According to Kevin Poulsen writing for Wired.com on September 07, 2005, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission unceremoniously transferred control of the toll-free number "1-800-RED-CROSS" to the nonprofit group on Friday.
It's former owner, Steve Parker, Chairman of 800-Ideas.com, says that he had acquired the phone number after founding a company called "Red Arms," which, by pure coincidence happens to share the same alphanumeric phone-pad translation as 8-0-0-R-E-D-C-R-O-S. Parker had begun charging local Red Cross chapters a per-minute fee to get calls originating from nearby calling areas. He claims to have had about half a dozen of the more than 1,000 local Red Cross chapters signed up for the service before losing the number.
"We make our living off of phone numbers that spell words," said Parker. "We've created companies like 1-800-FLY-CHEAP. We actually pioneered shared usage" of these toll-free numbers.
"They were talking about the kinds of money that changed hands for 1-800-FLOWERS, which is ridiculous," said Chuck Connor, senior vice president of communication and marketing for the American Red Cross. "We're not going to be paying seven figure sums to some West Coast boiler-room operation for a number we should have had in the first place."
Usufruct you, Mr. Parker!