800 Number: Pro's and Con's
October 5, 2006 7:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering getting a 1-800 number. How best to go about this, and is there a chance I could get burned with a huge bill?

I am working on a personal project wherein I hope to have people call me, and leave a one minute message. This is not for a home business; it's for a personal project.

I want a LOT of people to call. While I can give out my home phone number, I know that a 1-800 number would be much easier to remember, and easier to pass along.

I realize this is weird. But try to ignore the fact that this is for a personal project, and that it's *NOT* for a business.

That said, what's the best way to obtain a 1-800 number? I've tried calling my phone company, and it usually takes 20 minutes just to get to one person who knows anything about custom numbers. Just curious if there's another way.

And finally... my understanding is that I will be paying for all the calls that come in, local as well as long distance. If I happen to get my wish, and a ton of people do end up calling, is there a chance I could wind up with a $10,000 phone bill?
posted by avoision to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Toll-Free Service Buyer's Guide
posted by sanko at 8:00 PM on October 5, 2006

one (fairly cheap) option:
-- broadband connection
-- asterisk box
-- 800 number from any of various providers (sorry I really can't recommend a specific one; altho I do personally use voicepulse connect for satisfactory outgoing service) e.g. iax.cc/sixtel is something like 2 bucks a month + 2c/minute.

++using asterisk will let you configure clever things like filtering or denying calls based on time of day / frequency / incoming number / etc., email you the voicemails as mp3s, and other goodness.
posted by dorian at 8:10 PM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

You might look into Skype In. You get a regular (not 1-800) phone number with voicemail. Fees are per month rather than per call. And crazy cheap.
posted by katieinshoes at 8:31 PM on October 5, 2006

I use Callture for my toll-free number service. The pricing is pretty reasonable as long as your number of minutes isn't sky high - $2 a month, plus 4.5 cents a minute.
posted by platinum at 9:30 PM on October 5, 2006

Not a shill, but my phone company gives me a toll-free number free with service.
You just pay your regular LD rate for incoming calls on the 800 number.
As a bonus, the regular LD rates are pretty cheap.
posted by madajb at 9:32 PM on October 5, 2006

I hope to have people call me, and leave a one minute message.

Of you're of the hacker mindset, you'll love playing with Asterisk, but it's probably overkill if all you need is a toll free number that takes messages.

If you want something that just works with little hassle on your part, and lets people dial in and leave a message, just bite the bullet and rent yourself a 1-800 voice mail box. It should set you back less than $30 with unlimited inbound calls... or something along the lines of $5 a month plus a small fee per call.

Searching for Toll Free Voicemail or 1-800 voicemail in your search engine of choice should give you dozens of leads.

These Guys will do it for $15/month, first month free.
posted by toxic at 11:18 PM on October 5, 2006

I use Kall8 and have had good, reasonably-priced service from them. We have three numbers...in fact, gave up telling anyone our land-line and rely on the toll-frees alone. The ability to route the numbers online, have them automatically go to voice mail at certain times, get your voice mail sent via email, fax receiving, ability to block phone numbers or even entire exchanges...it's nice. I'm sure there are a million other services that do the same thing.
posted by maxwelton at 1:01 AM on October 6, 2006

My phone company does what madajb's does. Pay as you go, at the same price. The only caution is that toll free numbers get recycled just like local numbers, and I ocassioanly get calls that were meant for the old number. The phone company is good about removing them from my bill.
posted by fixedgear at 2:26 AM on October 6, 2006

Another good service is IS800.
posted by yclipse at 3:44 AM on October 6, 2006

Although the fact that Kall8 uses the Flying Spaghetti Monster as its mascot would have me sold.
posted by yclipse at 3:46 AM on October 6, 2006

I've used ECG for my residential long distance for about 5 years now, and they include an inbound 800 (actually 888) number with no setup or extra charges as part of the service.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:55 AM on October 6, 2006

Several years ago my parents got a 1-800 number for the kids to call home, but they got rid of it after a couple of months because of the volume of wrong number calls that they had to pay for (and random calls in the middle of the night). So that's something to think about.
posted by witchstone at 6:30 AM on October 6, 2006

You can do this through Vonage for 4.99 per month for 100 minutes. Since people are only calling you for like 1 minute, it shouldn't be too expensive.
posted by theantikitty at 6:42 AM on October 6, 2006

We've had good experience with an Asterisk box and Teliax for VOIP service. Cheap and cheerful but definitely put together by someone with clue.
posted by Skorgu at 10:01 AM on October 6, 2006

If you're going to be managing messages on that scale (assuming your project takes off -- hope you'll post in mefi projects!) you might also look into services where you can either automatically or manually get your voicemails delivered as mp3s to your email address.

If you have any interest at all in preserving, archiving, and/or transcribing these messages, you really don't want to have to deal with recording from your phone to another device.
posted by allterrainbrain at 10:50 PM on October 7, 2006

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