-glazing salesman or other "cold caller" invades their space, a brief but ear-shattering blast will see them off. And there is also a telephone preference service you can sign up to that puts you on a restriction list distributed to all those organisations in the UK that do "direct marketing" as they euphemistically call those nuisance calls, so that you'll be left alone.
The scam that's annoyed me the most in recent years has been the 0870 Daylight Robbery System, whereby you pay out stupid amounts of money just to call your bank or insurance company, or even a large chain of shops. Imagine being asked to pay for the "privilege" of spending your hard-earned cash at Comet, Currys or PC World, to name just a few. But every time you dial an 0870 number to buy something over the phone that's exactly what you're doing. Even Government organisations like the Passport Office and the DVLA use them. These numbers generally cost 10p a minute and you'll notice that they don't usually put you through to a real person: you get an automated system that first "welcomes" you with a message, then gives you countless options, each of which gives you countless further options ad infinitum, all in time you're paying for. And if by a miracle it gives you the option of speaking to someone you can be almost certain that you'll be kept hanging on for ages before you get through (during which you'll probably be thanked for your patience 32 times, told how important your call is to them and subjected to a repeating loop of inane "music"). But of course, you daren't hang up because you've already been charged for the time wasted so far and you know you'll have to start right back at the beginning if you try again later… I recently held for a full hour on my speakerphone just to have a two minute conversation with my car insurance company. At 10p per minute that's £6.00! Or it would have been had it not been for this wonderful website that's the subject of this review.
Saynoto0870 is a site dedicated to helping us to bypass these rip-off numbers. Companies use them to make money. By signing up for one of these "non-geographic" numbers (i.e. one without a code that tells you their general location in the way your home number does) they pay a nominal amount to a phone company (about 3p per minute) and pocket the difference, making them richer without them having to do anything to earn the money - you, of course becoming poorer in the process. But almost all companies of any size also have "geographic" landlines for use in keeping in contact with their suppliers, associate companies, overseas callers and others. This benevolent website has compiled (or rather, is constantly compiling) lists of these numbers so that you can use them instead of their more costly counterparts. Many of us have contracts with our phone companies that enable us to make unlimited calls at no extra cost but this does not include numbers starting with 0870 or 0845 (these latter cost about 3p a minute -less of a rip-off but still a rip-off nevertheless) so using a geographical number allows you to call free.
Amazingly, I've found that huge numbers of people are completely unaware of the cost of dialling 0870 numbers. Some even think that, like 0800 numbers, they're free. They all seem to know that 09 numbers (the sort that TV companies use to get you to vote on Big Brother or to take part in those stupid after midnight "competitions") are way over-priced but some I've spoken to were under the impression that "reputable" companies wouldn't stoop so low! If only they looked at their itemised phone bills, they'd see for themselves.
The website is not "pretty" nor even particularly user-friendly but the service it provides makes it the online equivalent of a gold mine. The Home Page is a bit confusing at first sight but the only thing you need to look for is an underlined sentence saying, "click to find an alternative number" (close to top left of the screen). Clicking on this link takes you to a page asking you to enter either the company name or the 0870 number you want to bypass. You will then be given a list of possible alternatives. Entering "Currys" for example, will give you a list of numbers ranging from their head office to individual stores.
As I said, this site is continually adding to its database. Companies often being money-grabbers (your money!) they often try to close these "loopholes" but others open up as a result. Presumably much of the information on this website comes from people who work within the organisations, for which we owe them a vote of thanks.
There is an active forum in which consumers report on numbers that have ceased to work or new alternatives, as well as sharing their own experiences.
Ironically, the website supports itself in part by hosting advertising and many of these ads are for phone companies selling… (wait for it!)… 0870 numbers. I'm told that these ads are placed there by an independent organisation (Google?) that places ads where they seem most appropriate!
There is a facility within the site for adding numbers that haven't yet reached their database. If you work for one of the rip-off organisations that use an 0870 number, please consider adding their normal landline number to this valuable resource. After all, if you use the services it offers it's only fair to enable others to do the same. In these days of economic downturn, we all need all the help we can get to avoid unnecessary outgoings.
I passed the details of this website to an accountant friend of mine two years ago. He told me recently that it has saved him well over two hundred pounds in that time - money that would otherwise have gone to companies that hadn't done anything to earn it.
Please use this site and help to fight back against those who are trying to rip us all off. And tell your friends, too. Together we can cut one tiny chunk out of the Irritation Factor of the telephone.
Loath as I am to part with my hard-earned cash, I latched onto this website many years ago. I am glad to see that it is still there, under-appreciated as a result of the greed-fuelled general confusion inspired by the authority in charge of overseeing the release of our telephone number ranges: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/ Super review.
mmpr 17.06.2009 22:39
Life's a endlessness of doling out the dosh. Anything to save a dime or two is welcome - thanks Les. ~ Mark