History of Vanity numbers


Vanity numbers are immensely popular with both big and small businesses. Vanity numbers are special telephone numbers that are toll free for the calling party and the charges are paid by the called party.  These toll-free numbers are assigned from a special dialing prefix range also known as area code such as 1-800, 800, 0800, 855, 866, 877 and 888.

Vanity numbers are also popular because they offer customers a free way to get in touch with the company to purchase products, ask questions to know more about products and services, request service and more. Toll free vanity numbers like 1-800-FLOWERS acts as a great marketing tool because it clearly spells out the company’s name and nature of business.

A toll-free service was originated in the United States on May 2, 1967 by AT&T as an alternative to collect calling and to reduce the need for operators. AT&T referred to the service as IN-WATS (Inward Wide-Area Telephone Service). In U.S. these numbers are known as toll-free numbers or 800 numbers, but for the rest of the world they were known as freephone numbers. 800 Toll-Free (Inward-WATS) was introduced in Canada during 1969-70.

As more businesses started recognizing the advantages of using toll free numbers they became very popular and demand for toll free 800 numbers raised immensely. And by 1996 the supply of 800 numbers was almost exhausted which resulted in the introduction of 888 numbers. However, demand continued to increase and in 1998, 877 numbers were also introduced. Afterwards 855 and 866 prefixes were also released to meet the increasing demand. 844, 833 and 822 are also reserved for toll free use.

Earlier these toll free vanity numbers weren’t portable but today they are portable thus not affected by area codes.