“TalkTo” Businesses When You Travel

February 21, 2014

in App Reviews

  • SumoMe

TalkToThe “TalkTo” mobile app (free for Apple iOS devices and for Android mobile devices) is designed to allow you to quickly get answers from nearby businesses without phoning them.

“TalkTo” seemed like an ideal app to use when traveling to an place that I wasn’t familiar with, but before going on a long “road trip” with it, I decided to give it a quick “test drive” near my home.

Here’s what I discovered that the app could and couldn’t do.

How TalkTo “Talks” to Businesses

“TalkTo” sends a text message from your mobile device to a business. Or at least, that seems to be how it works.

Talk Biz

If a business hasn’t signed up with TalkTo, the app’s developer will have an “operator” call the business.

Who Can “TalkTo” Talk To?

The “TalkTo” Website (which you can also use to ask questions of businesses) says that the service will let you pose questions to “any local business in the USA and Canada.”

image

But it “does not currently route messages to government organizations, schools, libraries, and certain other non-commercial businesses.”

What Can You Ask?

While, at least in theory, you can use “TalkTo” to ask a business any question, the app’s developer says it’s particularly well suited to:

  1. Finding out if a store has what you’re looking for
  2. Comparing prices
  3. Checking the price and availability of a service, such as dog grooming or an oil change
  4. Finding tables at your favorite restaurant
  5. Booking appointments for a haircut, spa treatment, or classes

“Wait Time” for Answers

The app’s developer says that you should receive the reply to your question within an average of 5-10 minutes, if the business is open.

And those time frames were met in my testing.

How Many Questions Can You Ask?

The sky is not the limit with TalkTo. You can pose no more than 10 questions a day or 50 per month.

What Information Am I Sharing?

Privacy of personal information is important, at least to some mobile device users.

Here’s what TalkTo says on this point:

If you ask a question to a business that is already registered with TalkTo, they can see your full message and can respond to you directly, in the same way a friend could respond to a text from you. Registered businesses can also see your name, picture and city from where you sent the message. Non-registered businesses will hear the content of your messages, but won’t see your name, picture or city unless they register to do so.

“TalkTo Agents are able to contact businesses on your behalf to get the answers you need. They can see your questions, name, picture and city from where you sent the message, too. Agents will share your phone number with a business if you’ve given it to us for Reservations and Appointments. For more information about your privacy, please see our Privacy Policy.”

The “TalkTo Feed” (under “Discover” in the app) is a list of questions you and other TalkTo users have asked.

Talk Feed

According to the app’s developer,

“Not all questions are included in the feed. The types of questions generally included will relate to shopping, such as pricing and availability of products and services. Questions about reservations and appointments are not included. TalkTo does not share your name or picture in the feed. “

Certain information should not be shared. The developer says

“do not use TalkTo to share your bank or credit card details, social security numbers, medical information or other personal data. If a business requests this information from you, please call them directly. You can make those calls from within the TalkTo app itself.”

Must I Sign Up for “TalkTo”?

You can take the “TalkTo” mobile app (or Website) for a “spin” without signing up. But that “spin” appears to be limited to a single search or variation on one search.

And if you are going to use “TalkTo” to make reservations or appointments, you need to click on “Settings” and enter your phone number.

My “Test Drive”

Drug Me!

If I was running low on a prescription medication while traveling, I’d want to locate a nearby pharmacy and find out how long it would take to get the prescription refilled.

To see if “TalkTo” could help me with that task, I opened the app, typed in the name of a chain drugstore I knew was within a mile of my location, and asked “You soon can you fill a prescription?” About six minutes later, I got this response “via talkto agent”:

“Hi, it usually depends on the wait time. Wait time right now is 15 minutes. Please feel free to visit us. Thank you.”

Unlike Google Maps, the “TalkTo” app doesn’t display everything around you. You have to enter either the name of a specific business, or its type.

When I entered the specific name of the pharmacy, it popped up on a map. If I typed in “Pharmacy,” it showed up. “Drugstore” worked, too.

But there appears to be no method of limiting the distance from your current location when you are searching for a business. And for some reason, the top listings when I entered “Pharmacy” were 20-odd miles away, rather than just down the street. In fact, the nearest location for the chain pharmacy I had in mind wasn’t even listed, even though its stores miles away were.

Feed Me!

Man does not live by drugs alone, so I used the “TalkTo” app to ask if a specified restaurant took reservations.

The app displayed “Make reservation” when I selected the restaurant, but before I asked my question. If I tapped on “Make reservation,” the app would draft an inquiry like

“Can I get a table for 2 at 7 PM on Thu, Feb 20? Thanks.”

Changing the date, time and number in the party would have been easy.

If instead I sent a text that said “Do you take reservations?”  I got a replay that asked for me the date/time, number in my party, and a name and phone number.

Then I received another reply with information about opening hours.

Talk Rest

As with my “Pharmacy” search, if I simply searched for “Restaurants” at my location, I got a list of eateries miles and miles away, but not the one that I had specified in my initial search.

Amuse Me!

Next I used the “TalkTo” app to find nearby museums. Unlike the pharmacy and restaurant searches, this one displayed several museums near my home.

But “TalkTo” also listed businesses that weren’t museums, such as a landscape lighting company.

The app said “Open now” for places that were open, although the actual opening hours weren’t given. When I asked about the hours for two museums, “TalkTo” responded with the published hours, which I assume a “TalkTo operator” had found via a Web search.

Other Stuff

“Hardware store” displayed one chain and one locally owned store, but not Home Depot nor another local store just a mile from me.

A search for “Gas Stations” was hit and miss.

Advanced Trip Planning

What if I wanted to pose a question to a business located near a hotel that I was planning on staying at next week? So I tried typing in the exact address for a hotel in Denver that I’d stayed at last fall, just to see if such a search would work.

As with searches I did for business near my home, this type of search produced lists of business far from the hotel in question.

Call or Text Options

Some questions are either too complex (after about 3 words you can’t even see what you are typing in the texting screen) or would require some back and forth dialogue with the business, so the “TalkTo” app gives you the option of either sending a text message or making a phone call to the business.

“Sharing”

The “TalkTo” app  lets you share your questions via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook.

When I did so via e-mail, it wasn’t clear that the message was sent so I went into my iPad’s e-mail program, found it in my “Drafts” folder, and sent it from there.

The question and answer were shared on Facebook as “photo” added to one of my Facebook photo albums.

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The draft “tweet” of my question and answer was 173 characters, too long to post to Twitter without editing. After cutting it down to 140 characters, this is what my tweet looked like.

image

Is it “Free”?

While the “TalkTo” app is free to download, it’s not clear whether your mobile phone carrier will charge you for sending and receiving text messages with the app if, like me, you don’t have an unlimited text messaging plan.

But even if there is charge for messaging, the 10 questions/day and 50/month limit will prevent you from “breaking the bank.”

Want faster responses to your “TalkTo” questions? Pay $2.99/month and your queries “are given priority and answered more quickly.”

Is “TalkTo” Worth It?

“TalkTo” is free, so why not use it?

The app and Website strike me as another example of a technological tool that tries to be a “solution” for a “problem” that doesn’t exist.

Yelp, Google Maps, Google search, and phoning a business can probably provide exactly the information you need faster and easier than you’ll get it via “TalkTo.

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