Hell Desk's 800 number was perfect for horrible heavy-breathing harassment calls

Get out your phones, people, and turn 8487 into letters

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On-call possibly NSFW Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday ramble through readers' recollections of unfortunate IT problems.

This week, reader “Shane” shared a story of his 1990s job as a very rapidly expanding technology company's “sole SysAdmin/NetAdmin/whatever else was needed.” Shane worked alongside a phone specialist and a “nice boss”.

The latter one day fielded complaints that the company was growing so fast that phones were going unanswered. So the nice boss sensibly decided to hire a dedicated phone answering person.

Shane says the young woman who got the job was indisputably attractive, knew it, and recognised that she was the subject of considerable attention from many of the male developers on staff.

As the business evolved, the boss decided that in order to do customer service properly it would need a trouble ticket system and an 800 number so that customers could call for free.

Which was when the young woman started to regularly become quite demonstrably upset. Shane says the cause of her concern was silent callers, or callers who would pant, or make quite lewd suggestions to her over the phone.

“We thought she was making it up until she started putting some of the callers on speakerphone.”

The calls were, indeed, vile. But their source was obscure. Surely the drooling developers hadn't gone utterly beyond the bounds of decent behaviour?

It turned out the company name was to blame, as the 800 number was selected to match its stock ticker TIVS*, leaving the last four digits as 8487.

The start of the number was 800-647. We'll spare you a look at your phone to figure out the lettering Shane's company used for 647 – it's MIS. But because it is a bit NSFW, please look up 8487 yourself and draw your own conclusions about why the company's number was attracting such nasty phone calls.

“Said number was retired rather quickly,” Shane reports, and all had a good laugh about it over Friday beers. We do hope the lovely woman answering the phones recovered, too.

Has your workplace been mistaken for another? Write to me and your story could just make it into a future edition of On-Call. ®

*Sounds like Shane worked for Tivoli Systems before IBM acquired it.

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