Saturday, 23 October 2021

Why having a golden phone number didn't help me


When I started my film production business after I left the BBC some years ago, I felt sure it would be important to have a memorable phone number.

I picked up the phone in my new office and started dialling numbers. Anything that seemed catchy.

Eventually, I dialled 23 23 23. 

There was a long, unobtainable tone. Ah, I thought, that number is unavailable, which means that maybe it IS available! So, I phoned BT sales. 

"Is [area code] 23 23 23 available?" I asked.

"Yes," said the operator. 

"So, I’d like it," I announced, triumphantly, and also somewhat naively.

"Ah, that’s what we call a golden number," said the BT sales operative. 

"You’ll have to order a minimum of 20 lines if you want that number."

I couldn’t afford that and so put the idea to rest. 

But over the next few months, I phoned the BT sales line every-so-often, and asked for the same number, but saying it in a non-golden way. Such as:

"I’d like [area code] 232 3 23" 

That didn’t sound as special as 23 23 23. 

Eventually, a BT sales operator said, yes, I could have that number. Bingo!

So, the day came, and my new, golden, extra-special phone number was installed in my office.

The phone didn’t stop ringing. But sadly, and worryingly, none of the calls were for me.

Hundreds of people phoned the number, thinking I was someone else. They dialled convinced I was a taxi firm or a car repair shop or anyone but me. Honestly, it sent me somewhat crazy, as the phone was ringing incessantly. 

I did answer politely with my name, but it was a waste of time. Apparently, research has shown that the phone greeting never sinks in.  

I considered welcoming my callers with:

"Fish and Chips, how can I help you?" 


"I'm standing here naked, what do you want?" 

Because it didn’t seem to make any difference. Eventually, I got bored telling callers:

"I'm sorry, you have the wrong number."  

I decided instead that I would spice up my days and those of my rampant callers.

For example, I had a call from a guy certain I was a car repair shop. I answered the phone in my plain, polite and precise manner. Did it help?  Of course not. The caller carried on regardless. 

"Can you have a look at my Ranger Rover?" he asked. 

"Yes, of course" I replied, trying to be helpful.  

He continued.

"Great, so if my bring my Range Rover round, you can have a look at it?" 

"Yes!" I answered, confidently.  

"And you can repair it too?"

“Definitely not!" I responded, most matter-of-factly.

"Why on earth not?" asked the caller, sounding alarmed.  

"Well," I explained, "I don't know anything about cars.  All I can do is look at them." 

He hung up, very angry. But the point is, he never, ever phoned me again. Result!

Then there was the rather posh lady who rang frightfully early one morning. She ignored my perfectly pleasant and polished pronouncement of my name.  

"Good morning," she intoned, "can I book a badminton court?"  

"No!" I snarled. 

"Why on earth not?" she queried.  

"Because you've been naughty," I retorted.  

"What!" she exclaimed.  

"Yes, you've been very naughty, and you can't have one," I remarked, before putting the phone down.  

Why these people think they can interrupt me in the middle of my morning coffee heaven knows. Fortunately, she never rang again. 

Then there was the time I was just about to take my dog for a walk when the phone rang. This time? A guy wanting a taxi.  

"Yeah, can you take me from the train station to Heathrow Airport?"  

"Absolutely not!"  

"Why not?" he asked, taken aback.  

"Because I don't feel like it!"  

No sooner had I put the phone down on that unwelcome interrupter then there was a very aggressive ringing at my door.  I picked up the intercom to hear an old woman's crackly voice. 

"Do you want your fortune told?" she asked. 

I had to think quickly for that one. What should I say? 

"No thanks," I replied. "I had it done yesterday.  

"And she told me you'd be coming." 

In case you are wondering, these are all true incidents. Do you honestly think I'd have the imagination to make this up?

I still have my golden number. I kept it when closing my office and set it up as a voip number on the internet. And to put the number to good use, I scripted a special message for companies and organisations that subject me to voicemail jail. 

When they ask me for my number, I give them the golden number. That way, I get my own back! The golden number is probably worth a lot of money. How much? 

We’re talking telephone numbers!

  • You can hear my special voicemail jail message at:  

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