Turning The Tables

Code Red

By Janean Chun

Amazing how three little numbers can change your life. Rona S. Hamada, president and owner of Andrews Telecommunications in Needham, Massachusetts, had her area code change from 617 to 781 last September, which means she can now walk to another area code.

"First we were all 617, then some of us were 508," says Hamada. "Now, [with 781,] how do I know which area code to use? Even I find it confusing, and I'm supposed to know these things."

Expect the number of area codes--and the confusion--to mount. California alone experienced five area-code changes this year, with another five expected in 1998. The invasion of new area codes is happening nationwide, says Doug Hescox of the California-Nevada Code Administration, who says he's never seen anything quite like this in his 25 years in telecommunications. "This is being driven by our insatiable demand for new telecommunications devices--pagers, cellular phones, fax machines, additional lines on our computers to access the Internet. Most of us have two or three phone numbers we didn't have five years ago. Changing to an information-based society causes us to require more numbers to keep up that [level of] communication."

For homebased business owners, this has some tangible, low-tech consequences. Letterhead, business cards, print advertisements and brochures must be updated. If a new area code is coming soon to an area near you, you have to recode your equipment for speed dialing or automatic reselection and reprogram the header for your fax machine. Also, Hescox points out that older pieces of equipment not designed to acknowledge an area code with a middle digit other than 1 or 0 may now be obsolete. Fortunately, one thing that will not be affected is long-distance costs. "If it's a local call before the area code change, it'll be a local call after," says Hescox.

To ease some of your burden, and possible loss of business, phone companies usually provide plenty of lead time when changing area codes. In California, Hescox says they inform people two years in advance about plans to change area codes. Then, 15 months before implementation, boundaries are drawn and those impacted are notified. Subsequent to implementation, those with new area codes have a six-month grace period, in which callers dialing either the old or the new area code are connected. This is followed by a three-month mandatory dialing period, which connects callers to a recording with the new area code.

Still, Hamada isn't satisfied. "Something," she says, "is going to slip through the cracks."

And there may be more cracks to slip through. After toll-free 800 numbers became scarce, 888 numbers were offered; now, a year later, those have practically run out.

As she holds off on printing her new brochures and stationery, Hamada yields to the fact that change is not only inevitable--it's downright unstoppable. In the grand scheme, she reasons, "this is just one more thing."

Andrews Telecommunications, (800) 488-0408, http://www.andrewstel.com

Designer Previews, (212) 777-2966, decorpro@aol.com

Doug Hescox, c/o Chris Kniestedt, e-mail: kniestec@fleishman.com

Pachter & Associates, P.O. Box 3680, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034, (609) 751-6141

Select Office Solutions, 6229 Santos Diaz St., Irwindale, CA 91706

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