The answer, of course, is “it depends”.

We were out shopping at lunch today, getting a chainsaw.  What, doesn’t everybody buy a chainsaw over lunch??

Anyway, we had gotten the chainsaw and had to get some bar and chain oil.  The dealer recommended that, instead of buying the company-brand oil, we get the generic stuff at Tractor Supply Company.

Technology problem.  We don’t know where TSC is, and didn’t bring the Yellow Pages or GPS.  Bettie tries calling 411, but the locations they have are towns we’ve never heard of.  We try our old stand-by, 800-FREE-411, but Bettie can’t get it to recognize the company name.  I try them, but by this time, they have dropped back to using Yellow Pages categories.  I try “tractor”, but it switches us to General Contractors.  No, thanks.

I remember Google’s entry, 800-GOOG-411 (those are the letter O, not zeroes).  It recognizes the company name and gives us choices for which one to go to.  It offers to connect the call for us.  We decline, but use the information Google provided (street number and phone number).  We get the oil at a BIG savings and head home.

We got the information we wanted without having to listen to a commercial giving us $200 off a car that we’re not buying.  Again.

Two caveats: Google’s entry is only for businesses, not residences.  800-FREE-411 does residences if you need that service.

The other caution could be bigger.

At the start of the call Google says that this call will be recorded.  Fine by me – they’re going to roll out more services in the future and want to analyze who wants what where, and how.  So now Google has my phone number associated with Tractor Supply.  Still not a problem.  But I didn’t connect to TSC through Google because even though they’re picking up the phone bill (except for air time), I don’t want the whole transaction to be recorded.  I don’t want them knowing what I want on my pizza, and I don’t want them knowing that I bought a chainsaw over lunch (can you imagine the sort of advertising that would pull?).  So for my own privacy sake, I limited the amount of information that Google got.