TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: The 411 on Directory Assistance

Re: The 411 on Directory Assistance
13 Mar 2006 14:07:09 -0800

Monty Solomon wrote:

> The New York Times
> March 9, 2006

> Calling 411 for directory assistance can be maddeningly expensive.
> Carriers like Sprint and Verizon charge more than $1 and sometimes as
> much as $2 a call from a cellphone..

> And much of that is profit. Directory assistance "truly is a cash
> cow," said Saroja Girishankar, a vice president at the Pelorus Group,
> a telecommunications market research firm based in Raritan, N.J. She
> and other industry analysts said that the carriers paid wholesalers --
> who actually provide the 411 service -- from 25 to 50 cents a call.

Our local directory assistance is two calls for free, then around 35c
a call. I believe most places charge something like that for local
directory assistance, and $1 for long distance directory assistance.

At one time directory assistance was a profit contributor in that a
customer wouldn't be making a call without the number. In a day when
most calls were metered that was important. About 50 years ago and
longer, many people made long distance calls by name and city, not by
number "operator, get me John Smith in Kansas City", and the operator
would call KC information to get his number then make the call. The
Bell System ran ads to discourage that and to call by number, then
provided free distant information.

Over time however, the company found costs growing and many people
using DA because they were too lazy to look in the phone book or to
verify someone's name and address. So they began charging for DA use.

What bothers me is that many sources are INACCURATE. My own listing
is totally fouled up on some alternative sources, though it is correct
in my local telephone directory. The same alternative sources have an
old number long disconnected still shown as in use. If someone tries
to use one of those alternative sources they won't be able to reach

But I must admit in a way I'm glad those alternative sources are
messed up. If someone truly wants me, they'll spend the 25c or $1 and
call standard directory assistance and get my listing. I suspect the
alternative sources are more of a resource for junk phone
solicitations and junk mail. Charities and politicians are still
quite heavy users of telemarketing. Some sleazy businesses call up
and say "you've done business with us in the past so we're calling you
today ..."

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