Kelsey’s blog on connectivity made me think people take the old-fashioned 800 number for granted. Cell phones, texting, e-mails, Facebook, and Twitter have done away with the thought of paying for a phone call and thus the gift of not paying for one. You know you’re paying for the connection, but it feels like “unlimited” phone service means free. In 1992, we thought we’d make it easy for throngs of customers to buy one of our three titles when we got our 800 number established and began a pseudo-camaraderie with Random House and Houghton Mifflin.
At the time, Orange Frazer had three people answering the phone and I was all of them. I was Susan in the order department, Beth in sales, and Marcy the publisher. This got dicey when we got two lines. Sometimes I would get my voices mixed up and if a distributor, store, then author called, I found myself putting myself on hold, coming back to the hold line and forgetting who I was pretending to be, confusing even myself, especially for a call-back. One day I’m sure I talked to myself three times. It was a tall (if only it had been a large) order.
I was The Three Faces of Eve on publishing steroids.
I worked many, many hours back then. I had a young son at home and two girls away at college. I would come in to the office in the morning and check the answering machine:
“Hi Mom! This is Sarah! Hey, I’m at a bar. Here talk to my mom!” After which a loud slurring, male voice would come on the line and say, “Heeeeyyyyy Mrs. Hawley. This is Rick. I’m here with your daughter Sarrrrraaaaahhhhhh!”
And, “Hey Mom. It’s Margaret. My stomach hurts.”
And, “Mahhcy. This is Mom. You didn't call me Sunday. I went to the doctor. I want to tell you what he said. Did you send your sister a birthday card?”
And, “Marce, Dan and Jerry and I just got to Vermont. Lots of snow.”
I had so many 800 calls from my family, I once contemplated writing my own book, 1-800 Mom.
But the number prevailed and potential authors, buyers, and customers found us. Custom book clients found us, as well.
We still have the 800 number, but only the phone bill knows who uses it or not. Most of our communiqués come via e-mail. If the number of e-mails we receive each day were translated into 800# calls, we’d need twelve lines. A real Janice answers the phone and takes orders. A real Sarah backs her up for marketing and production answers. They’re employees with their own personalities and DNA (although I share some of the latter with one). Funny though—callers forever confuse us. They think we all sound alike. (Or maybe like Susan and Beth...)
So if you want to flash to the past, call 800/852-9332. Consider it a little gift from us to you.
See if you know who answers.