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1-800-COLLECT logo.svg
1-800-COLLECT logo as of 2001
Product type collect calling
Country United States
Introduced 1993
Markets United States
Tagline "Save a Buck or Two" (1990s)
Website www.1800collect.com

1-800-COLLECT is a 1-800 number, owned and operated by Telecom USA, which provides fixed rate collect calling in the United States. The service was launched by MCI in 1993.



Until 1993 collect calling was a virtual monopoly held by AT&T as people were accustomed to dialing "0" to place collect calls. MCI moved aggressively to insert itself into the market by launching 1-800-COLLECT that year. By dialing 1-800-COLLECT, customers could connect with an automated MCI system which would directly place a call to a designated receiving party for a fraction of the cost of the AT&T service for its operator-assisted collect calling. According to Advertising Age, 1-800-COLLECT went from concept to launch in less than three months.[1] Launched with a large marketing budget, within a year New York Magazine reported that MCI had "stamped 1-800-COLLECT onto our consciousness with a mammoth marketing blitz" aimed largely at Generation X consumers.[2] [3]


Following the successful launch of 1-800-COLLECT, AT&T responded with a competing 1-800 phone number providing discounted collect calling, 1-800-OPERATOR. However, a significant portion of calls intended for 1-800-OPERATOR misspelled "Operator" as "Operater".[4] The numerical translation for 1-800-OPERATER (1-800-673-7283) was, at the time, assigned for routing to the MCI network, which capitalized on the large number of spelling errors by connecting those calls to 1-800-COLLECT. After several months, AT&T realized they were inadvertently directing a portion of their business to MCI and terminated the 1-800-OPERATOR service, replacing it with 1-800-CALL-ATT.[5][6] The local telephone companies, who lost a significant amount of business to both numbers, started fighting back with ads showing how much simpler it was to just dial 0 (Ameritech's ad said "Why push 800 numbers when you can just push one?") or later pushing calling cards as an alternative to calling someone collect.

Later years[edit]

By the time of MCI's bankruptcy in 2002, its 1-800-COLLECT business had fallen precipitously due to the growing market penetration of mobile phones and the decreasing popularity of pay phones, which had generated a large portion of the collect calling business. After MCI was acquired by Verizon following the bankruptcy, the 1-800-COLLECT business was transferred to a small Verizon subsidiary, Telecom USA. Though the service's robust advertising budget was terminated, it continued to receive a trickle of business. In 2014 one caller, who "still associated the 1-800-COLLECT number with reasonable collect call rates... so strong were the company's early ads", reported being charged $42.55 for a six-minute telephone call. [7]


1-800-COLLECT advertising did not mention its connection to MCI in order to avoid confusion from persons who might otherwise believe they had to be MCI customers to use the service, as well as to attract AT&T "loyalists" disinclined to patronize an MCI service.[8]

In 1994, 1-800-COLLECT became one of the first six brands to use banner ads as part of a marketing campaign, purchasing a flight of ads on hotwired.com.[9]

Beginning in 1994, MCI sponsored airshow pilot Sean D. Tucker under the 1-800-COLLECT brand.[10] Tucker's biplane regularly appeared at military and civilian airshows throughout North America for several years, later transitioning to the 10-10-220 brand under MCI until the program ended in 2000.

The service's heavy spend on television advertising made 1-800-COLLECT ads, which featured celebrities including Phil Hartman and Arsenio Hall, a ubiquitous feature of the 1990s TV landscape in the United States.[7] As of 2000, 1-800-COLLECT was being promoted with more than $160 million in annual advertising support by MCI.[11]


  1. ^ Fitzgerald, Kate (4 July 1994). "Angela Dunlop 1-800 Collect". adage.com. Crain Communications. Archived from the original on 19 December 2016. 
  2. ^ "Long-Distance Runaround". New York Magazine. January 31, 1994. 
  3. ^ Lewyn, Mike (12 June 1994). "Mci Collects On 1 800 C O L L E C T". Bloomberg. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  4. ^ McNamara, Paul (May 24, 1999). "Net Buzz". books.google.ca. Google/NetWorld. p. 70. Archived from the original on 19 December 2016. 
  5. ^ Handley, John (2005). Telebomb: The Truth Behind the $500-billion Telecom Bust. AMACOM. p. 26. 
  6. ^ "Why You Shouldn't Dial 1-800-COLLECT, and Other Phone Number Oddities". VICE. July 7, 2016. Retrieved September 5, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Anderson, Nate (June 28, 2014). "Yup, 1-800-COLLECT is still in business—and charging massive fees". ArsTechnica. Retrieved September 5, 2016. 
  8. ^ Sellers, Patricia (February 7, 1994). "MCI COMMUNICATIONS YES, BRANDS CAN STILL WORK MAGIC". Fortune. Retrieved September 6, 2016. 
  9. ^ D'Angelo, Frank (26 October 2009). "Happy Birthday, Digital Advertising!". AdAge. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  10. ^ PR Newswire MCI - Sean D. Tucker - 1-800-COLLECT
  11. ^ Craig, Endicott (17 July 2000). "Top 100 Megabrands". AdAge. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 

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