When Douglas Cook went to get his first cell phone he knew two things: He wanted a silver flip phone, and he wanted a 480 area code. “Hell yeah, I got a 480. Why would I get a 602 when I could get a 480?” the Scottsdale teenager said. “It’s the best (area code).”

When Douglas Cook went to get his first cell phone he knew two things: He wanted a silver flip phone, and he wanted a 480 area code.

“Hell yeah, I got a 480. Why would I get a 602 when I could get a 480?” the Scottsdale teenager said. “It’s the best (area code).”

The three-digit prefix before a phone number is simply a number to some. But to others, like Cook, it’s a sign of prestige.

Eight years ago the Valley was numerically divided when the 602 area code, which once covered the entire Phoenix metro area, was split into three. Phoenix kept the 602; the West Valley was assigned 623; and the East Valley became 480. Since the split, 480 has risen as the “more desirable” area code among some East Valley residents.

“Absolutely, 480 is considered more prestigious,” says Bob Hartrick, owner of Off the Hook Wireless in Scottsdale. “Most business will go with the 480 because of the stigma (of the other codes). It’s not something that’s over the top, but if they have a choice, they’ll usually go with a 480.”

The preference applies even if the customer’s home or office is in Phoenix or the West Valley, he says.

Your area code shows which area of town you identify with, says 25-year-old Danielle Wilson.

“I’m a Scottsdale girl,” Wilson says. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else and I wouldn’t want anyone to think I live anywhere else.”

AREA CODE CULTURE

In other parts of the country, area code preference is even more pronounced.

It’s considered desirable to have a 212 area code in New York because it means you live in the affluent and fashionable area of Manhattan. Fashion designer Carolina Herrera even named a perfume line 212, “for the sophisticated and urban.”

And in the four-area-code Los Angeles region, 310, which covers West Los Angeles and the wealthy beach communities of Santa Monica, Malibu and Venice, is considered a sign of wealth and status.

Its “prominence” has even become a pop culture reference. In the film “Swingers,” which is set in Los Angeles, one character is congratulated for scoring the digits of a girl with a 310 area code.

The Valley’s area code preference has not yet grown to the proportions of Los Angeles or Manhattan, but it could amplify if the area codes were broken down to smaller, more defined parts of the Valley.

And another area code split could come sooner than planned if residential growth continues at its rapid pace, says Heather Murphy, spokeswoman for the Arizona Corporation Commission. (See “Area codes by the numbers.”)

A MATTER OF TASTE

Functionally and financially, it makes no difference which area code you’re assigned. It’s not considered a long-distance call when you dial from 602 to 480 or 623. And with speed-dial and mobile phones’ capability to store phone books, most people don’t “hand dial” numbers anyway, says George Brenner, sales associate at The Mobile Solution at Chandler Fashion Center.

And for many Valley residents, area codes don’t seem to be an issue.

“I have no preference,” says Chandler resident Deanna Zeiter. “I have a 602, my daughter has a 480. It’s just a phone number. I’m OK with either one.”

But a 480 area code makes a difference to those concerned with image — especially in Scottsdale.

Seventy percent of the people interviewed at Scottsdale Fashion Square said it was “important” for them to have a 480 area code. In contrast, only about four out of 10 people at Chandler Fashion Center said it was a big deal to have 480.

Still, for some Scottsdale residents like 22-year-old Tracy Hooper, your area code is one of the first impressions you give when you meet someone new.

“I did care what area code I got,” Hooper says. “I asked specifically for a 480.”

In fact, she says she thinks twice when she gets a phone number from a new guy and it starts with 623.

“It means he lives like 45 minutes away,” she says. “And in Peoria or Goodyear or something.”

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