Dreama (dreamalynn) wrote in bad_service,
Dreama
dreamalynn
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Free Forbidden

The other day, in passing, I heard about a free directory assistance number, 1-800-FREE-411. Like any other 800 number it's a toll-free call, and you can get nationwide phone listings via a voice-automated system. The reason why it's free is that there are ads, and they try to play an ad for a competitor to the listing you want, e.g. if you ask for the number for Domino's Pizza, you might hear an ad for Pizza Hut. (If no competitor has contracted with them yet, you don't hear an ad, you just get a period of silence.)

It's nice, it's simple, and a 12-15 second ad (that you don't even have to pay attention to) is a fair price to pay for a toll-free, national service, doncha think?

But! I just tried to call the number from my Verizon Wireless phone. No go. "Your call cannot be completed." No "please check the number and try your call again" just a roadblock that cannot be circumnavigated. Verizon Wireless (and, reportedly, their competitor Allltel) is blocking this number. Instead of allowing customers to use their calling plan minutes to do business with whatever company they wish to do business with, Verizon is attempting to force their customers into a system which charges a ridiculously high rate ($1.25-$2.00 per call, depending on your plan, from what I've gathered) for their "special" directory assistance service which lacks an important usability factor -- you're never actually given the number you request. You see, Verizon Wireless doesn't offer directory assistance to their customers, they have something called "411 Connect" which dials your requested number directly, without telling you exactly who or what is being called. If you need the actual number, you have to ask the person you've called. ("By the way, I know that I called you, but could you give me your phone number?") The number doesn't show up in your outgoing calls, only the 411 call does.

My contract with Verizon will be up shortly and I've been planning on moving to another company, though I've yet to come to a conclusion about which company I might try. Sprint/Nextel is out, but otherwise, I'm prepared to bump any company that isn't (unfairly, IMO) blocking the 1-800-FREE-411 number right up to the top of my list.

Can anyone confirm that they can reach the number via their wireless phone from another company?
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