(Disclaimer: This article is in no way encouraging you to dial any 1-900 numbers. Chances are the numbers advertised in the embedded videos are inactive, but please don’t try to call. This article is simply meant to be a fun history lesson.)
Back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, 1-900 hotlines became a billion dollar industry. The revenue potential was first realized thanks to a 1982 SNL skit starring Eddie Murphy threatening to kill Larry the Lobster. Viewers were encouraged to dial in at a cost of 50 cents per call to either save the lobster or watch him get boiled. According to Priceonomics, AT&T was flooded with calls and returned over $200,000 in revenue that night. From that point forward, the word was out that 1-900 numbers could earn some big bucks.
Prior to the widespread availability of the internet in the mid ’90s, pay-to-listen hotlines were actually a viable service. Sports fans could get the latest information on their favorite teams. Music fans could hear singles from their favorite band prior to its release. Kids could listen to recorded messages from their favorite celebrities. And it wasn’t until 1992 that the government regulated hotline content and added strict regulations to deter fraud.
Up until that time, 1-900 hotlines could get away with offering just about anything to get kids and adults alike just by picking up their touch tone phone and dialing the magic numbers. I remember getting caught up in it myself as a kid, dialing hotlines to listen to messages from WWF wrestlers and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. But even as pre-teen, I never was tempted to dial simply based on the outrageous, exclusive information that some hotlines offered.
Here are 11 promises made by 1-900 TV commercials in the ‘80s and early ‘90s…
Get Up To The Minute UFO Sightings & Extraterrestrial Contacts
Have A Good Cry
Talk To The Undead
Improve Your Nintendo Video Game Scores
Learn If Elvis Is Still Alive
Ruin Your Good Day
Know Your Past, Present, and Future
- The Past: You didn’t have a mullet
- The Future: You won’t have a mullet
- The Present: Needs improvement. Call both the business and party hotlines at $2 a minute to get the latest mullet tips.
Learn Jessica Hahn’s Deepest Secrets
Connect Directly To Santa’s Sleigh
Win Cash and Prizes Playing 'Let’s Make A Deal'
Become A Star
Remember any other ridiculous promises made by 1-900 commercials? Leave a comment below...