Jacking in from the "Take A Load Off" Port:

Washington -- This just in: The Winner of this year's Most Insipid 800 Number Service is: MCI Communications. Their stellar contribution to the vaunted 800 industry? The "Wow It's Hot" Hotline. No, I'm not joking.

Just call 1-800-WOW-ITSHOT (1-800-969-4874) and you're treated to an earful. Actually, 9 earfuls, but we'll get to that later. Billed as a "free audio vacation" that allows consumers to "escape the cold during these freezing days and nights," the service treats you to a selection of "nine warming sounds."

What sounds? Well, first up is "Someone playing golf." Dial up this beauty and you can listen to golf game happening. Stunning. MCI has managed to find the only aspect of golf that is more boring than actually watching overweight men in bad plaid play the game. As for being a "warming sound"? This has all the warmth and appeal of listening to a flatulent bovine.

The inspiration for this service was merely "to give something back to the consumers," said MCI spokesman Matt Schwab. Right off the top of my head I'd say an across the board 10 percent cut in long distance rates might give more back to the consumers...

The call is free, of course. In fact, if you have a speaker phone, you can call and camp on the line for as long as you can stand the monotony. There's a baseball game, seagulls in the surf, "someone waterskiing," tropical birds and an "evening" tropical stream, kids at the beach (sans the smartass little kid yelling "shark!") and even a guy hawking hot dogs at a baseball game.

MCI is paying out of their own pocket for the service, but Schwab declined to say how much it's costing the company. Begun in February, the service will switch to "cool sounds" so all those suffering from the summer heat can find relief by listening to, well, he wouldn't say, but I'll be the sound of a snow melting makes the list or perhaps "Someone making a snowman."

All this is slightly curious, particularly in light of the fact that 800 numbers are becoming an increasingly scare resource. That's right: The industry is running out of 800 numbers. In fact, the FCC recently petitioned the Congress to allow it to auction off 800 numbers as a way of raising money. No, I'm not joking.

But MCI is serious about its frivolity. Schwab said the scarce resource number argument was "Scrooge like," and that anyone thinking the MCI "WOW-ITSHOT Hotline" was a waste should "lighten up."

Whatever you make of the service, you have to love these MCI guys at some level. Here's a $12 billion a year company that takes pride in going hammer-and-tongs with the $60-plus billion a year AT&T (and kicking their butt at times) and yet finds it in their corporate soul to have a little fun at the same time.

Sometimes, you just have to grab a little sanity where ever you can.

Meeks out...

Copyright © 1995 CyberWire Dispatch / Brock N. Meeks <brock@well.com>