This brief primer describes how toll free numbers are obtained, and how toll free numbers are disconnected and returned to the spare pool.

Some Useful Definitions:

Before we begin in earnest, here are some useful definitions and background information about the toll free industry. If you already are an expert, skip ahead!

What is a Toll-Free Vanity Number?

Many companies are interested in obtaining vanity numbers. A vanity number is a toll-free number that also spells a person or company name (e.g. 888-639-2277 spells 888-NEWCARS.)

Vanity numbers such as 1-800-FLOWERS and 1-800-597-JENNY (Jenny Craig Weight Loss Centers) are major corporate assets. Numbers such as these will probably never be released to the public for re-assignment or re-use.

What is a Responsible Organization?

A Responsible Organization (Resp Org) is the entity designated to manage and administer a customer’s Toll-Free records. These are often large Toll-Free service providers (e.g. Qwest, Global Crossing, Verizon, etc.)

How are Toll Free Numbers Obtained?

Toll-Free numbers are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

To keep track of which toll-free Lawyer Marketing numbers are available for new customers and which numbers are already taken, a national computer database (SMS/800(TM)) holds information on each toll-free number.

Responsible Organizations, which are usually toll-free service providers, have access to the national database that contains information regarding the status of all toll-free numbers. At a high level, Toll-Free numbers may be considered available to be assigned to a customer/user or are unavailable (working) and have already been assigned (e.g. 1-800-FLOWERS).

Customers who are interested in a toll-free number usually will contact a RespOrg and work with them to acquire an available toll-free number that meets their needs.

Available numbers are often called Spare numbers. To reiterate, these Spare numbers are available on a first-come, first-served basis and can be reserved by any Resp Org.

Many of the numbers currently in the Spare pool are perfectly acceptable Toll-Free numbers but they don’t spell anything particularly interesting.

How are numbers freed up?

Imagine a fictional dog obedience training company called Acme Dog Training. Acme owns the number 1-800-BAD-DOGS. The owner has decided to retire and disband the business. The owner instructs their RespOrg/Carrier (e.g. Verizon) to disconnect 1-800-BAD-DOGS.

When the RespOrg permanently disconnects a Toll-Free number, it is usually held for four months by the current carrier. In this case, 1-800-BAD-DOGS is available for other use until the carrier releases it back to the “available” pool. Calls placed to 1-800-BAD-DOGS at this point are usually treated with a tone known as a “fast-busy” or “reorder” tone.

Carriers hold the number for four months after the disconnect to ensure that recently disconnected numbers are not tossed immediately back into available spare status. The waiting period can protect new customers who may otherwise have to deal with numerous calls for the previous end user.

About the Author:

Matthew J. Noreen PMP® works for csf Corporation supporting and promoting their flagship 8MS product.

csf Corporation is excited to introduce a new beta suite of Toll Free Tools available at []

The introductory set of tools include:

Spare Number Forecast

The Spare Number Forecast tool allows internet end-users to search the pool of toll-free numbers that are currently in the “Coming Spare” state. This tool features a sophisticated interface to search for and display various Vanity spellings or number patterns (e.g. Search for a toll-free number that ends in “0000”).


Enter a phone number and we’ll show you what words and phrases your phone number spells.


“Try it Now” style tools for Toll Free Service Providers. Search for toll free numbers, or even check their number history.


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