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Hold the phone! Error plagues Lakeland woman

Published Oct. 10, 2005

Barbara Michaels couldn't figure it out: Strangers by the dozen calling her unpublished Orlando telephone number asking about oranges.

"Gosh, yesterday morning alone I got four calls," she said Thursday. "I've been answering the phone so much that I'm beginning to lose my patience. I don't have anything to do with citrus. Why are they calling me?"

Michaels, 35, an employee at the Orlando Regional Medical Center, may have to prepare for a few more calls.

Her number was incorrectly listed as a source of information for Florida gift fruit in 550,000 magazines now on newsstands across the nation.

The telephone numbers should have set phones ringing on toll-free lines at the Gift Fruit Shippers Association in Orlando. But somehow Michaels' number, with the last four digits identical to the toll-free line, was listed.

The magazine is published by Better Homes and Gardens and is called Eating Right, Living Well. But the mistake may be with the Florida Department of Citrus in Lakeland.

The DOC paid $150,000 last year to have Better Homes and Gardens produce the magazine, which features recipes and a wide variety of information about citrus.

Michaels' telephone number is listed in a citrus-information insert written by DOC staff. Another number, a toll-free line, is also included _ and is also incorrect, off by one digit.

The gift fruit industry is ruffled.

"This is a great disappointment," said Joseph Ball, executive vice president of the fruit shippers group. "They did such a good job with the magazine and then didn't go to the trouble of doing something a journalism-school dropout would have known how to check."

Ivy Leventhal, the DOC's director of public and industry relations, said she is not yet certain how the error occurred and said it could be a mistake by Better Homes and Gardens.

Magazine officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

But the magazines are already on newsstands, so it is too late to undo damage. If Better Homes and Gardens did make the mistake, Leventhal said the DOC might ask it to include the correct number in any future issues.

The 104-page magazine was put on sale at $3.50 an issue beginning Feb. 1 and will be sold until June 1.

Leventhal said the department will call Michaels to apologize.

By the way, the correct telephone numbers for more information about gift fruit: In Florida, 1-800-432-8607. Outside the state, 1-800-741-1491.

"Please, get it right," said Ball of the gift fruit association.