Linnea and Donald McRae welcomed back an old friend Tuesday — the telephone number they’ve had since 1963.

In June, their phone abruptly stopped getting any calls. The retired Elk River couple learned the number had been changed without their permission. For the past month, Linnea McRae has talked to more than 20 people and rung up more than $100 in cell phone charges trying to get her old phone number back. Qwest and XO Communications, the company that inadvertently took her phone number, promised repeatedly that it would be restored. She carefully documented each call, knowing that the companies might later claim that she never contacted them before.

Indeed, that's exactly what happened. McRae contacted me in frustration. A Qwest spokeswoman told me that it was up to XO Communications to "release" the number. On Tuesday, I reached Chad Couser, a spokesman for Virginia-based XO Communications, which doesn't even offer residential phone service. Couser said my call was the first time his company knew about the problem, despite the fact that McRae had been told by Qwest that XO was working on the problem, and she personally had spoken to an XO representative on July 13. 

Couser blamed the problem on a “fat finger” data entry mistake but couldn’t explain why it wasn’t fixed earlier. Within hours, McRae had her old number back and a promise to reimburse her phone bills.

Have you ever been the victim of a fat finger mistake?


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