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Welcome to the Rejection Line!

Most of you can probably relate to this situation: You’re out for a fun night of socializing with friends. Maybe you strike up a conversation while waiting for the bartender to take your order. Or, maybe you dance with someone for a song or a set. Next thing you know, this person is glued to your side, following you around, asking personal questions and trying to put their hands, or worse, all over you. The only thing worse than this person assuming you’re going to hook up is when they ask for your phone number. While some will politely go away without a scene when their request is denied, there always seems to be at least one who is convinced that your life is not complete without him or her in it. Their persistence first becomes annoying, then uncomfortable, and maybe even threatening. Sound familiar? Well, here’s a number made just for that special person!

It’s called The Rejection Line, because that is exactly what it offers when it is called. The voice on the other end informs the caller: “Unfortunately, the person who gave you this number does not want to talk to you, or see you again…We’d like to take this opportunity to officially reject you. Our certified rejection specialists are waiting to serve you in your time of need…” The recording goes on to offer to the callers options, such as pressing one to talk to a comfort specialist; pressing two to hear a “sad poem by a kindred spirit”; pressing three for the caller who wishes to “cling to the unrealistic hope that a relationship is still possible”; and finally pressing four is to set up a voicemail account. The fourth option is the only one which really works now, as it is actually an advertisement for the official sponsor of the RejectionLine.com, which gives a website address for setting up real voicemail accounts.

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RejectionLine.com was started sometime in 2001 by brother and sister team, Jonah and Chelsea Peretti, in response to their many female friends who were complaining about how aggressive some would-be daters would become with regards to getting a phone number. They described the Rejection Line’s inception as an “urban experiment”. “We started it as a sort of an experiment in viral media, to try to create something and see how it spreads. But it’s also a parody of the dating scene,” Mr Peretti said. “It’s the idea that it’s needed that is funny – that dating has become so dehumanized that people need an automated system to help them reject people.” (http://www.contagiousmedia.org)

It is true that this number can, like many things that start out as harmless jokes, be misused, as in the case of the guy who used it to break up with his girlfriend after six months (People Magazine). A person who flirts and feigns interest to get a few free drinks and then gives the Rejection Line number, upon a simple and harmless request, to the person who has just been misled, is indeed just plain mean. The Perettis never meant for the number to be used in such ways. When suggested back in 2002 to expand to a national or international service, Jonah Peretti’s response was “…we don’t really have an interest in there being a bunch of rejection lines in every city in the world being used as a cruel way for people to humiliate each other” http://www.contagiousmedia.org). Rather, Chelsea Peretti, in an interview with Jon Stewart, commented how the number was originally meant for those who are themselves mean because they are “aggressively harassing someone for their phone number” (CNN Talkback Live).

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The Rejection Line, however, may be a savior in that, it prevents a scene, gets the point across, yet does it discretely. A person who has had enough of being bothered by someone trying to get a number can get the person off his/her back without themselves having to become rude or defensive. The would-be dater will still get the message, but at least that person can save face in from of his/her friends, and suffer the rejection alone, instead of in front of an audience, which is also an awkward situation.

The original Rejection Line is a New York number. It has grown in popularity in the last eight years, just enough to be circulated and entertaining, but still not enough for people to recognize the number when they get handed to them. It has been featured on CNN, in People’s Magazine, USA Today, The New York Post, and many other magazines, newspapers, radio and television shows, both in the United States and abroad. Despite the Peretti’s desire not to have any kind of national or international “Rejection Line networking”, there are now many numbers in many states, as well as in Great Britain, Ireland, and Australia. Many of the messages are the same, with a few variations. The Australian version has a text messaging option available for its callers to leave their responses, which are then posted on Twitter, without showing the senders’ phone numbers (http://twitter.com/rejectionline). There is also the website, www.rejectionline.com. However, like the options on the hotline, it doesn’t appear to be active. Jonah and Chelsea Peretti do not make any money off of the Rejection Line. Aside from long distance charges from a landline phone, it costs nothing to call any of the Rejection Line numbers. Just think of the Rejection Line as a kind of public service.

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Burkeman, Oliver. “New tactic in the dating game.” The Contagious Media Project. 4 May 2002. .

CNN TALKBACK LIVE.” Interview with Jon Stewart. 14 Feb. 2002.
“Dead Ringers.” People Magazine 27 May 2002: 130.
“The Rejection Line (rejectionline) on Twitter.” Twitter: What are you doing? 2009. .

Welcome to RejectionLine.com. 2001-2002.