Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The Anywhere, Anytime Market: The 800-Number, Direct Marketing, and the New Networks of Consumption

  • RICHARD K. POPP (a1)

Abstract

This article explores how 800-service, or toll-free long-distance (In-WATS) lines, became an institutionalized part of direct marketing in the United States between the mid-1960s and early 1980s. Introduced by AT&T in 1967, 800-service attracted immediate attention in mail-order circles, where marketers saw it as means of automating long-distance selling and catering to an increasingly decentralized and credit-dependent populace. Although early initiatives, like that of catalog giant Aldens, fell flat, 800-service gained traction by the mid-1970s as a call-center industry developed and mail-order operations began using In-WATS lines in combination with bank-issued credit cards and private delivery services. By decade’s end, this trio of networks—long-distance telephony, credit/payment, and parcel delivery—were densely interwoven, forming the infrastructural basis for a new kind of “anywhere, anytime,” upscale shopping exemplified by the newly refashioned Spiegel. Ultimately, the article helps historicize the rise of electronic retailing and the marketization of telecommunications infrastructure.

Copyright

References

Hide All
Adams, Stephen B., and Butler, Orville R.. Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.
Aneesh, A. Neutral Accent: How Language, Labor, and Life Become Global. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.
Baldwin, Peter C. In the Watches of the Night: Life in the Nocturnal City, 1820–1930. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
Blaszczyk, Regina Lee. American Consumer Society, 1865–2005: From Hearth to HDTV. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 2009.
Boettinger, H. M. The Telephone Book: Bell, Watson, Vail, and American Life, 1876–1976. Croton-on-Hudson, NY: Riverwood, 1977.
Bowker, Geoffrey C., and Star, Susan Leigh. Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.
Brooks, John. Telephone: The First Hundred Years. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.
Campbell-Kelly, Martin. From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog: A History of the Software Industry. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.
Cross, Gary. An All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.
Cohen, Lizabeth. A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America. New York: Vintage, 2004.
Davis, Joshua Clark. From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.
Emmet, Boris, and Jeuck, John E.. Catalogues and Counters: A History of Sears, Roebuck and Company. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950.
Fischer, Claude S. America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.
Gallagher, Winifred. How the Post Office Created America: A History. New York: Penguin Press, 2016.
Hamilton, Shane. Trucking Country: The Road to America’s Wal-Mart Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.
Hale, Grace Elizabeth. Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1880–1940. New York: Vintage, 1998.
Hochschild, Arlie. The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home. New York: Viking, 1989.
Howard, Vicki. From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.
Hughes, Thomas P. Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880–1930. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.
Hyman, Louis. Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.
Isenberg, Alison. Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
John, Richard R. Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.
Larkin, Brian. Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.
Lauer, Josh. Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.
Levinson, Marc. The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.
Lichtenstein, Nelson. The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business. New York: Picador, 2009.
MacDougall, Robert. The People’s Network: The Political Economy of the Telephone in the Gilded Age. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.
Manning, Harvey. REI: 50 Years of Climbing Together. Seattle: REI Press, 1988.
McCraw, Thomas K. Prophets of Regulation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.
Moreton, Bethany. To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.
Palm, Michael. Technologies of Consumer Labor: A History of Self-Service. New York: Routledge, 2017.
Roman, Murray. Telephone Marketing: How to Build Your Business by Telephone. New York: McGraw Hill, 1976.
Schiller, Dan. Telematics and Government. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1982.
Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. Disenchanted Night: The Industrialisation of Light in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Berg, 1988.
Stearns, David L. Electronic Value Exchange: Origins of the VISA Electronic Payment System. London: Springer, 2011.
Stone, Bob. Successful Direct Marketing Methods. Chicago: Crain, 1975.
Sugarman, Joseph. Success Forces. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1980.
Taylor, Thayer C. The Computer in Marketing. Rev.. ed. New York: Sales Management, 1970.
Temin, Peter. The Fall of the Bell System. With Louis Galambos. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Toffler, Alvin. Future Shock. New York: Random House, 1970.
Toll-Free Digest. Claverack, NY: Toll Free Digest Company, 1976.
Van Vleck, Jennifer. Empire of the Air: Aviation and the American Ascendancy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.
Von Auw, Alvin. Heritage and Destiny: Reflections on a Bell System in Transition. New York: Praeger, 1983.
Witek, John. Response Television: Combat Advertising of the 1980s. Chicago: Crain Books, 1981.
Zelizer, Viviana A. Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.
Zukin, Sharon. Point of Purchase: How Shopping Changed American Culture. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Acland, Charles. “Consumer Electronics and the Building of an Entertainment Infrastructure.” In Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, edited by Parks, Lisa and Starosielski, Nicole, 246278. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015.
Bátiz-Lazo, Bernardo, Thomas Haigh, David L. Stearns. “How the Future Shaped the Past: The Case of the Cashless Society.” Enterprise & Society 15, no. 1 (2014): 103131.
Beckert, Jens. “Where Do Prices Come From? Sociological Approaches to Price Formation.” Socio-Economic Review 9, no. 4 (2011): 757786.
Burch, Jessica K. “‘Soap and Hope’: Direct Sales and the Culture of Work and Capitalism in Postwar America.” Enterprise & Society 17, no. 4 (2016), 741751.
Case, Andrew N. “The Solid Gold Mailbox”: Direct Mail the Changing Nature of Buying and Selling in the Postwar United States.” History of Retailing and Consumption 1, no. 1 (2015): 2846.
Doody, Alton F., and Davidson, William R.. “Next Revolution in Retailing.” Harvard Business Review, May–June 1967: 420, 188.
Downey, Greg. “Commentary: The Place of Labor in the History of Information-Technology Revolutions.” International Review of Social History 48, no. S11 (2003): 225261.
Edwards, Paul N. “Infrastructure and Modernity: Force, Time, and Social Organization in the History of Sociotechnical Systems.” In Modernity and Technology, edited by Misa, Thomas J., Brey, Philip, and Feenberg, Andrew, 185225. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.
Hoke, Henry R. Jr. “Direct Marketing Chronology.” In Telephone Marketing: How to Build Your Business by Telephone, edited by Roman, Murray, 210211. New York: McGraw Hill, 1976.
Larkin, Brian. “The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure.” Annual Review of Anthropology 42 (2013): 146167.
Lipartito, Kenneth. “Picturephone and the Information Age: The Social Meaning of Failure.” Technology & Culture 44, no. 1 (2003): 5081.
Levitt, Theodore. “Marketing Myopia.” Harvard Business Review 38, no. 4 (1960): 4556.
Levitt, Theodore. “Production-Line Approach to Service.” Harvard Business Review 50, no. 5 (1972): 4152.
Levitt, Theodore. “The Industrialization of Service.” Harvard Business Review 54, no. 5 (1976): 6374.
May, Eleanor G. “The Outlook for Non-Store Retailing.” In The Growth of Non-Store Retailing: Implications for Retailers, Manufacturers, and Public Policy Makers, 618. New York: Institute of Retail Management, New York University, 1979.
Mayer, Martin. “The Telephone and the Uses of Time.” In The Social Impact of the Telephone, edited by de Sola Pool, Ithiel, 225245. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977.
Parks, Lisa. “Stuff You Can Kick: Toward a Theory of Media Infrastructures.” In In Between Humanities and the Digital, edited by Svensson, Patrik and Goldberg, Theo, 355373. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015.
Swartz, Lana. “Gendered Transactions: Identity and Payment at Midcentury.” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 42, nos. 1 & 2 (2014): 137153.
Taylor, Thayer C. “Marketing in the Age of Automation: An Interview with John Diebold.” In Computer in Marketing, edited by Taylor, Thayer C., 8590. New York: Sales Management, 1970.
Taylor, Thayer C. “The Future of the Computer in Marketing.” In Computer in Marketing, edited by Taylor, Thayer C., 112. New York: Sales Management, 1970.
Administrative Management
Advertising Age
Bell Telephone Magazine
Business Week
Chicago Tribune
Communication News
Datamation
Direct Marketing
Forbes
Infosystems
Los Angeles Times
Marketing News
Marketing/Communications
Media Industry Newsletter
New York Times
Reporter of Direct Mail Advertising
Sales Management (changed its name to Sales & Marketing Management in 1975)
Sales & Marketing Management
Saturday Evening Post
Seattle Times
Southern Advertising/Markets
Washington Post
Telephony
Wall Street Journal
Zip
Baran, Paul, and Lipinski, Andrew J.. The Future of the Telephone Industry 1970–1985. R-20, Institute for the Future, Menlo Park, CA, 1971.
FCC, Decision, FCC Docket 80-777, December 29, 1980, Federal Communications Commission Reports, 84, 2d, 158-228.
Lazaros, Esther. The Effectiveness of 800 Numbers in Direct Mail Catalogs. New York: Direct Marketing Association, 1983.
McKinsey & Company. Unlocking the Computer’s Profit Potential: A Research Report to Management. New York: McKinsey, 1968.
National Research Council. Computer Chips and Paper Clips: Technology and Women’s Employment, Vol. 1. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 1986.
Rich, Stuart. Shopping Behavior of Department Store Customers. Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University: Boston, 1963.
Seibert, Donald V. “Reaching the Consumer.” Documentation, 6th International Direct Marketing and Mail Order Symposium, Zurich, 1974.
Todd, Kenneth P. Jr. A Capsule History of the Bell System. New York: AT&T, 1972.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1976. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976.
Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Cambridge, MA.
Hartman, John W. Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Library, Duke University, Durham, NC.
Special Collections, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.
Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison.

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed