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How to Avoid Surprises When Using Pay Phones

June 18, 1989|BRUCE KEPPEL

To avoid being stung by a hefty credit-card charge when making a call from a coin phone or a hotel or hospital room phone, consumer advocates and industry officials offer the following tips:

- On pay phones, look around the phone for the name of the long-distance carrier. If you can't find the name, dial 0 or 00 and listen for the operator's company name. If the company is new to you, ask for a rate quote.

- To use your preferred company from a pay phone, you should dial either its toll-free number (which begins with either a 950 or 800 prefix) or the carrier's assigned five-digit access number: 10-288 for AT&T, 10-333 for U S Sprint, 10-222 for MCI and 10-266 for Com Systems. This will connect you with that company's system; you can then dial 0 to get an operator for further instructions.

- When using a hotel or hospital room phone, dial 0, the desired area code and local number. Listen for the operator's company name. If you are unfamiliar with the company, ask for a rate quote.

- If you want another carrier, hang up and ask the switchboard operator or front desk how to reach it.

For further advice on away-from-home phone service, call the Telecommunications Research & Action Center toll free at 800-332-1124. For $3, TRAC offers a brief consumer guide: P.O. Box 12038, Washington D.C. 20005.

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