Phone numbers

Why do some people quote their phone numbers in funny ways on voice mails?

Most Australian phone numbers come in two varieties:

A local number, eg 7010 5105. (Let’s ignore the two digit area code for now; it’s not usually relevant in voice mails).

Or a mobile number, eg 0491 570 156.

How I’ve written them above is pretty much the standard, and that’s how I expect them to be quoted verbally. It’s no accident — with local numbers, the first four digits determines the phone exchange.

So I have enormous difficulties when someone decides to vary that, which often happens if they decide that part of the number repeats, so they should emphasise that, for instance 70 105 105. Or quoting a mobile number like a landline: 04 9157 0156. Something in my brain doesn’t scan the verbal input properly, and I have to hear it again to be sure I’ve written it down right.

It’s doubly difficult if in a voice mail they only say it once, and too quickly.

Please, stick to the formula.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

16 replies on “Phone numbers”

And say it slowly for goodness sakes! I hate having to play back a message 2 or 3 times because the caller doesn’t say the number slowly enough.

In the USA mobile numbers and landline numbers are written and spoken the same way and one cannot tell if the number is a mobile (cell phone in the US) landline or a fax number from just looking at it. Mobile phones in the US do not have a seperate area code like here in Australia. Every local area code has both mobile numbers and landline numbers assigned to it. Many years ago every state had it’s own area code and nowdays most states have many more. There are perhaps a few hundred area codes in the US now and more are added from time to time. The area code is 3 digets and the number is 7 digets. A 1 is dialed before the area code when calling another area code. A tipical number might be 1-(305)-555-1232. That is 1-(area code)-exchange-number.

I have always been confused by the Australian syntax of cell phones. Unless the whole area code is optional I see no reason for the difference. I think of Australian cell phones as having an (0)4 area code and an 8 digit number. If nothing else it creates parrallism with the other numbers.

Of course in Europe the numbers are often arranged as couplets, e.g. 20 40 11 12.

My partner does that. It is annoying and confusing. The phone number you use is so so close to my phone number. Agree with Stitch Sista. Say it slowly and then repeat it, a bit faster the second time.

Maybe they are deliberately saying it in way that you cant get it cause they don’t want you calling them. Is this pretty young ladies who are not giving you the number in your ‘standard’ format? ;)

The 70 105 105 would be a hangover from the days when regional numbers were six digits with a three digit area code (ie. the Bendigo area was 054, then 26 meant Macedon, then the remaining 4 were the number). A 6 digit number was kinda deregulated as to whether it was three lots of two or two lots of three because either way you could get it. But the area code was distinct.

So when it became eight digits with the old area code becoming the first two (and the 054 area code being abolished and incorporated into the 03 – previously just Melbourne, but now all of Victoria & Tasmania)… a lot of people still considered it their old six digit number with two tacked on the front. And will still utter it as if it were so.

Sometimes it seems to make sense, my work number is 94888999, so it seems to work to represent it as 94 888 999 – although, I do notice that some people struggle with it, as they’re expecting 9488 8999.

just to make things even more confusing, my mobile number is 04x888xxxx, so naturally I always pronounce it as 04x 888 xxxx … I can’t actually recognise my own number when people say it back to me to confirm it in the form 04×8 88x xxx … it’s just totally wrong … :)

Brian, heh!

Vaughan, I’d understand it for regional numbers, but this happens for metro numbers.

Anon & mjch: perfect examples! Trust me, if you ignore the repeating numbers and follow the convention, it’s easier!

I get told off when I’m back in Australia for doing this. My mobile here in Japan has 11 numbers – xxx-xxxx-xxxx – I have to readjust for the Australian pattern when I’m back in Aus – and that’s on top of remembering my Aus number! :)

I’m being told that the standard format for machine readable phone numbers is becoming +613xxxxxxxx Just a single long number. +61312345678 Doesn’t seam as readable or memorable as +613 1234 5678

I often attempt to type the full +61 3 xxxx xxxx number into web forms and more often than not get the response that the + isn’t part of a valid phone number … bit difficult for me to work out what a valid international dialling prefix is for staff running a foreign commerce site!

I can’t stand people who misquote their mobile numbers.

To me the best sequence is 0400 000 000. Easy blocks to remember.

I have trouble with 040 000 0000 and I seem to get it all the time on the phone at work. Just makes no sense to me because the first four digits are sort of like the first four of landlines. 0417, 0419, 0404, 0414… so on. Makes more sense.

Doesn’t work the other way around! (For me.)

It’s to do with the tension you experience if there is an easy to remember pattern (like triple 8) but arranged across the blocks of four and three that we normally use in Australia. I have a triple 2 in my mobile that is 04X222XXXX, so my temptation is of course to say 04X-triple 2-XXXX and I have noticed it trips some people up if they’re expecting me to say 04X2 22X XXX.

I’m a Tasmanian and have had the same phone number for the last 36 years. I still think of my number in two digit sequences and continued with the two digits when we all had to add another two digit prefix. If some one reads back my number in 4 or 3 digit numbers, I’m at a total loss. My brain can’t cope. It must be old age.

Argh! My pet peeve is the quick phone number on the voicemail message! I’m often tempted to deliberately not phone people back because they left their number so quickly/rudely/unthoughtfully… I like to think that I leave my number well; in reality, I probably go too far the other way by saying it too slowly. Twice.

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