Directory Assistance

contributed by SS

Here are some tips for calling directory assistance (1-411 or 555-1212). This list may be a little long, but it will help you in the long run, as will a little common sense! This information was current as of January 2003. However, keep in mind that it may change at any time.

  1. Have a pen and paper ready when calling directory assistance, as some numbers may not be directly connected. If the audio message giving the number does not give you the option to be connected, you will have to write it down and dial it yourself. Directory assistance operators do not have dialing capabilities.
  2. Directory assistance operators can search by name or phone number. They can't search by address alone.
  3. If you're searching by name for a residence, you must have at least the last name. If it's a common last name, you'll need more information. If it's a common first and last name, you'll need more information. So, if you're looking for Robert Williams in Phoenix, you'll need an address as well! (Sometimes a middle initial or wife's name will help.) Please have all of this information readily available, as the operators are on time restraints. If there are more than three listings possible for your request, the operator can't read you a list. You may need to call back, when you get further information.
  4. If you do not know the name of the business for which you're looking, the operator will need at least part of the name and a street address. You need to know the name of the company for the operator to help you.
  5. Speak clearly into the phone, without food in your mouth! Listen to the audio machine and say what you need. This is how the op knows what you want. If all works correctly and no questioning is needed, you'll get your number within ten seconds! Turn down the TV or radio. Tell the kids to be quiet. Put the dog away. Distractions waste time. This is good to remember when calling anyone, just common courtesy.
  6. If you're searching by phone number, you need the area code and the entire number. Cell phones and payphones are not listed. If you search by number and the operator tells you that the number is not listed, this doesn't mean that the number doesn't exist. It could mean that it is a non-published or unlisted number, a cell phone number, an internal business line (common with telemarketers), or a payphone.
  7. Directory assistance is for names, numbers and addresses only. Do not ask for general information. If you want to know show times, call the theater. If you want to know how to make French toast, call your Mom or Grandma or buy a recipe book! Seriously folks!
  8. If you are searching for a business and dial 1-411, you'll need to know the state in which the business is located or the operator can't help you unless you ask specifically for a toll free number. However, not all numbers are listed in the 800 directory.
  9. Everyone is not listed in the directory, nor are all businesses listed. Some choose not to be listed. Operators can't give you what they don't have.
  10. When the operator searches for a business, government or residential listing, the surrounding areas are also searched. If the phone line you're using does not allow long distance calls, you will only get the local Directory Assistance and will not be able to get the National Directory.
  11. Do not yell or swear at the operators. This is harassment. They have rules that they have to go by in order to stay employed and within the legal boundaries of their job. They can not suggest something for you. For instance, if you say, "I want any long distance company." They are not able to give you one. That's illegal; therefore, it is not possible for them to give it to you.
  12. A listing that is non-published is not available at all. No information is available. The operator doesn't even have the number! And they will not be able to confirm or deny the address or location. If a listing is unlisted, you may have the number, but no other information. The reason for this is that the customer you're requesting information for pays for these services. They do not want their information given out. If they want you to have it, you'll already have it. Saying falsely "I'm with the police" or "But, it's my Mom" will get you nowhere. No Exceptions!
  13. You are charged for each directory assistance call, so keep your kids away from the phone. And again, be prepared to give information and receive information. The operator is not able to "hold on a minute."
  14. If you need credit, ask nicely for it. If you use your cell phone, you'll have to call your cell company for credit. Directory operators can't issue credit to you.
  15. There are several locations throughout the country that answer your phone call to directory. So, the operator that you receive is most likely not physically in the area that you're calling about. (This is a misconception of many people.) So, they won't be able to give you directions.
  16. Remember that not all numbers are updated immediately. It could be updated in 24 hours or 24 days. It also depends on how fast the phone company of that person/business gets it in. Directory doesn't have dates on their information. If it's new, they may not have it yet. Things are updated constantly!
  17. The operator is not always available, so don't call directory assistance and ask them to dial the operator for you (or any other number). Most likely, if the phone line you're using does not allow long distance calls, you will not get an operator either.
  18. If the business name you're looking for is common, like Pizza Hut or McDonalds, you may need the location information for the operator. Usually the street name is sufficient. Again, if there are more than three listings with that name, you'll have to give the operator more information or take the first number and hope that business can help you.
  19. In some instances, it is helpful if you know what department you need for any given business or government agency. Otherwise, the main number will be given. If there is no indication of a main line, then they'll usually explain what they're giving.
  20. If you want a listing verbally, please say it during the audio questioning.
  21. When calling directory assistance, you are allowed two different listings per call. If the same listing has many numbers, you are allowed three of them per call.
  22. 99% of the time cell phones are not listed. 98% of the time fax machine numbers are not listed. Pay phones are not listed and not all departments are listed for every business.
  23. If you want a personal listing or business listing, let the operator know as well. Some business names sound like residence names and vice versa. If you want Dr. Jones' home number, you should say that. Asking for "Dr Jones" will get you a business listing, if one is available. Also remember not all "titles" are provided with a listing, such as Reverend Bob Barker. It may be listed only as Robert Barker.
  24. Directory assistance operators can not break through on a phone line. Or check a phone number or line. Again, it is because they have no dialing capabilities.

Always have as much information available as you can, in case further information in needed. The operators want to get you the right information in a timely manner.

There's one more thing that I've found out. If something called "intercept operator" comes on the line and asks you for the phone number that you're dialing or the name for which you're looking, give it to them. Most likely the number has changed or been disconnected. Usually you get a machine that tells you this. Recently, however, if the machine doesn't pick it up, you'll get a person called an "intercept operator." They can only help you with the number that you've dialed. If you did not dial a number and your phone rings and they pick up, there's something wrong with your phone line or they're just on the line when you pick up your phone. You'll have to call your phone company using a different phone line to see what's wrong.

Insider Reports is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have information that can help others save time or money, please send it to with "Insider Reports" as the subject.

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