The toll-free number simply redirects calls to phone number of your choosing, such as your cell phone. You can change the ring-to number whenever you like. You can get more sophisticated with
- call blocking (geographical, by area code, by phone number)
- email notification of calls
- interactive voice response --- be as annoying as big companies ;)
- call recording --- for "quality assurance"
- blocks for payphones --- which are billed at higher rates
As you might guess, you can pick from many providers. I especially liked Kall8 (kall8.com) and TelCan/Callture (telcan.net). Prices are in US dollars.
For $2 per month you get an 888, 877 or 866 exchange. A genuine 800 number (there are still some left) costs $5 a month. Memorable "vanity" numbers $15 to $350 or more. There's a setup fee which is usually the same as the monthly fee.
You're also charged $0.069 per minute for calls from Canada or the continental US.
Telcan / Callture
As you might guess, this is a Canadian company. The monthly charge is $2 --- no surcharge for 800 or memorable numbers. You can pick any (unused) vanity number for only a $14.99 setup charge. Canadian fairness in action.
The charge per minute is $0.0649 for calls from Canada and $0.0449 from the continental US. I selected them.
After experimenting, I created 1-877-337-3711, which is also 1-877-3-37-37-11. It's not quite as catchy as 967-11-11 for Pizza Pizza, but looks nice, sounds nice and has special digits (Editor's note: actuaries and numbers). I'd like to forward it to Skype, but that isn't possible right now.
You own your toll-free number. You can switch it to another provider if you want.
Your email address doesn't given away your location and your phone number need not. That just leaves your mailing address. Two out of three isn't bad.