Can you dial 900 numbers?

Volume 9, Issue 28; 10 Mar 2006; last modified 08 Oct 2010

Customer service my …!

The Travel Loft has some interesting printers. There's the ticket printer that spits out the little rectangular cardboard slips that were in vogue for so many years before electronic tickets and a couple of honking big Texas Instruments OMNI 800 model 885 dot matrix jobs. They're all connected to a single machine that runs some print manager software that lets Worldspan drive them. You want to print something, you tell Worldspan to tell your printer to print it. But that's a story for another time.

It turns out that when we bought The Travel Loft, the cost effective thing to do was purchase all of the equipment instead of continuing to lease it. Of course, that means when it breaks, it's our responsibility to fix it.

So one of the big TI printers has developed a problem with it's feed mechanism. Deb’s decided that the office can get by with just one. But it's the other one, of course.

That means I have to swap them and that means I need a little help to get them reconfigured. Since they aren't under a lease arrangement or other support contract, the only way I can get technical support is by dialing a 900 number and paying a couple of bucks a minute.

So I set out to do this on my mobile phone because the office phones are in use, you know, with customers. No dice. “You've attempted to dial a blocked number, message number MA0165.” Or something like that. I'm not really surprised, I had to get international calling turned on the first time I tried that and I expect most of the 900 numbers out there are for somewhat more…interesting services than the one I want to reach. The kind that lead to huge phone bills and irate parents.

Call customer service. Wade through menus. Wait. Get person. Repeat most of the information I've already entered in the preceding menus (the usual dance).

“Message 65? Yes, sir, that's a blocked number, you can't call that number.”

“Yeah. I figured that part out. Can you enable that service for me, please?”

“No, sir.”


“What do you mean, ‘no’!? You're saying I can't get that number unblocked?

“That's right, sir. As a matter of policy, T-Mobile blocks all calls to 900 numbers from its mobile phones.”

“You're joking? You're telling me it's my phone and there are numbers I cannot call?

“That's right, sir. As part of our mission to deliver the highest quality service…”

“Highest quality service!? It's not quality service for this customer! It's completely ludicrous and entirely inconvenient!


I really do try to be polite. The guy was just doing his job. I shouldn't have shouted. I shouldn't have hung up on him. I claim exacerbating circumstances. Touching anything at Deb's office makes me nervous. I break my printer or bring my network down and it's inconvenient. I break something in her office and it can bring the business to a halt.

In the end I borrowed a headset and called on an office line. It only took about a minute to switch the printer from parallel to serial and everything is running fine now.

Anyone want a used TI OMNI 880 model 885 printer that jams a lot?


I assume the real reason for blocking 900 numbers is that if your phone is lost or stolen and the thief racks up a large bill from calling 900 numbers on it, you'd be stuck paying for it, and T-Mobile doesn't want to be blamed for that part of your bill.

—Posted by Seth Gordon on 13 Mar 2006 @ 03:31 UTC #

But they enabled international calls for Norman - just as risky.

Some thief stole my T-Mobile phone, and before I was aware they had stolen it, they racked up a couple of hundred dollars in calls to Africa.

What is more, they were not interested in helping the authorities catch the thief - only in persuading me to pay the bill.

I am with another phone company now, who are just as unreasonable (you might say that I am an unreasonable customer too!)

—Posted by David Corking on 14 Mar 2006 @ 03:35 UTC #

I have worked in the 900 number business at Advanced Telecom Services ( since 1989 (and not in the adult end of the business). In the United States and Canada, callers have never been able to access 900 numbers from cell phones. In Europe and Asia, contacting 900 numbers from cell phones is commonplace.

I recently switched my home phone service to Comcast. When I attempted to call a 900 number, I found out that I was blocked (and I'm in the business!). The regulations state that consumers must request a 900 block, yet Comcast has decided to do what it thinks is right for all of its customers and unilaterally blocked them from 900 calling! When I called to have the 900 block removed, I was given basically the same reaction you got from T-Mobile. I have since moved service away from Comcast due to its prohibition on calling 900 numbers.

The 900 number business is just one business that has been totally screwed up by government regulations. When the 900 number industry emerged, there were no regulations; you didn't even have to advertise the cost of the call (although all legitimate companies did anyway). Hence, the scammers saw a quick buck opportunity and they went about the business of offering less than legitimate services. Now, it is totally over-regulated through TDDRA regulations that have given the consumer the power to call 900 numbers and not pay without any problem.

Unfortunately, I'm not holding my breath for a politician to take the position of 900 number reform as that would likely be political suicide given the industry's shady reputation. If any politician ever wants to take up 900 number reform, the religious right will make his or her life miserable.

—Posted by Bob Bentz on 22 Sep 2006 @ 10:31 UTC #

Referring to: about WORLDSPAN TICKET PRINTERS: After you download the NEWEST HPM module you will be able to use your Windows Laser Printer or any other for printing invoice/itinerary now !!! NO NEED FOR TI885 ANYMORE !!! Have a nice day. n4u and h9a travel agencies

Best Regards William Sue Sinclair Travel Center

—Posted by WILLIAM on 12 Oct 2006 @ 05:36 UTC #

I just talked to T-Mobile. and the supervisor informed my CSR that 900 numbers are blocked "because they are the same thing as a collect call". This doesn't make sense: I want to make the call, the call is paid for, it's my phone. That's not customer service. GRRRRRRR. What BS.

—Posted by anon on 20 Oct 2006 @ 03:43 UTC #

In the United States, no cell phone carrier enables 900. This is hard to believe for Europeans, but it's a fact in the USA. It always has been and I don't foresee any changes in the future. The fact is that cell phone carriers are pushing their own premium text message services and want you to use them instead of 900 numbers.

—Posted by Anthony Wayne on 26 Nov 2006 @ 05:46 UTC #

I don't think any Cell Phone Company should Have the right to Block 900 numbers in the first place . If the consumer wants to call 900 numbers they should be able to under any circumstances what so ever they pay for what they want and should get it . But in a different way to view it thief's can get away with hundreds or thousands of dollars but it should still be the consumer's choice to whether or not allow 900 numbers

—Posted by Nick on 24 Jun 2008 @ 08:34 UTC #