When I was a boy (and old shep was a pup) everyone in the UK got given a free set of telephone directories. If the number you wanted wasn’t there, or opening and using a book was too much for you, then you could pick up the phone, dial a short, memorable, number (192) and ask them to look it up for you. This service was called “directory enquiries” (DQ for short) and was free.
“Ridiculous!” I hear you cry. “How can the customers benefit from the increased efficiency, competition driven low prices and customer choice afforded by the free market if it’s a free service?”
Well that’s a good point – if there’s only one number and it’s free to use then how can there be any improvement ?
So, the government came up with a simple but brilliant solution that has led to so much room for improvement it’s difficult to see anything else.
Nowadays, instead of an undemocratic single three digit number the consumer has a choice of dozens of six digit numbers, all of which cost a fucking fortune and most of which are subcontracted to overseas (Indian/Pakistani) call centres. The free market does it again.
However, one enterprising company (118118) have introduced a revolutionary new service – “FREE directory enquiries“. What a revolutionary idea! There are three catches:
- You have to listen to adverts.
- It uses voice recognition, which as I am always banging on about, does not work.
- It doesn’t work.
Another free market triumph.
Here’s the BBC’s version.