1-800-COLLECT Shames The Memory Of Phil Hartman

Like everyone who was conscious and watching television during the ’90s, Casey and his wife have the brand of 1-800-COLLECT seared into their brains. Vacationing at a ski resort where cell coverage was spotty to nonexistent, they made a few collect calls, and that was the service that came to mind. They made a few brief calls, totaling… about as much as their monthly mobile phone bill.

The weekend of January 21st 2012 the wife and I took a short trip to
Snowshoe Mtn West Virginia. This was my first visit to Snowshoe and
the drive is only three hours. My skiing experience could not have
been better. While their website did warn about poor cell phone
coverage, I found it to be practically non existent.

We arrived on Friday evening and got settled into our room. After
grabbing a quick bite to eat it was time for my wife to make her
nightly call to her mother. Like I said, there was absolutely no cell
service in or around our condo. My wife decided to make a long
distance interstate call using her debit card. Even though it has
been at least a decade since I have made a collect call, I suggested
1-800-COLLECT. Honestly it was the only one I could remember. They
did a great job marketing their service back in the day.

I admit, it was completely her fault for not asking the operator what
the fees were. But this is 2012, even long distance calls cost
pennies per minute. This is where I want to warn everyone about
1-800-COLLECT’s practices. On their website it states a call from WV
to VA is $11.98 for the first minute and $1.99 for each additional
minute. With a little kicker, there is a five minute minimum.
Luckily their actual rates are a little different than their published
rates. My wife made three phone calls, each a few cents less than

I called customer service to haggle and roughly talked them down to
about $40 total. I got the feeling they get haggled frequently. Even
$40 for three phone calls was unreasonable and I asked to speak to a
supervisor, of course one was not available. I left my phone number
for a supervisor to call me back and my call was never returned. At
this point I passed the debacle back to my wife.

My biggest issue is the commercials on their website. If you are
going to be a sleazy company that makes money on brand recognition and
past advertising then post those ads on your website, you need to live
up to those ads. http://www.1800collect.com/index.php The commercial
with Phil Hartman RIP, says you could save up to 44%*. * = Based on a
3 minute AT&T operator-dialed interstate call. So I called AT&T and
asked what their rates are for an operator assisted call using a
credit card for payment. AT&T’s rates are $6.28 for the first minute
and $1.29 for each additional minute. Plus taxes and universal
connectivity fee. Minus the taxes that were not available through the
AT&T operator a five minute call would cost $12.73. My wife was
charged $19.92, $19.94, and $19.97 for three calls under five minutes
each. 1-800-COLLECT’s fees aren’t even approaching AT&T’s, much less
saving us up to 44%.

Eventually we did find out the front desk of our condo sold pre-paid
phone cards, $5 for 100 minutes. Please be warned, 1-800-COLLECT does
not have competitive rates.

Well, “up to” 44% can include 0%.

You know what this post needs to cheer everyone up? Those ads with the late Phil Hartman in them.


Edit Your Comment

  1. MattAlbie says:

    If I ever needed to make a collect call I don’t think I would assume 1-800-COLLECT still existed.

    • Jack T Ripper says:

      If I ever found myself in a position to need to make a collect call then I would get back in my DeLorean and go back to 2012 where the world makes sense.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I’m shocked that it does. There’s probably one or two “operators” out there in a trailer park in the midwest fielding several phone calls a day & making enough to pay the lot rent. LOL.

    • TVGenius says:

      And judging from the website, they just bought out the name and charge whatever they want. There are several disclaimers on the site that the 44% quoted in the ads doesn’t apply now…

  2. Hi_Hello says:

    When I was doing community services at the library after school, I would use the pay phone outside to make a collect call home. My parent knows to decline the collect call and just hang up.

    They just needed to know I’m at the library.

    It’s not fancy like the guys from hackers but it did the trick.

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      We used the same trick. My parents even came up with a code for a trip my mom took to help her brother move across country. She was to call collect, and the name she used indicated which day she would be flying back when they reached Florida. “Pat” meant Tuesday, “Michelle” Wednesday, and “Denise” Thursday. We decline the call, and still get the info. This was early 80s, before we had cheap long distance, cell phones and the newfangled email stuff.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I used to do exactly the same thing when I was a kid. We used to use a specific fake name to mean everything was OK and our real name when there was a problem.

    • Eremis77 says:

      Reminds me of that commercial where the guy says his name is “Bob. Last name, hadababyitsaboy”.

    • SerenityDan says:

      Man I used to do that all the time when I was in middle school.

    • ovalseven says:

      That reminds me of this guy from the old Geico commercial.

    • Not Given says:

      When I was a kid there used to be payphones that gave you the dial tone for free, you had to put the 10¬¢ in (dating myself) once the call was answered or they couldn’t hear you. My friend didn’t have a phone but the place she lived had a payphone. When we got a call with nobody on the line we would just hang up and call the number of the payphone to talk to my friend.

    • yurei avalon says:

      “Call from Wehadababyitsaboy”

      I loved that commercial :)

  3. dragonfire81 says:

    Anyone remember 1-800-HI-ITS-ME?

    Or was that just a Canadian thing?

  4. mikesanerd says:

    This just in: collect calls are expensive and businesses may not live up promises made in 20 year old ads.

  5. bendee says:

    On the website listed, front and center directly above the videos is the following statement: “Rates quoted in commercials are not applicable to 1-800-COLLECT. Please see Terms and Conditions for current rate information.”

  6. chucklebuck says:

    The commercial with Phil Hartman RIP, says you could save up to 44%

    Yeah, but the dude’s been dead for 14 years now – I don’t you can rely on those ads for anything but nostalgia.

    Those rates are a bastard though, yeesh. Even a prepaid long distance card won’t stab you in the groin like that!

    • chucklebuck says:

      And of course that should be “don’t THINK you can rely on,” much like I don’t think you can rely on my sentence structure today.

  7. milty45654 says:

    “The commercial with Phil Hartman RIP, says you could save up to 44%*. * = Based on a
    3 minute AT&T operator-dialed interstate call. “

    So it says “you COULD save”…you “COULD” save.
    And the commercial is from the 90’s.
    Seriously, I blame the OP..what world have they been living in. Calling cards have been way cheaper for years. Those commercials(all of them) are no longer on TV. I haven’t see one of those ads by ANY of the big companies that used those for at least 10 years.

    So if i go to any website and they have their old ads up(maybe for nostalgia, who knows) should I expect them to live by those ads they ran 10-15 year ago..hell no…it’s called inflation. Stuff costs more now, than it did years ago…also, the ad says “COULD”…it “COULD” save you more….meaning maybe it will, maybe it won’t….I don’t see the problem other than the OP has been living in a bubble.

    • milty45654 says:

      Also, if you look at the website it says…right above the phil hartman ad…”MEMORABLE MOMENTS IN 1-800-COLLECT HISTORY” OMFG

      • wkm001 says:

        Unfortunately we did not have Internet access either. I was unable to read any disclaimers or get rates from their website before we made the calls. I did a poor job putting that in a proper timeline. We could have easily asked what the rates were when making the call, but we didn’t.

  8. BongoBilly says:

    RIP Phil Hartman. The funniest man on the earth when he lived here.

  9. bendee says:

    Oh, and for those waxing nostalgic about old phone number related companies, 10-10-321 still has a website: 1010321.com

  10. Costner says:

    Wait a second…. is he seriously trying to suggest if a company makes a claim about pricing that the claim needs to still be true 10 or 15 years later??

    Get a grip. This is prime “blame the OP” territory here. Check pricing before you make the call… don’t make assumptions.

  11. SerenityDan says:

    The only one you could remember? really? 1-800-collect came to mind before just 0 for the operator?

  12. milty45654 says:

    I hope the OP doesn’t vote; seriously out of touch

  13. Jeff asks: "WTF could you possibly have been thinking? says:

    Would have been cheaper to just charge the calls to your room…..

  14. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I can’t even think of the last time I made a collect call, maybe some time in the mid-1990s when I was in the Army.

    I used to always use 1-800-CALL-ATT. Their rates were high but not nearly as exorbitant as many of the alternatives.

    • sponica says:

      i can’t remember which i used but I only used it when I needed my mom to pick me up from the HS if I had to stay late and missed the late bus.

      i used to say “imdonepickmeupatschool” as my name

  15. sirwired says:

    I have an ancient MCI phone card that never expires, costs 3 cents a minute, and gets used, without hassle, about once a year. Nobody should ever be without a pre-paid LD card in their pocket.

  16. ssm316 says:

    I have a phone card in my wallet just in case. I check it and its still valid

  17. Not Given says:

    I think you can still buy calling cards. I still have one with quite a bit of time left on it, I use it once in a while.

  18. thomwithanh says:

    Is that Chris Tucker in the 2nd video?

  19. Hartwig says:

    Google voice? Most places have internet now a days. Free dialing in the US.

    • Jack T Ripper says:

      Exactly. If you are in such a remote area that the cell coverage sucks and you don’t have internet, then prepare to get raped by the abominable snowman at some point. Those are both just really bad signs that you are going to get screwed.

      Collect calls? Really? In a world with Skype, Google Talk, email, texting, cell phones, and any number of other communication tools we still have to resort to collect calls? Sent an email if you don’t have phone service. Send a text if your coverage is spotty, but probably good enough to get one of those fired off. Or pay out the ass for a collect call. Your choice…

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        That would work fine unless you didn’t have your computer and your cell phone wouldn’t work.

      • noramine says:

        Every single person is not at all times as well connected as you seem to be. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that some people out there might not have laptops to bring on vacation or the newest phones in their hands. And who’s to say that even if they did, the people they’re trying to contact are similarly connected? Some people, by choice or because they just can’t afford things like that, do not have constant access to everything all the time.

  20. Sarek says:

    Several years ago my cell phone broke just when I had to make a couple of urgent calls. Using my landline, I discovered that my old AT&T & Verizon calling cards didn’t work (not sure if I couldn’t get the right password or if they’d been cancelled due to disuse), so I had to use Verizon’s 1-800-USE-THEV and a credit card. I got charged about $12 for each call, which were just a couple of minutes long.

  21. El_Fez says:

    “says you could save up to 44%”

    COULD save, not -will- save. You could also, in fact, pay double the original price.

  22. alexwade says:

    Snowshoe, WV is near the Greenbanks radio telescope. It is illegal to have any cell phone coverage on the side facing the Greenbanks radio telescope so that it only picks up radio waves from outer space. It is actually really neat driving by the radio telescope because you get no radio stations at all, no FM or AM. The west side of Snowshoe mountain has coverage with AT&T, and you can also get coverage at the top of the mountain. Actually, AT&T bought the company that owned the towers at Snowshoe.

  23. maxamus2 says:

    Your wife makes NIGHTLY calls to her mother, even when you are on vacation for just a few days?

    You should be calling 1-800-DIVORCE my friend.

  24. j2.718ff says:

    What does this have to do with Phil Hartman? I kept reading and reading this very long post, wondering what horrible thing had been done to dishonor the memory of Mr. Hartman. If I understand correctly, the horrible thing is that you can see his commercials online. They’re not making him dance with a vacuum cleaner or anything.

    I’m also a little confused about what the issue is. It seems that 1800Collect charged the amount they said they would. I agree it’s ridiculously high, but the OP understood the rate before they used the service. They did not check out other options until later.

  25. ronbo97 says:

    What the OP did borders or arrogance.

    1. He didn’t do ‘due diligence’ to find out what the cost was.
    2. He then argued them into the ground until they gave him 30% off his charges, as a ‘good faith’ gesture.
    3. Then he was still pissed and demanded a supervisor.
    4. Now, he’s blaming the 20 year old commercials.

    Suck it up, dude. You screwed up. Take some responsibility for your actions. Sheesh !

  26. greggorthechamp says:

    Why not just make a regular long distance call from the hotel room?

    • BlueHighlighterNextToACoozie says:

      Because his mother in law lives next door and anytime they leave their house she comes running out to the driveway in her slippers screaming “you kids you have fun and dont forget to call if you cant use your cellphone just call me 1800Collect” Dude probably has to go to his MILs house every night for dinner expect Fridays Mom lets them have “date night” which of course leads to another incident driveway incident.

    • wkm001 says:

      Long distance calls could not be made from the rooms. They were blocked. Local and toll free only.

  27. some.nerd says:

    Wow… If we’re trapped in the 90’s (er… West Virginia… same thing), why didn’t he try 10-10-220 instead? He could’ve had a 20-minute phone call for under a buck (and just ten cents per minute after that)!

  28. reybo says:

    We can understand why this couple is under orders to check in with parents EVERY NIGHT. They need all the assistance in life they can get. Most likely they were told it’s to benefit the parent. Right ….

  29. reybo says:

    We can understand why this couple is under orders to check in with parents EVERY NIGHT. They need all the assistance in life they can get. Most likely they were told it’s to benefit the parent. Right ….

  30. TBGBoodler says:

    My son made a 3-minute collect call to me, just by picking up the pay from, from the airport in Charlotte, N.C., a couple of years ago and it was more than $75.

  31. kgb says:

    So if I go into a car dealer with an ad for a new car from 1980, they WON’T honor the price????

  32. ironflange says:

    I still miss Phil. :-(

  33. Weekilter says:

    Well, y’know what they say ASSUME stands for. Seriously, anyone who just does something like this really deserves what they pay for this stuff. There are lots of different ways to pay way less than $20 for a five minute call. Even with all the “gotchas” of many prepaid calling cards it can’t be as bad as paying $20 for a five minute call. I’ve got prepaid service through onesuite and it’s only 2.5¬¢/minute to call the US or Canada and the same to even call the UK or Europe!

  34. ReverendTed says:

    So you were charged 19.92, 19.94, and 19.97? Sounds like they’re just big on nostalgia for the days when you could find a pay phone without a sherpa.

  35. Otto44 says:

    Price gouging; a natural outgrowth of the unregulated free market.

  36. WorldOPeek says:

    “I admit, it was completely her fault for not asking the operator what the fees were.”

    I do not know why this was even published. No one takes responsibility for their own actions anymore. Whoever this person was, was totally at fault and should have been happy that a discount was given at all. And when the discount was given, thanks should have been given.