Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: The phone number 1-800-FREE-411 offers free directory assistance service.
Origins: One of the many changes that has taken place in the telephone industry in the last few decades is that while phone companies once generally provided their local customers with
Now, however, an outfit called Jingle Networks is providing an alternative directory assistance service — and it's free. Users who call the toll-free number
The service is made possible by thousands of national and local businesses who sponsor this service with brief valuable audio advertisements that are played to callers who request businesses in their yellow pages category. This advertising model allows businesses to acquire new customers over the phone, cost effectively, with little or no risk. Meanwhile callers get free directory assistance, potentially saving each of them thousand of dollars per year.The way it works in practice is that a caller who requests a business number is first presented with a short (about
(Cell phone users concerned that taking advantage of the free directory assistance service will entail potentially giving out their cell phone numbers to telemarketers should note that federal law already prohibits certain types of telemarketing calls from being placed to cell phones, and all phone users can block telemarketing calls by listing their numbers with the national
We made three separate trial calls to 1-800-FREE411 asking for information on different local businesses, and in each case the voice recognition system smoothly processed all our spoken information and correctly identified the businesses of interest. In only one trial out of the three were we presented with an audio advertisement.
In 2008, Google began offering a similar free directory assistance service accessed by calling the phone number 1-800-GOOG-411. This service was discontinued in November 2010.
Last updated: 19 October 2010
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