Get free 411 directory assistance that really works (a review)

By Will Chen on 26 December 2006 (Updated 2 January 2007) 27 comments

Free 411 logoYour phone company is charging you anywhere from 50 cents to $2 for a 411 call. Now you can get the exact same service completely free by using 1-800-FREE-411 (1-800-3733-411).

It works just like a regular 411 call. The only catch is that you have to listen to a 15-second ad, which isn't too bad considering the ads are often contextual (e.g. if you asked for Dominoes Pizza listing, you might get a Pizza Hut ad before you get the number you wanted).

One of our writers gave it try tonight. Listen to the result:

 

(If you can't use the audio player above, here's the link to the recording.)

The voice recognition technology is excellent, but live operator assistance is also available when the computer is not up to the task.

This free 411 service has been around since last year, but it never really took off the way I thought it would. Americans make 6 billion 411 calls a year and only three percent of them are using the Free411 service. My guess is most people thought this was a cool idea when they first heard about it but never bothered to try the service.

Some people may have been deterred by certain misunderstandings regarding the service. Let's clear some of those up:

  • There are hidden charges right? No. The service has been around for at least a year and has stayed completely free.
  • It is free so it must be always busy or buggy! This used to be true when the service first came out, but this company has since received a $30 million cash infusion from investors and has successfully handled over 100 million calls. It is currently handling 600,000 calls a day. I've been using this service for over a month and have never experienced any problems.
  • Will this attract telemarketers? This is not a concern. Free411 does not share your phone numbers with any telemarketers. Besides, if you haven't done so already, you should register your phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • I need to sign up or something right? No. This service does not require the use of a website. You use this service exactly the same way you use 411.
  • I hear you have to listen to offensive ads. I think you might be referring to the Girls Gone Wild ads. Yes, that is a scandalous company but the actual ad is not that bad. It's just a girl telling you how to order their videos. No gruesome details involved.
  • Isn't AT&T also offering the same service for free? Yes, but only in limited areas for now. AT&T will be offering a similar ad-supported service through 1-800-YellowPages (1 800 935-5697) in Bakersfield, Calif.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Columbus, Ohio.
  • Is it true that you can bypass the computer by saying "help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope!" Yes, this is 100% true. You do have to say it twice, though. But you don't have to be as whiny as Carrie Fisher.

And if you need more reasons to switch, check out this CNBC review (video link) or just take a look at how much you are being gouged charged when you use the standard 411 service:

Wireless Carriers

Charges Long Distance Providers
Charges
Verizon Wireless $1.49 Verizon $3.49
Virgin Mobile $1.75 VarTec $1.99
Sprint Nextel $1.40 Sprint $2.49
U.S. Cellular $1.49 AT&T $2.49
T-Mobile $1.49 MCI $1.99
Cingular $1.79  
AT&T $1.75  
Alltel $1.50

P.S. A special thanks to Jason Mandell for updating me with the latest info and corrections.

 

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Guest's picture
Guest

I prefer http;//WWW.411SMS.COM

Guest's picture
Andrea D.

Since I only have a cell phone, I tend to use Google text messaging to get listing info that I need. It's free, and you get good info 90% of the time. You get not only the phone number, but also the address, so it can save you time if you're having trouble finding a place. Also, it will save you from having to say "I need the listing for Herbie's All-Natural Herpes Help Clinic. Yes, herpes. H-E-R-P-E-S" within earshot of anyone else. To text message Google, start up a text message on your cell phone, and instead of a phone number, enter 46645 (googl). Then enter your query (Rainbow Falafel, 10003) and press Send. Sometimes, if you happen to know the zip code, it can be faster and more accurate then entering the city and state.

Will Chen's picture

Good tip Andrea! It's never too early for a herpes joke methinks.

Will Chen's picture

For the last two days, no matter what listing I ask for, Lavalife is the ad. I think the ad service is not just contextual, but actually psychic. It senses that I need a date!

Guest's picture
Guest

Google itself has a free 411 call service.  It is handy because you can have them text you the number and address mid-call, and then they connect you so you don't have to memorize the number. They also give you more than one possible response, so you can pick the one which is correct.   It used to be 1-877-411-GOOG, which if used will forward you to the actual number:  1-877-520-FIND.  I used to use 411 Free all the time, but Google has better speech recognition, no ads, and the texting feature.

Guest's picture
henries

Everything in the original post is still good and true, but 1-800-Free411 just added a new component to their service: category search. If you don't have a specific store or business in mind when you call, you can choose to voice-search by keyword. For example, saying "music" at the prompt will give you some options for record stores in your local area. A very useful update to the service.

Guest's picture
James & Linda Foster

Dear sir,
This has to be one of the best idea out yet,Because their is something to come out in Phone company's to raise the price's all the time.But this is really good for a change.

Guest's picture
Guest

Okay I have been using frre 411 for almost a year now and they just changed it! It really stinks now. you do not get to talk to an operator anymore!

Guest's picture
Guest

Forget waiting 3 minutes or more to get your number from a
computer that makes you listen to several commercials....that
sucks. I use 1-800-INFOFAST, the operators are LIVE and actually
based out of Idaho (or ohio)....NOT INDIA!!!! There is one 10
second commercial, but that was it....I got my info very quickly.
They also give Yellow page information over the phone if you don't
know exactly who you're looking for....very cool.

Guest's picture
Ranger02

I tried Free411 and there is no operator available. It puts you round and round in a circle then disconnects you. SUCKS.

I recently found 1800The Info and have found all my numbers when traveling, which is about the only time I use it. And I can get SMS numbers sent to my phone, and get connected to the number I needed, and have an operator when they could not find my number.

Forget Free 411, go where you can get the number when you go to the trouble of calling. My time is valuable.....

Guest's picture
Matt

I also used to use free411 but they hit you pretty hard with long ads ad don't offer operators anymore. I like Goog411 for the purity - no ads, but in the end I tried 800-the-info. They have operators and allow you to find a business based on your location. I use it to find restaurants when I'm traveling but I think you can use that for other businesses.

Guest's picture
kevin

I recommend you use this number for free directory assistance. You can ask for residenntial, government and business listings. They have live operators to assist 24/7.

Guest's picture
phillip jackson

hey guys.... if you are really after free 411 that does business as well as residential numbers.. try this... dial 1-800-411 7283....it works!!!! fast and friendly operators..go ahead!!! you have nothing to lose... :-)

Guest's picture
beth8024

there are lots of directory assistance now a days...but admit it we all think that they are just the same...they charged almost $2 per call, they give wrong number and wrong informations. but we discovered this 800-411SAVE and put some smile on our face. not only we got our requested information correctly...we've actually talked to a real, nice and accomodating person. but the best part here is that...ITS FOR FREE!!!! yes take it from me its free!!! try it so youll know it...and you can just thank me later. LOVE IT!!!!

Guest's picture
courtney3864

Save a lot of time, money and effort. I will never ever use other directory assistance again. Yup!, 411SAVE is much better than other DA svc today. Just try it!!! Its awesome!!!! Love it.

Guest's picture
phil2009

Just dialed the 800-411-SAVE number twice - WOW - awesome response time - great voices - very polite and courteous – LOVED IT!

Guest's picture
deanna_shea

I’ve experienced several directory assistance services and I just discovered 1-800-411-save. I’ve splurge so much money on getting phone numbers but there are times that I get wrong numbers. Ive just dialled 1-800-411 save a couple of minutes ago and I got a human being on the other end of the line. She got my request very fast and gave me a correct phone number. That is simply amazing, without any charge I will definitely use it again

Guest's picture
Guest

As Greg Sterling wrote at http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2008/05/08/free-411-rolls-out-dial-direc...

"This kind of post is ineffective because it’s so clearly written by someone associated with the company. That should be disclosed and then the company and/or what it offers can be discussed in a direct way. Posing as a user or third party just looks silly here."

Guest's picture
ashley

try using 800-411-save. It saves time and money plus you get to talk to a live operator.

Guest's picture
deanna shea

There’s a bunch of directory assistance providers, I’ved tried almost everything and I’m losing patience on which one to use. As I read your posts, I tried dialling 1-800-the-info and 1-800-411-save, goog411, 1800free 411 and the others mentioned by pinetrees and I guess I’ll stick with 1800411save. Yes ,the others would have human being as well, but how I was accomodated gave me the decision. The agent was so nice, reading out the phone number to me as I requested and she even offered me a connection. I just listened to a very short advertisement, and in a very short while I found myself connected to the pet store that I was looking for. At first I didnt believe that there wasnt any charge, but thats a fact! So now, I know what company should I trust! Thanks for the information everyone!

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes there are a bunch of free directory assistance services out there, but 1-800-FREE411 also provides voice activated directions that can be sent via text to your mobile phone. It is really handy especially if you are mobile, which lets face it most of us are- most of the time :)

Guest's picture
tyler

sounds just what i need goog411suks dont use it really suks use 411save im tstin it thnks so mch i expect big thngs frm thm

Guest's picture
tyler

sounds just what i need goog411suks dont use it really suks use 411save im tstin it thnks so mch i expect big thngs frm thm

Guest's picture
Guest

free 411 directory assistance:
from anchorage AK many of these free 411 services dont work!
goog 411 doesn't work !
411 free doesn't work !
free 411 doesn't work !
800 infofast -lots of rings, so not info fast!
800 yellowp(att) - human answers but you have to wallow w/ their automatic voice recognition system for awhile !

I'd like to get "free" 411 service but maybe its better to pay for "nonfree" 411 service...

Guest's picture
Jason

I bet the people who invested 30 Mil sharted their pants when 800Goog411 came out...they've been reduced to spamming on comments...or hiring someone to do so for them...funny

Guest's picture
Guest

"sharted their pants", just thought that needed to be reposted ... cuz its funny. Would like to thank the author of this, Im sure he know's that times have changed. But its been a few years since this was started. Only real complaint I have dood, is that I tried the help me obiwan thing 3 times ... and its not working. ;)

Also * public service announcement *, would be really cautious about dialing any of these "free" 411 numbers ... people are spamming here. Might get re-directed and a month later get a lovely $4,000.00 phone bill, for calls to some company in india.

Thanks peace folks, hope you're all having a good one. And that the OP finally got a date ... try plentyoffish author. Google it, its a free dating site and buyer beware. Ive mainly only met crazy women online. crazy women need lovin too though. ;)

Guest's picture
Guest

1800 FREE411 DOES NOT WORK IN CANADA, WHEN YOU CALL IT IT SAYS THE NUMBER IS NOT IN SEVICE. WTF ???