Tip: Free Directory Assistance 800 Number

Since many creative professionals and avid amateur photographers are often traveling for business and leisure, and the cost of directory assistance via cell phone (or via home/business phone) can add up, I think that this tip is very appropriate for our audience.

When I’m out of my home and away from an internet connection, I use a free alternative to 411 (the traditional three number dial code for directory assistance in the USA). The number I now call for free directory assistance is 1-800-FREE-411 (1-800-373-3411). I first learned about the service on a podcast by Chris Pirillo, who I respect greatly for all the excellent content he and his associates make available in newsletters, podcasts and on his main site, Lockergnome. Six month to a year ago, Chris interviewed someone from the company at a Search Engine Optimization marketing conference.

If the automated help doesn’t work, an operator will get on the line and try to help you. So what’s the catch: they play one or two ads (usually about 10-15 seconds each). Most recently, I heard an ad for a restaurant chain at the beginning, and a second ad from another company just before receiving my number.

Here’s a cool feature: Let’s say you tried to call the number they gave you, but you wrote it down incorrectly. If you call back the 800-free-411 number again, they will ask you at the beginning of your call to dial 9 to hear the last number you requested, which is a smart feature. I don’t know if there’s a specific amount of time before that option expires, but it only offers you the option to call back and dial 9 once after receiving assistance. If you call back again, it will default to the standard directory assistance mode.

One of the main reasons why I’m mentioning this now is because they will now send a text message of your requested number to your cell phone (normal text messaging rates apply). The system recognized when I was on a residential land line (I use a VoIP service) vs. my cell because it only asked me if I wanted the text message option when I called from my cell phone. I believe that this is a relatively new feature. Here is a recent press release that describes the SMS service. And here’s a link to standard costs for 411 service ($1.40-3.49 per call according to the information they have on their site).

In my case, I use Verizon as my cell phone provider, and since I have no text messaging service, the text message with my requested number cost me 10 cents (US currency), which will be billed to my cell phone account. They don’t charge anything extra to send the text message, and if I declined to receive the number by text message, I could have just listened to the number for no charge. They will send you through to the advertiser’s phone number by pressing a number on the keypad, but you can’t have your number auto-dialed via keypad.

They also have a website at https://www.free411.com. I noticed a link from their home page to a company that makes coupons available via phone which you show to the store clerk/restaurant clerk/etc. right on your phone, which is a pretty cool idea (on the right side of the page). There are other offers there as well. They appear to be sponsored links so I believe the right thing to do is to send you to their page if you want to research it further. I have no business relationship with free411.com, but their service has saved me at least $100 in directory assistance calls over the past 6-12 months and it may be a viable advertising option for some companies.

UPDATE: I just noticed a really great article on the same subject by David Pogue here. And here’s a similar service 1-800-411-SAVE. My one call to them resulted in no automated help-just a friendly person, and no ads.

DIGG this article here if you’d like others to see this article.