Remember that elephant stomping a telephone to remind Utahns to dial 1-801 for in-state, long-distance calls starting Sunday? Well, Tel America thinks the pachyderm should take a moment to pound out 1-700 while he's at it.
Until Sunday, users of the US WEST phone service can call from Bloomington, Washington County, to Snowville, Box Elder County, by simply dialing the digit 1, then the local number.But in a move to free more numbers to meet the expanding universe of telephone users, callers will now have to dial the digit 1, the state area code of 801 and the local number for in-state, long-distance calls.
US WEST has been running television and newspaper advertisements with the elephant to remind Utahns to make the change. Why an elephant? Because the big gray guys never forget.
Duane Cooke, spokesman for US WEST, was quick to point out that the change does not affect some telephone uses. Among these are "local calls; 911 emergency calls; 1-plus 411 director assistance calls; calls to 700, 800 and 900 numbers; calls to 950 numbers, and, of course, long-distance calls to other area codes."
Some other long-distance companies use the 700, 800 or 950 area codes so that customers can access their services, Cooke said. In that case, they may not need to include the 801 code.
Those with questions "should contact that long-distance company," he added.
Marsha Stewart, a corporate marketing analyst with Tel America who is based in Salt Lake City, is concerned that the change by US WEST will cause problems for her company's customers.
"We have a 1-700 access number for in-state calls," she said.
For example, if a Tel America subscriber in Salt Lake City wants to call his mother in St. George, he dials 1-700 and then her number.
"With this change, the commercial that shows the elephant, it appears to be saying that everybody now has to dial 801. But our customers do not.
"Our 1-700 access stays the same," Stewart said.
In fact, she said, if a Tel America customer misunderstands the elephant's message and dials 1-801, he'll inadvertently "go over to US WEST" for the call.
The fact that the changeover affects only US WEST is mentioned in the ads, conceded another Tel America official. But he contended that this message isn't displayed prominently.
MCI has stressed to its customers that they aren't affected by the US WEST change, said MCI's Bernie Goodrich.
MCI customers have always had to dial 1-700 and the local number to make a long-distance call within the state, said Goodrich.