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

  • RICHARD K. POPP (a1)


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.



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