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Bring Back Free Directory Assistance!

I'm an aspiring writer, but overall, I am an American who seeks a better United States of America. Come join me in my journey of truth.


Depending on how old you are, most of you Americans out there probably remember back when dialing 411 for directory assistance and obtaining a listing was absolutely free. Sure. We had telephone books back then. However, nothing substituted the convenience of simply being able to pick up your telephone receiver and request directory assistance quickly to look up a telephone number for you.

Eventually, telephone companies came up with nationwide directory assistance simply by allowing for consumers to dial 1 plus the area code for the particular region from which you wanted a listing and then 555-1212. That directory assistance service was free too. You could even find out a toll-free telephone number at no cost by dialing 1-(800)-555-1212.

Older times had many niceties that you don't encounter in this day and age. So, how did telephone companies get to be so greedy later on and started charging you for everything but the kitchen sink?

I remember how eventually telephone companies began to allow for consumers to make three 411 directory assistance requests each month at no cost and then get charged for every additional one. However, that setup of theirs didn't last very long, because eventually they were charging consumers for every single, solitary 411 directory assistance request.

I am not sure how the telephone companies handled the change with interstate directory assistance, but I do know that eventually they started charging consumers to use the interstate 555-1212 directory assistance. Now, I once worked for MCI Worldcom. Therefore, I know that these telephone companies have to pay their employees a living wage. However, the cost of directory assistance has gone from ludicrous to outrageous.

I remember one time speaking to a telephone operator back in 2000 and discussing how much it would cost for me to contact directory assistance in another state using a prepaid telephone card that I had and she responded that it would cost $5.00. Come on! When I had vacationed in Costa Rica shortly before then, directory assistance there was free throughout that entire nation from what I remember.

I somehow find myself believing that the United States of America is the only nation in the world that charges for its directory assistance. Correct me if I am wrong.

Now that the Internet has become more sophisticated than ever and more people have access to it in many more ways than they did back in the 1990s, finding out a telephone number is not such an expensive ordeal as it was before. Keep up with your monthly Internet bill or your cell phone data plan, and you'll be fine. In any event, there is simply nothing more convenient than being able to dial 411 and get a live human being at the other end who can help you find a telephone number without charging you anything.


1. I'll Never Go Back To The Mohegan Sun Casino Or Connecticut

One time when a family member of mine and I were passing through Connecticut on our way home from Maine, we stayed at a nice hotel and we decided that we wanted to go play the slot machines at the Mohegan Sun Casino nearby. We had heard that there were progressive slot machines there, and we wanted to try our luck on them. We were prepared to have a good time, but we were not prepared for the chaos that followed shortly after we arrived there.

The family member of mine who was with me began to get tired, and she wanted to go back to the hotel to go to sleep. Therefore, we went ahead and decided to go back to the garage where our car was parked shortly thereafter. As we were walking back to the car, she became faint and passed out. Other casino employees and I quickly rushed to her to help her back up.

To make a long story short, the casino employees transported us both to a nearby hospital so that this family member of mine could be given immediate medical attention. I wanted to phone the hotel where we were staying to explain the situation to the hotel clerk so that we would not be charged for another day if we did not check out by noontime the next day inasmuch as I had a hunch that we were not going to be getting back to the hotel until four or five in the morning and I would not want to be driving down the Eastern seaboard on only 3 or 4 hours of sleep.

Because I did not have the telephone number of the hotel on me, I asked the hospital employees if I could use their telephone to find out its telephone number from directory assistance. I had a telephone card that I could use at any payphone, but it did not allow me to use it to phone directory assistance. One of the hospital employees told me that I would have to use a payphone to make that call.

I was not at all concerned about using a payphone, because back then every time I had ever used a payphone to find out a local telephone number, the directory assistance was always free. By then, that was the only time that I could ever get directory assistance for free so long as I requested for the directory assistance operator to look up a telephone number that was local to that same payphone. Well, there was only one problem. For one reason or another, this particular payphone did not offer free directory assistance.

If only I had written down the toll-free telephone number to the front desk of the hotel where this one family member of mine and I had been staying, I could have avoided any nonsense with the local telephone company there in Connecticut. I attempted to get the regular telephone number of that hotel by dialing 411. Instead of giving me the telephone number, the operator told me to insert 50 cents into the coin slot of the telephone.

Now, I could not have thought of anything more outrageous and ridiculous than being asked to pay 50 cents for a directory assistance request. I had a telephone card that charged me 19 cents a minute to make a regular telephone call, and even that rate was not as much of a bargain rate as I could have been getting if I had gotten another type of telephone card. However, this dragon lady would not give me the telephone number of the hotel unless I paid 50 cents.

I tried to reason with this witch, but she told me that I had to pay 50 cents or she would disconnect me. I told her that I had a family member in the hospital and that I was calling from the hospital. She couldn't have cared less. I thought to myself that if this is how most people in Connecticut are, I don't want to come back to this state ever again.

I could have gotten really nasty with this directory assistance operator and asked her to put a supervisor on the telephone. I've been in situations where I've done so, although those kinds of people usually give you a hard time about letting you speak with their superiors inasmuch as they know that there is a chance that you may say something derogatory about them to their boss. However, I had a relative lying in a hospital bed and I didn't want to get into a heated argument with this poor excuse of a human being. I know that if I had been in her shoes, I would have gone ahead and waived the 50 cents charge. Whenever I have worked at customer call centers in the past, I've always tried to be helpful with customers who were in difficult situations due to circumstances beyond their control.

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When I was talking to a hospital employee about the way that this directory assistance dragon lady had behaved, she giggled in a way that indicated that she thought that it was funny. Well, I didn't find it funny, and I did not appreciate her finding it funny either.

After the family member of mine was discharged from the hospital a few hours later, she and I contacted the Mohegan Sun Casino to get them to send us their van to transport us back to their garage. There was a married couple waiting with us who needed to go back to the Mohegan Sun Casino on that same van.

The driver of the van had the audacity to tell us that he would have to take the women back first and then he would come back to pick me and the other man up later on because of some silly sexual harassment law that existed in the state of Connecticut that obviously had absolutely nothing to do with us. The man that needed to go back to the Mohegan Sun Casino threw a fit with this driver and he said to him that it wasn't like he was going to harass his own wife sexually. I was very unhappy about it too. However, this driver would not have it any other way.

After the one family member of mine and I got to our car at the garage of the Mohegan Sun Casino and got back to the hotel, it was five in the morning. We asked the hotel clerk if she would let us stay there at the hotel after noontime without charging us for another day, and she was very friendly about letting us do so. She was probably the only person in Connecticut who treated us decently aside from the Mohegan Sun Casino employees who transported us to the hospital earlier that evening.

I realize that some of you out there who may be reading this article here of mine are from Connecticut. I am not here to bash the state of Connecticut. I am well aware that Connecticut has many noteworthy attributes about it. Greenwich is supposed to be one of the ritziest places in our nation, and it is in Connecticut. Successful Manhattan executives usually live in an exclusive neighborhood in places like Stamford and its surrounding towns. I have met many terrific people from Connecticut in my lifetime, and I am not here to generalize about all of you Connecticut natives out there who may be reading this same article of mine.

Nevertheless, if any of you Connecticut natives ask me to return to your state for vacation or for any other reason, I can tell you right now that you will be wasting your time. After the horrendous experience that I had in Connecticut, I would never have any desire to go back there. I simply cannot understand any place charging 50 cents for directory assistance at a payphone. Then again, fewer people are using payphones nowadays than in years past.

When I was in Connecticut and needed to use directory assistance, I thought that perhaps back then the telephone companies throughout our nation were giving each and every subscriber up to three free directory assistance requests. I guess I could have asked the hospital staff if I could have used one of their telephones to make the call to directory assistance under the assumption that perhaps they had not gone over their limit of three directory assistance requests. Of course, probably they always had gone over that same limit at the beginning of the month, because hospital administrators had to conduct business as usual over their telephones.

Connecticut will never be a vacation destination for me ever again after that one awful experience. Perhaps if I had grown up in Connecticut and had lived there my whole life, I'd have a much better perspective of that state. In any event, their telephone companies leave so very much to be desired.

I do admit that I had encountered some very bizarre and unpleasant situations with payphones when I was living in California, but none of those experiences ever came close to this one I had confronted in Connecticut. Whenever I had any problems with payphones out in California or any kind of telephone service, there was always someone very helpful at the other end of the telephone line willing to make me whole. California telephone operators never mistreated me the entire seven years that I lived in that state. However, the telephone companies in Connecticut will leave you nailed to the cross, even if a family member of yours is dying.


2. Free 411 Does Not Offer The Same Quality Of Directory Assistance That The Regular 411 Directory Assistance Does

After 411 directory assistance stopped being free at all and telephone companies throughout our nation also began charging for interstate directory assistance, the only good-quality directory assistance that was free for a long time was the toll-free directory assistance. That is, you could dial 1-(800)-555-1212 to find out a toll-free telephone number and you never got charged for it. Of course, the telephone companies who offered it charged the corporations and businesses for listing their toll-free telephone number and information with that service. Well, even that free service ended recently.

Nevertheless, back in 2005, a directory assistance service known as 1-(800)-FREE-411 was born. This directory assistance service did not charge you anything for requesting a telephone number from it. The only tradeoff was that you had to listen to recordings of advertisements before the system provided you with the listing you requested. You can find out what this service is all about in the video below.

A Description Of What Free 411 Offers As Opposed To Regular Directory Assistance

This same service seemed like the answer to everyone's frustrations of not having regular 411 directory assistance at no cost to them. However, this same service had a few problems with it that continue to persist to this very day.

First of all, this same service has no live operators in case something goes wrong with your directory assistance request. In other words, if the automated telephone system gives you the wrong listing instead of the one that you requested, you don't have the option of getting a live directory assistance telephone operator to assist you in getting the correct telephone number. Now, with all the money that this same service probably rakes in every month, you would think that they would hire some kind of staff to assist you with any problems or concerns that you encounter with their service. There is not even any telephone number to contact their customer service department that I know of.

Second of all, a great number of directory assistance requests are not processed properly when you call this same service. You could ask for one listing and the service will give a telephone number to a business or individual that you don't want. Various times I've requested a telephone number to a business, and it has provided me with the telephone number to that business's facsimile machine. You will find yourself getting extremely angry every time that this sort of thing occurs, because it will happen way too often. You can watch a consumer going through these kinds of difficulties after dialing 1-(800)-FREE-411 to find out a telephone number in the videos below.

Free 411 Is Not As Good As It Should Be

As you can see, the woman in the above video experiences ongoing technical problems with the automated telephone system of the service; and no matter how hard she tries to speak clearly and articulately, it doesn't seem to understand fully what she is saying. You can watch the video of another consumer going through the same ordeal below.

Free 411 Keeps Giving This Woman The Wrong Listing

In the video above, the consumer is requesting a toll-free telephone number, but the automated telephone system at 1-(800)-FREE-411 is not understanding what she is saying no matter how clearly she speaks into her telephone. What is so interesting about this one video is that it was recorded back when you were still able to call 1-(800)-555-1212 to get a listing for a toll-free telephone number at no charge to you; and if you did not get the right listing or there was a problem, you had the option of getting connected with a live directory assistance operator to help you. Well, you will never get that option after dialing 1-(800)-FREE-411; and if you are given the wrong listing, you will be left high and dry until, of course, you either look the telephone number up in your telephone book or on the Internet.

I know that one should not complain about anything that is free. However, many people have likely found themselves in a stressful situation where they have to find out a telephone number quickly and they end up getting the runaround upon calling this same service. It is kind of like that feeling you get whenever you stick money into a Coca-Cola machine and no soda can comes out at the bottom. You simply want to scream at whoever set this whole outfit up.


3. It's About Time That Elected Officials Make These Telephone Companies Do What's Right And Fair To Everyone

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Congress and President Donald J. Trump have taken numerous steps to help the American people get through the worst of financial times because of the setbacks that have ensued as a result of the Coronavirus. For example, moratoriums have been placed on the collection of rent for apartment tenants, and evictions have been stopped for homeowners who cannot pay their mortgage. Executive orders and acts of Congress have been effected to extend unemployment compensation insurance benefits for people across the nation.

I'm really not going to go into the details of any involvement that Joe Biden may have in the above-described decisions after he moved into the White House, because I have never been a fan of his. However, I will state that the Federal government has a multitude of authorities to get large corporations and other similar entities to take an active role in helping our nation stay financially afloat.

Now, I am not mindless of the proverb that states that you can take the horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink. Salvador Allende went down that road when he was the president of Chile back in the 1970s upon making economically unfeasible decisions for his nation, and ultimately it got him removed from office. However, if the Congress and our president were to take action against telephone companies throughout our nation and compel them to make directory assistance free again until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, I do not believe that the telephone companies would put up a fight against it. They have to know that they are also expected to do their fair share in helping to alleviate the devastating impact that this pandemic is having on our nation's economy.

Our Federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill have the power to make American telephone companies stop charging for directory assistance. Even if they couldn't do so, they could still pressure 1-(800)-FREE-411 into getting live directory assistance operators to help callers out whenever they have problems in getting a listing from their automated system.

Utility companies have been given a great amount of latitude to profit off of their customers in some of the most questionable ways. Whenever our toilet is running and it is not easy to get it to fill up as it should inasmuch as the toilet handle is not catching and the water is flowing into it without stopping, we always get an image in our head of some rich, selfish old man making additional money off of it that he doesn't deserve. Whenever the authorities force an electric company into turning someone's service back on while it is wintertime despite that their payment got lost in the mail, we always feel that justice is being served inasmuch as the owner of that electric company is probably frolicking with his wife on some yacht in the Caribbean Sea or working on his tan in Bermuda.

Rich people own and operate these utility companies, and they can afford to give a little back to the American people after the American people have paid faithfully to keep them running. Telephone companies have the ability to make 411 directory assistance as well as nationwide 555-1212 directory assistance free again.


4. My Final Thoughts About This Topic

Americans may never see the old days again when 411 local directory assistance and 555-1212 nationwide directory assistance were free and gave you better service. However, during these trying times, our Federal lawmakers have the power and authority to compel telephone companies throughout our nation to provide these same services at no cost until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill have run interference in the past whenever telephone companies have attempted to cut corners and get greedy at the detriment of the American people. For example, they passed laws that obligated telephone companies to make the 911 emergency line accessible to every cell telephone throughout our nation no matter how far out in the sticks you were.

The methods of Americans obtaining a listing have evolved and changed throughout the decades. However, regardless of whatever has happened to the ways that we are able to access listings, it does not mean that the directory assistance services available to us have to be overly expensive or substandard. Laws can be passed to bring these services back up to 1980s standards again. Perhaps it may take each and every one of us to make a telephone call or write a letter to one of our elected officials; but if we make enough noise, something can and likely will be done to stop telephone companies from treating us with disdain.

A Poll For Americans Who Are Consumer-Savvy

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Jason B Truth


Jason B Truth (author) from United States of America on August 21, 2021:

Ladies and gentlemen? Let's face it. The telephone book frequently doesn't have the phone number listed in it that you are looking for. 1-(800)-FREE-411 is a joke, because it has no live operators to assist you and its automated system gives you the wrong telephone listing most of the time. At the end of the day, telephone companies should not have the right to charge for directory assistance. It was that way in the good old days, so it should be that way nowadays. What is happening to the United States of America? Read my article above and you will likely agree with me.

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