How using a beta web application can bite

No, this isn’t about data loss, the obvious danger of using anything with “beta” stamped on it.

I love GrandCentral. When we left Vonage, I was able to get a phone number in the same area code as the C3 office that followed me wherever I went. After a bit of quiet testing, I felt confident in putting my GrandCentral number on my business cards. I believed the company had something special and would be in it for the long haul. I wasn’t entirely surprised or concerned when the company sold out to Google, either.

My heart lurched when I saw this subject line sitting in my inbox a few minutes ago:

Important update – Change to your GrandCentral number

Oh no, no, no I thought as I clicked on the message. Please let it not be what I think it is. Yup, it was.

Dear Judi Sohn,

We are sorry to inform you that your GrandCentral number (703) xxx-xxxx will need to be changed as of August 25, 2007. As part of our beta testing, we are continually evaluating different solutions and partners to create the best quality service possible. Unfortunately, a very small number of users have been assigned numbers that are not performing to our quality standards and are being replaced with higher quality services. To ease the transition to a new number, we have already added (703) yyy-yyyy as a replacement number to your account. Both of these numbers will ring your GrandCentral account until the 25th of August, at which point only the (703) yyy-yyyy number will remain active. Your login and everything else regarding your account will remain the same, including all your settings, voicemails, and contacts. If you have any questions or would like to request a different number, please reply to this email and we’ll do our best to accomodate you.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and hope you continue to enjoy the GrandCentral service.


Craig Walker & Vincent Paquet

GrandCentral Founders

“One number for life.” Not so much, huh?

I appreciate that Google is working hard on the quality of the service. I really do. I knew what I was doing when I put such faith in a beta service, but then again how long has Gmail been in beta? How would you feel if Google changed your email address on you, beta or not?

I replied that I didn’t like the replacement number they assigned. I also asked if there is any way that I can have more than a week to transition. I can change the voicemail message to let people know that the number is changing as of August 25th, but then I also have to let anyone who calls know of the change. And I have to get new cards. Again.

My other complaint is that there is absolutely no indication of this when I log in to my GrandCentral admin page. This new number doesn’t appear anywhere, nor does this note they sent me. If for any reason I didn’t receive the email, I’d have no clue until my number stopped working on August 25.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of another way to get a cheap (free) phone number in the 703 area code that can follow me to my actual phone number in the 609 area code the way GrandCentral can. Certainly not without putting my faith in another “beta” startup.

Update: GrandCentral support replied with a choice of 3 alternate numbers to choose from. In addition to another apology, they offered to pay for the expense of reprinting my business cards. That was nice of them.

Update 2: GrandCentral’s blog is updated with details on what happened.  Craig and Vincent have gone out of their way to make this as painless as they could. I only wish I had  more than a few days to transition. I have to wonder what was special about my number and the 433 others that it couldn’t port as planned. Worst comes to worst, folks will call the C3 main office and my voicemail there has the new number.

Honestly, I’m not suicidal over this. Annoyed? Sure. This is a crazy week for me and it’s one more thing to do that I didn’t need to deal with. But I knew what “beta” meant when I signed up and started giving the number out, and that I was taking a risk putting faith in a startup. How are you supposed to “beta test” a phone number without giving it out anyway? In the end, I’m happier with the new number (easier to remember) and I hope that this one sticks around longer.


22 responses to “How using a beta web application can bite”

  1. Judi,

    Really bummed to hear that GC did this to you. I’ve been a user of theirs since they started the beta way back when, without any problems. Have been a big fan.

    Now I’m terrified that my strict Spam controls, and tendency to not inspect the contents of my Spam folder in great detail before nuking it, might be causing me a problem. Since, as you said, there’s no notification on the GC pages about the change – I’m now paranoid that I may have inadvertently deleted any similar notification email I might have received!

    Did you contact GC or Google customer service? If it’s not too much trouble, could you supply that contact info here, or alternatively, send it to me privately?


    Thom Kozik


    Discover everything for gaming at

  2. I don’t think this is because of quality issues but rather because Pacwest is stopping operations on the East Coast by end of this month…. (chapter 11)

    A lot of service providers have been impacted by this

  3. That was nice that they agreed to pay for them. I don’t know if I’d have done that if I were them, though.

    What if you had those fancy laser cut metal business cards like Woz has that are something like $2 each? Would they agree to pay for them then? =)

  4. Colin, my cards were like $60 from Printing For Less. I think Google can handle it.

    Like I said, I knew that I was taking a chance going with a beta service, and I’m far more annoyed at the hassle of it all than I am at Google/GrandCentral.

    I took them to task for two things: 1. only giving me a week to transition and 2. only communicating via email. Other than that, I know these things happen.

  5. Judi:

    I just came across this article: Google struggles with phone number ‘for life’

    “The numbers had to be changed after a “local carrier partner” recently notified Google it would stop its service and thus would be unable to connect calls to the GrandCentral numbers issued in its coverage area.

    “We worked around the clock to transfer the majority of numbers affected by this to another partner, but this process didn’t work for some — about 400 numbers,” a Google spokeswoman said. She declined to name the carrier and the affected coverage area.”

  6. […] to change the “one number (not so) for life” for 434 GrandCentral users. Yours truly was one of the users affected, and I’ve spent a bit of time this week trying to track down all those locations […]