I don’t have anything to say about the message on this billboard. What stood out to me is how the phone number is formatted. Maybe I underestimate my fellow citizen but I would think a lot of people seeing this would have no idea that (83) FOR-TRUTH represents a phone number. Matching telephone keypad letters to numbers one would dial 833-367-7884, a mix-and-match process I found surprisingly difficult due to the truncated format of the area code. The “(83) F” on this billboard would typically show as (833). But that would change the meaning of the vanity number. (833) OR-TRUTH sounds more like it would connect to a lawyer than to a service that promises to tell you if you will spend eternity in heaven or hell.

I attempted to call that number. As a skeptic of the toll-free world I first attempted my call from a payphone. I do this because you cannot prevent your phone number from being delivered to the owner of a toll-free number when you call it. Once your number is captured the company that own it can do whatever they want with it.

In this case my attempted calls failed because I could not find a payphone that recognized 833 as a toll-free exchange. 833 is a relatively new toll-free exchange not recognized by a lot of payphones. This does not shock me but I think we could have expected better coverage of toll-free exchanges from CityBridge, the consortium of companies with a monopoly franchise on New York City’s outdoor payphones. Very few payphones in New York recognize the newer toll-free exchanges of 844, and my guess is that none of them recognize 833. Attempts to connect to such numbers usually return a voice prompt requesting a coin deposit of 50¢ or even $1.

When payphones failed to get me to my heaven-or-hell diagnosis I tried calling from Skype. Using Skype I could not get to God from this number, as per this recorded message.

Whatever its religious intentions (83) FOR-TRUTH looks like a phone-number harvesting operation, which blocks calls coming from Skype or other forms of telephony that send out the likes of “Private Number” or “Unknown” as CallerID. They want you to get your religion, but they also want to harvest your phone number. I never connected.