You’re at a bar on a night out with friends, sipping another drink and starting to get into the music. Or you’re at a coffee shop, sitting in your favorite sweater, drinking yet another chai latte. Maybe you’re feeling cultured at a museum, wandering room after room of beautiful artwork.
Then: someone you don’t know comes up to you.
They engage with you, and while you’re trying to be friendly, you know this isn’t a mutually positive interaction. They’re interested, and you’re not. Maybe you’re worried to tell them how you really feel; maybe you want to let them down easy. Maybe you just want to get rid of them quickly and get back to the Monet. Whatever you’re feeling, the Rejection Hotline might be your solution.
What is the Rejection Hotline?
The Rejection Hotline is a fake phone number that gives an automated rejection message when someone calls it. Created in the early 2000s, the hotline provides a clear, humorous rejection to the caller. It makes the point so you don’t have to worry about giving out your real number or scrambling for an excuse.
While the Rejection Hotline was originally one number, a network has sprung up with various rejection messages.
Rejection hotline options.
605-475-6968: The original, standard rejection hotline. A man’s sarcastic and humorous monologue rejects the caller and tells them to forget the person who gave them the number.
719-266-2837: Love Hall & Oats? This number goes straight to an answering service that lets the caller pick a Hall & Oats song to play.
888-447-5594: An easter egg monologue congratulating the caller on finishing the video game “God of War.”
206-569-5829: A simple, recorded message that tells callers to leave a brief message. This is connected to The Loser Line, a radio station in Seattle that records and often airs these messages.
646-926-6614: The Mary Sue Rejection Hotline, reserved specifically for men that make “women feel unsafe.” Whether they call or text, the hotline gives back a rejection about how the person should “learn to take no for an answer and respect women’s emotional and physical autonomy.” The TMS Rejection function even waits an hour to text the person back to decrease the chances of confrontation.
Why do we use rejection hotlines?
Rejection hotlines offer an easier, non-confrontational way to deal with unwanted attention. Simply memorize a number of your choice and use it if someone you don’t want to interact with asks for your digits. There’s no personal rejection; you can give the stranger the attention they want without sacrificing your personal safety.
But staying safe is exactly the game we shouldn’t have to play. We have rejection hotline numbers because “no” sometimes doesn’t just cut it. There are people who think persistence, even undesired and deflected, is a part of romance. No means no, but not every stranger understands this.
Rejection hotlines aren’t just “an easy way out.” They’re a means of protection. They’re a way to give the creepy man at the bar “what he wants” without giving away legitimate personal information. They ensure that we don’t get hurt because we aren’t interested in someone. They allow us to stall and get away safely. They avoid what can be a dangerous confrontation.
The rejection hotline, therefore, has many benefits: an actual number you can give to someone, a device that gives extra time to find safety, and a way to avoid confrontation and conflict. But there are flaws, too. Most of the numbers aren’t reachable by text. If your stranger does decide to call, they might do so right after you’ve written the number down or put it in their phone. It’s not only awkward but also potentially unsafe to be in that position.
Alternatives to a rejection hotline.
1. Tell them you’re not comfortable sharing personal information.
If they ask for your number and you don’t want to give it to them, tell them you don’t like to share your personal information. This reestablishes your right to privacy and lets them know that they’ve crossed an important boundary.
2. Ask them for their number.
Instead of giving out something you don’t want to give, ask them to extend the favor to you. Getting their number puts you in control of the situation. If you want to call them later, you have the option. If you want to delete their contact or block the number forever, you have the power to do that too.
3. Tell them you’re not interested in any type of relationship.
Romantic, sexual, casual — make it clear that you don’t want any of it. This tells them that you don’t want anything from them, whether it’s a coffee date or a night at their place. If you make everything off-limits, there’s nothing they can do that doesn’t violate your boundaries.
4. Ask someone for help.
If you’re out with friends, coworkers, or anyone you’re familiar with, ask them to help you out of the situation. This can be a blunt rejection, or you can distract from the situation by making up an excuse — ask your friend to go to the bathroom with you or help order you another drink. If you’re alone, strike up a conversation with someone. Many bars, hotels and restaurants are familiar with the “Ask for Angela” campaign; this code phrase signals to staff that you’re in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation and you need help.
5. Say no.
Try a firm, no excuses, no explanations no. If they back off, they're rightfully respecting your decision.
A rejection hotline is an effective, simple way to ward off unwanted attention. Yet it exists because there are many people who might not step back when we tell them "no." We can expect persistence, but we don't have to accept that it has to be that way. When we say no, we mean it. It is the responsibility of others to listen and respect it.
Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoëkaplan.com.