Here’s how to play the cold-call game

Published 8:40 am Friday, March 6, 2009

For those fine folks who have all too much extra time, or are really bored, I have an original game which could evolve into a real challenge, It’s called cold-call.

All that’s needed to play this game is a cell phone, a copy of the telephone book, and a notebook to record the results..

The purpose for this game is to use your seven-digit number on the landline or cell phone system in the 507 or 641 area codes to see if its being used in those other area codes. I’ve included the 641 area code for the benefit of the Tribune’s Iowa readers.

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Before I get too involved with explaining more details about this game and my suggested point system, here are two tips.

First, use a cell phone. The older landline telephone firms charge too much for long distance calls, plus there seems to be alleged access code numbers needed to make calls to other places.

Second, depending on the minutes available with your cell phone plan or contract, the playing of this game may have to be spread out over several months. In other words, don’t exceed your time limit unless you have unlimited calling time.

Now, let’s get right into the playing of this cold-call game.

The best source for the area code numbers can be found on page nine of the 2009-2010 issue of the Yellowbook telephone directory. On this page, starting with area code 201 and ending with area code 989, are at least 240 American choices for this game. As a bonus, there are also 24 area codes in Canada to be used for this cold-call challenge.

To play this game, just dial 1 — the area code selected or next on the list — and your seven-digit number and see if there’s an answer.

If there’s a busy signal or the silly screech sound indicating a fax machine connection has been made, give yourself one point. An answering machine reply rates two points. A reply by a real person is worth three points. At this point be as courteous as possible and just say, “I must have dialed the wrong number.” And for the top score of four points, try to see if the person answering your call will provide the name of their locality.

Incidentally, the name of the state or province is also indicated on the Yellowbook listing mentioned a few paragraphs ago.

Also, there’s no point credit for one of those operator replies which indicate the number you called is no longer in service.

This cold-call gimmick could be called a game, but it’s more like solitaire or a personal challenge. The real purpose for all those telephone calls to those other area codes is to see how many times your seven-digit number is being duplicated elsewhere in the U.S. and maybe even in Canada.

There’s one telephone myth which can be firmly squashed by looking over the list of area codes in the Yellowbook directory. Not all 800 area codes are toll free!

I discovered this fact years ago when I dialed a three-digit area code number starting with the number eight. This was part of a telephone number, possibly 812 or 850, listed in an advertisement and I just assumed it was toll free. This particular number appeared on my next telephone bill with a rather high charge. My call to the telephone company about this call resulted in a rather snippy reply from the real live person who finally responded to my query.

To prove my point, there are 37 of these area codes starting with the number eight in the nation as listed in the Yellowbook directory.

Again, let me emphasize that not all telephone area code numbers in the 800 category are toll free with the older landline system.

Right at this point come two rather legitimate questions. First, have I ever played the cold-call game? The answer is no. Second, will I ever play this game? The answer is I don’t have the time needed to see if my seven-digit numbers, both landline and cell phone, are being duplicated in other American area codes or even up in Canada.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.