020 ‘is’ the number

For those of you who don’t live in London, this won’t mean much, but I’ve been getting increasingly annoyed at the ignorance surrounding the capital’s telephone dialling code.

Here’s a typical example from yesterday. Having moved in the last week or so, I’ve had to update my address details with numerous companies, which also entails changing contact numbers:

Customer Services: What’s your new number, sir?

Me: It’s 020 865X XXXX

Customer Services: So that’s 0208 65X XXXX

Me: (with a resigned tone) Yes, that’s what I said

You see, everyone thinks that the dialling code is 0207 or 0208 and it’s not – it’s 020!

This may sound like a petty, small thing, but it’s not. When the powers-that-be changed the dialling code around 10 years ago, it was to be prepared when the numbers started to run out. This mean that they could numbers other than 7 and 8 after 020.
And that is what has started to happen. For example, the media company IPC has recently moved offices and changed numbers. Their new switchboard number: 020 3148 5000 – now that’ll freak out the customer services departments, won’t it?

CS: What’s your number, sir?

IPC: 020 3148 5000

CS: OK, that’s 0208 314…

IPC: Noooo, 020 3148 5000 – there’s no 8

CS: But you’re in London – that’s 0208, isn’t it?

And so on…

I know in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal, but it’s the numerical equivalent of missing apostrophes, in my view. The Lynne Truss’ of this world hate it when people write things like, “Its my birthday” – why should this number problem be any different?

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