How to solve a phone problem
February 25, 2010 9:41 PM   Subscribe

Please provide your wisdom on how to deal with a phone number problem. Story inside.

I have an iPhone that I use for all my incoming and outgoing calls. Its phone number has an 813 area code (Tampa, Florida).

I recently moved back to my home state of Michigan and live in an area where the local area codes are 734, 248, and 810 (metro Detroit).

I am strongly considering starting a side business that would, as with most businesses, require a way for customers to contact me.

Now, starting a business in metro Detroit with a Tampa area code is, in my mind, a terrible idea. People will have to dial long distance. They'll get confused about 813. They'll get squeamish because they won't see me as "local."

So, I need a local phone number for customers to reach me.

However, I do not want to do any of the following things:

1. Change my phone number from the 813 area code to a metro Detroit area code. I have contacts going back years that have the 813 number as mine, and I'd hate to lose them because of a number change. I also have kept the number for sentimental reasons, and I believe my wife would also have to change her number, as we're on a family plan.

2. Buy another phone. I have a boatload of unused minutes on my personal phone every month, and I'd like to use them up. I realize there is certainly a tax incentive for getting a "business line," but I do not want to pay for a monthly plan or for hardware. And it sounds kind of silly, but I really, really, really do not want to carry around two phones. Did it for over a year, and hated it.

So, finally, my question: What kind of idea do you have for someone in my situation? I can't be the only 20something with a cellphone who wants to use it for personal and business use who has run into this issue...

I have considered the idea of buying an 800/866/877/888 number and having all calls forwarded to my iPhone, but the problem I see is that when I call people back, their caller ID will show 813.

I haven't kept up much with the wonders of Skype or Vonage, so maybe you can tell me if they hold promise? And any thoughts on a refillable phone?
posted by st starseed to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Google Voice.
posted by dhartung at 9:48 PM on February 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This is really what Google Voice is for. It lets you forward all calls to their (local to the area code of your choosing) number, and make outgoing calls from their iPhone-optimized web app as well.

Just as a heads up, nearly NO ONE charges for long distance anymore. Even local landlines typically include free nationwide long distance. Because such a large percentage of the population has cell phones, most people consider their numbers to be inherently mobile and attached to them. I, for one, NEVER foresee changing my phone number. Doesn't matter where I live. And most people I know feel the same way--I have friends who have lived in Arizona the better part of a decade, who still have a Wisconsin or California area code. (And not because they have friends back there who can call them cheaper.)

Point being, that's not at all a deal-breaker. Hardly anyone would give it a second thought, I reckon. But Google Voice is a great forwarding service for those who might. And features other wonders like transcribed voicemail and more.
posted by disillusioned at 9:49 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

You could see if Google Voice has any numbers with Detroit area codes.
posted by zjacreman at 9:49 PM on February 25, 2010

If Google Voice doesn't have numbers with an area code you want, there are all kinds of other services out there, like Tossable Digits (though they may charge a fee).
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:59 PM on February 25, 2010

I think land lines are still much more professional than cell phones for taking customer calls. Of course other solutions will get the calls to you, but you could get a land line, and just have the number automatically forward to your cell phone.

If you take the time to sit down at the land line when you make outgoing calls, your phone calls to customers will be subtly, amazingly more effective and pleasant for both you and your customers, since there will be less of the cellular lag time. It's a small effect if you're just going to be making a few calls per week, but if you expect a substantial number of calls, please do consider a land line.
posted by amtho at 10:40 PM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

nthing google voice. And, if you need an invite, memail me.

And, they do have detroit area code numbers, I have one.
posted by HuronBob at 2:59 AM on February 26, 2010

Local phone service here runs about $15 a month. Unlimited Long Distance is another $30. Bell/ATT. YMMV.
posted by tilde at 5:24 AM on February 26, 2010

Another vote for Google Voice. I use it for the same thing (though with a TN area code in WA). I have an invite you can have if you e-mail me.
posted by camcgee at 9:08 AM on February 26, 2010

posted by scottatdrake at 10:09 AM on February 26, 2010

Just today I just read an item on TUAW about a new iPhone app that 'adds' a second line for $15/mo. via VoIP - it works on 3G as well as Wi-Fi. Call waiting, call transfer, conference calling. Company is called Toktumi and the app is called Line2.
posted by DandyRandy at 11:27 AM on February 27, 2010

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