When people think about toll free numbers, generally the first thing that pops in their head is a jingle they may have seen on TV or heard on the radio. They think about sales people trying to convince them that they really do make the best vacuum in the world, or a lawyer on TV that is sure he can erase their past.
What people don’t generally associate with toll free numbers is a lifeline: something that can enable a battered woman or child to get out of an abusive situation, or something that can be used to remind people who are feeling helpless that they are not alone. In addition, toll free numbers play a major role during disaster situations such as Hurricane Sandy which hit the northeastern US this week and left many people without water and electricity. Many toll free numbers are used for just that, crisis hotlines.
The first crisis hotline appeared in the UK in 1953, and made its way to the US in 1958. The top five reasons for these toll free numbers to exist are relationship problems, financial issues (including hunger, lack of shelter, or unemployment), mental health concerns, drug or alcohol addictions, and depression. Crisis hotlines can receive an average of 200 calls a day, and by using toll free numbers, it’s completely free for the caller.
Although toll free numbers are used frequently by businesses to increase their revenue or provide customer service, they are also used to save lives on a daily basis.