People often assume that getting a toll-free number that isn't working is a lot like negotiating and purchasing a domain name that's already registered. Unfortunately that's not the case. Most people don't get toll-free numbers with the expectation of selling them. There's no book value and no one to assist with the process. There's also no whois type of database with the number owner information in it. If you do reach them, they'll usually look at you like you have three heads and have no idea what to do so their default answer will be NO!
I usually give people two analogies to explain this. For guys I tell them it's kind of like trying to ask out a married woman. For women I say it's like trying to buy a house that's not for sale. But it's actually closer to the guy's analogy because in real estate you can look up and see who owns a house or a piece of property even if they don't answer when you ring the bell.
There is also a book value and they were expecting at some point to sell the house or property. They know what it would cost to purchase another equivalent one and to move and there are people to help with all of that. None of that is true for toll-free numbers and that's why it's so hard. It's more like asking out a married woman. It's a long shot at best, and something you really have to do yourself. It's extremely hard to get someone to leave the person they're with to go with you, so to speak.
I really am giving away insider secrets
I built my business as a consultant for large advertisers getting the hard to get vanity numbers for them, for thousands of dollars. But as my business and capabilities evolved over time and we developed better tools and automated the type of research we did, the business also evolved. Instead of getting a couple numbers a month for several thousand dollars each, now we get a thousand numbers a month for a one-time fee of fifty bucks each.
We're a resporg (responsible organization) now so I have to be more responsible, which ultimately means that I can’t do much of the consulting that I used to do. That also means I can now give away a lot more of the really best secrets and insider information. There really isn’t anyone else doing exactly what I used to do, as a consultant.
Most people in the vanity number business don't want you to know any of this. The phone sharks who get away with a lot of crap and charge huge rental fees every month, certainly don't want anyone to know how to do any of this themselves. Regular phone companies act like there's no way to go beyond the little bit they do, and there are no cracks in the system so they aren't much help either. But there are business owners out there who may be able to use this information to get great brand name numbers with this information and my goal has always been to help as many people as possible get great vanity numbers so that’s what I’m doing!
We’re real estate agents not bounty hunters
People often ask if we can go further and do all of the leg work and negotiation to get you the number you really want. We really want to help you (as if you couldn’t tell that already) but in short, the answer is generally no for several reasons. It takes more time and effort than most people realize. We do a good job as real estate helping to find good numbers that are possible, but can't chase one specific number that's NOT possible like a bounty hunter. There are regulations against hoarding and brokering which means nobody can legitimately do this for you. That doesn't mean you can't do it yourself but nobody reputable does.
You can dig a little deeper
Get a backup
The first thing to do if you’re going to dig deeper is to get a back up number because you have deadlines and this is very unpredictable. You don’t even have to activate your backup. You can just reserve it for 2 weeks while you pursue this (just email us to reserve a # and hold it for a couple weeks for you at No Cost). You just don’t want to get most of the way through and have things hit a snag without having a backup number ready or at least on reserve that we can activate for you at the last minute.
Dial the number
The next thing to do is so simple people sometimes overlook it. Just pick up the phone and dial the number. If the phone number doesn’t go through that does NOT mean it’s available, any more than if you put a domain name into your browser and it doesn’t pull up a web page that, that means the domain name is available to be registered. The only thing you can really know for sure by dialing a number/entering a domain name is that if it does go through to someone or to a website, that it’s definitely not available except from that end user. The biggest difference between domain names and toll free numbers is that there’s no “whois” type of central or open database with the owners information. The owners information is kept by each phone company and is not public or given out very readily.
TIP: There are a couple toll free directories you can check for any customer information. They don’t have a very high percentage of numbers listed but there is a chance it might be listed. Take a look at GoTollFree.com, AnyWho.com as well as InternetTollFree.com as well as goggling the number.
What to look for when dialing the number
If the number is answered, skip to contacting the customer below. The best numbers to research and dig deeper into are usually the numbers that don’t go through to any active customer because it’s easier to get someone to give up a number that’s not in use than to get them to give up a number they’re actively using (or advertising). Ironically the ones that are easy to get through on are the harder ones to get and the ones that are harder to get through to the end user are really the best ones to pursue.
There are also numbers that you should avoid. Any number that says “Resporg Locked” is held in a higher security status and is NOT going to be available. I know those are often the best numbers and you may think that you don’t care if it’s a little tougher, if it’s not impossible you can do it. Unfortunately those should be considered impossible and you should stop wasting any time on them and move on.
You should basically look for any numbers that don’t have any detectable end user, especially phone company intercept messages, including recordings that say a number is disconnected, not in service, invalid or unable to be completed as dialed. Also add to this group numbers that go to fast busy signals (as opposed to regular busy signals which mean the ring to number is in use or busied out). You should also avoid numbers that say they’re blocked or not available from your calling area, as those are usually in use in another part of the country or Canada. And most of all, avoid numbers that say Resporg Locked.
Finding the Organization Responsible
Use the lookup tool on the top of the page at TollFreeNumbers.com to see the phone company for most numbers. If it's not shown email us and ask us directly. We definitely want to help you but please start with the online tool before just asking us to look it up for you. That's why we've worked so hard to give you the best possible tools.
Getting customer information
I used to have a private investigator and offer this service but it’s gotten harder and sometimes the investigator doesn’t get the information or gets the wrong information (which can happen). That makes me look bad and it is harder to manage as things grow. Try it first yourself so you know what you're dealing with and then seek professional help if necessary. If they don't have any customer information you can try to get the number from the phone company. But just because the person you talk to doesn't find or give you any information that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It probably just means they couldn't find anything, not just that it doesn't exist even though they may say it that way.
Calling the phone company
The best approach is usually to just act like it’s your number. If they ask for a business name, I usually say I’m not sure which account it’s under. We’ve merged or started so many companies and just give a generic name or initials. Sometimes you can guess at the type of company it might be connected to based on the purpose of the vanity number, especially if it’s a generic or popular term.
Ultimately you’re looking for a company name. Then with the internet you can find some possible cities and get them to confirm or correct the city. Once you have the name and city, you can often get everything else via the internet and one more call can confirm that too.
You’ll need to call multiple times, and you’ll find some people will be more helpful and responsive than others. It’s also very important to write down at least the first name of anyone you talk to, the office or city they’re in, as well as the time and date too. This will be very helpful for you in several ways.
Also don't accept the default negative answer many phone reps give. If you can't see it in their computer they will usually just say it's not theirs or it doesn't exist. That doesn't mean that's the final answer. It's actually a good sign if they don't see it. That doesn't mean our data is wrong, but you might have to change gears and try to get it from them rather than the old customer.
Locating the customer
The next step once you have some customer information before you call them is to research them a little. You don’t just need to find them, you need to know as much as you can about what they’re like, and what their interests and goals are. You’ll want to know this for a couple reasons. If the number is in disconnect and it is related to their business, they may just reactivate it and keep it, so exercise some caution especially if it sounds related.
If you want to get them to give up the number it helps to know who they are and what their hot buttons are. This is especially true in a negotiation like this for something that has a soft value like a toll free number does. That means there is no book value so the price will vary a lot more depending on their attitude towards you. So it’s even more important to establish a relationship and even a friendship if possible than it is for most other negotiations.
Contacting the customer
The first question to ask when you call someone about their number isn’t anything about their number, or who to talk to. The first question you should ask unless you already know, is what is their website. That is an easy question for anyone to answer and it gives you access to a lot more information than anything else you could ask. Their website will tell you if that number is one of their main phone numbers as well as how big they are and what they do.