No, we’re not going to play Stairway to Heaven, and please tell everbody else in your area code to stop calling me

Some time ago, I told the story of how one employee's phone received calls intended for a local radio station's contest line due to people dialing seven digits instead of ten and defaulting to the wrong area code.

Upon reading that story, a colleague of mine pointed out that one of the conference rooms in his building has a similar problem. The direct line for the conference room is identical to the request line for a local radio station, save for the area code. People who work in the building know never to answer the phone in that conference room.

(Although apparently there have been a couple of pranks involving the call-forwarding function on the conference room telephone.)

Comments (26)
  1. Jenny says:

    You think /you've/ got it bad…

  2. dagny says:

    A friend of my father's had a phone number one digit off from a pizza place. Eventually he just started taking orders…

  3. Paul says:

    Someone I know kept getting calls from a lady at the same time every week, who was having an affair with the guy in the next area code.

    "He's left for work, so I'm on my way over"

    "Wrong dialling code again love"

    He then had a great idea: To call the other guy, since he knew their number.

    "Just letting you know she's on her way over now, she'll be about ten minutes"

    "How do you know? Is she having it off with you as well?"

    "No, she keeps ringing me by mistake!"

  4. Mott555 says:

    If you need to dial outside of our office, you start by pressing 9. And if you need to call long-distance (which is usually the case because we have geographically diverse clients) that 9 is followed by a 1. A couple times people have accidentally called 911 just trying to dial out of the office.

    I'm too lazy to google it myself, but are there any US area codes which start with a 1? If so we would be incapable of calling them from our office phones!

  5. Mott555 says:

    Sorry for the double-post. My curiosity was stronger than my laziness, and it appears there are no 1xx area codes. In case anybody else was wondering.

  6. Jon says:


    I've heard that the problem is even worse with hotels. Often guests aren't familiar with a system like that. They read the instructions that are something like "Dial 9, then 1 followed by the phone number (including area code)". They dial 91, then start to dial 1+area code, not realizing that the 1 in the instructions is the one that you normally dial for long distance.

  7. jim says:

    As I opened my rss reader and saw this Stairway to Heaven came up on my music shuffle. Really! Apparently you ARE going to play Stairway to Heaven.

  8. Tony says:

    I work in DC and residents here sometimes forget to dial 1 when calling long distance.  One young woman, apparently thinking she was calling someone in the VA Beach/Norfolk area, called and left several messages on one of my co-worker's voicemail.  The voicemails proceded to get nastier as time went by.  The last voicemail was a profanity laced tirade she ended it with '…you can kiss my m0&^%r f$%&&n a%$ and goodbye!'.  I felt bad for the person she intended that message to be directed to, it wasn't their fault.

  9. Mason Wheeler says:

    One of my high school teachers told us once about how he used to (still did? I don't remember, it's been a while) have a phone number that was one digit off from the local taxi service.  He said he was always getting woken up at 2 AM by drunks needing a ride home from the bar.

  10. Hawke says:

    Since it’s wrong-number anecdote time: A friend of mine has a phone number which is one digit off from the local cinema, so he gets calls for them all the time.  Somewhat conveniently, he actually works at said cinema.

  11. Gabe says:

    Microsoft's phone number has always ended in 8080, as a tribute to the Intel CPU. I seem to recall that a decade or two ago there was another computer company with a similar phone number but with a different CPU (8008 or 8088 maybe). This other company was much smaller and did not appreciate getting all the calls for Microsoft that you can imagine they would get.

  12. Erbo says:

    Just the other night, I was calling up Comcast's toll-free number to activate a new cable box.  I dialed the number, put the call on speaker…and was greeted by the intro of a phone sex line.  I'd accidentally dialed "800" for the area code instead of "888."  My fiancee, sitting next to me on the couch, was NOT amused.

  13. Kzinti says:

    @Erno": why "not amused"? It's pretty funny…

  14. Joshua Ganes says:

    I thought it was bad when I got a dozen misdirected calls about a cat for sale. It turns out that someone had listed my number in the paper by mistake. My favourite was the lady who insisted that I *must* have a cat for sale, it says so in the paper. I had to explain the situation three times before she was satisfied.

  15. Adam Rosenfield says:

    At one point, we had a phone number like 555-5550.  At the same time, there was a voicemail service provider with a number like 555-5500.  We got so many wrong numbers over the years from people who were just trying to check their voicemail.  One woman even called us *4* times in a row, despite our telling her with increasing irritation that she didn't know how to use her phone.  We finally just changed our phone number.

  16. SavedDijon says:

    A few years ago, a well known consumer VoIP company ran a promotion and gave out a 1-800 number people could call to sign up. But it wasn't their 800 number.

    It was mine.

    The calls went on for months.

  17. Eric says:

    When people call me up and it's a wrong number I ask them what number they are dialing. That way I can tell them if they've got the wrong number, or made a dialing mistake. The worst is when they don't tell me what number they were calling, then they call back a few seconds later. I still can't tell if they've made the same mistake or have the wrong number.

  18. Paul says:

    I've rememebred another one.

    I was at an event and the work mobile phone started ringing with a foreign number. These phones are not tied to a person, but to a resource so you do get some odd messages at times from the last person to use the resource.

    "Cycle two. Hello?"

    "Can I speak to Jane?"

    "You've got the wrong number."

    "Ok, bye"


    "Cycle two. Hello?"

    "Is Jane in?"

    "You've got the wrong number."


    "Ambulance cycle two. Hello?"

    "Can I speak to Jane?"

    "You've got the same wrong number."



    "Hi, this is the exact same wrong number again."

    That was an exercise in patience.

  19. Jules says:

    Many years ago now, the phone company made a mistake and lost my company's phone number, allocating it to somebody else.  As compensation for the fact we'd have to reprint all our stationery, etc., they offered us one of the premium memorable numbers they reserved for major clients.  We picked up 777777.

    This, it turns out, was a mistake.  99% of the calls we got were one of the following:

    * People who assumed that because 555555 and 666666 were local taxi companies that 777777 would be as well (actually, it *is* now)

    * Young children who'd picked up the phone and just pressed the same button many times.

  20. pester(victim) {

    for (i = 1 to 3) {
        ask(&quot;Is Jane there?&quot;);
        wait(a few minutes);
    ask(&quot;Have there been any messages for me?&quot;);


  21. Mason Wheeler says:

    Not *technically* a wrong number, but same basic idea:

    About 3 years ago I moved to a new town.  Got a landline installed at the new apartment.  A few days later, I started getting phonecalls from debt collectors looking for "Carla".

    I have no idea who Carla is, except that she's apparently the person who used to own this phone number before me, and she owes people money.  I tell them that, and they say "OK, I'll take you off the list."

    That was 3 years ago.  I'm still getting these calls.

  22. Paul says:


    You're evil.

  23. David Walker says:

    I once got a call, said hello, and was told "Hi, this is Bob and Carol, we'll be over in a few minutes, bye" and they hung up.  I have no idea who they were, or who they were trying to call.  They never showed up at MY house.

  24. Jax184 says:

    Until I cut my land line off in favour of my cell, I had one of those nasty debt collector problems as well. It seems that my number had previously belonged to a Kevin Weekly who had a lot of debt problems. Several times a week I'd get angry phone calls from collection agencies, often complete with swearing and yelling at me to stop pretending I wasn't Kevin. The weirder calls though came from his father who simply wouldn't be convinced that I wasn't his son. had I been thinking I probably could have pretended to be Kevin and got some money off the old man…

  25. Horst Kiehl says:

    David Walker: Obviously, Bob wanted to take his sister Carol to Alice to introduce them to each other, but Bob's call to Alice was intercepted by Eve, who routed it to you. (Someone else needs to explain what then happened to them…)

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