Buy-Phone, the computerized Yellow Pages

By Greg Raven
Volume vol. 6 no. 10 (October 1988), page 20

One thing about having 1,500 members in the users group and only one BBS, it sure can be difficult to log on. If you live on the west side (Santa Monica, Venice, Westwood, etc.), there is something else you can do with your modem: call Buy-Phone. Buy-Phone is a BBS of sorts, but instead of leaving messages and downloading software, you inquire about shops, restaurants, and movies, and get the latest up-to-date information electronically.

Of course, you can call Buy-Phone from anywhere, but most of the listings are for the west side. Still, the concept is so slick that it is worth calling just to see how it works.

After setting your communications parameters to 1200-8-N-1, have your modem dial 474-0270. The first time you connect, Buy-Phone will ask you some questions about where you are located. This allows it to arrange listings so that the closest stores are at the top of the list.

When Buy-Phone asks you for your search request, type in virtually anything. Buy-Phone will either find it for you, or try to offer a suggestion about where you might look instead. You might type in tires, for example, or pizza, and Buy-Phone will show you a list of the vendors of those items, along with details such as store hours, cost range (for restaurants), and any short advertisements the store has posted.

So far so good. Where Buy-Phone really shines, however, is in dining and entertainment. If you are hungry, you can search either for the type of food (such as pizza), or the nationality (such as Italian). In addition to telling you where your local restaurants are and how much you can expect to spend on a meal, Buy-Phone will also restrict the search to places that will be open 45 minutes from the time of your call. Late at night, this feature is a big plus.

The biggest kick is calling Buy-Phone to find out what movies are playing where. I have been calling Buy-Phone a couple times a week for years and years, and I don’t ever remember getting a busy signal. That is quite a contrast to the normal movie theater recording.

In addition to telling you about the currently playing movies (either by title or by theater), Buy-Phone has movie ratings that you can participate in. You can see how other callers rated each movie (on a scale of one to ten), and register your own vote, if you wish.

Even without the ratings, Buy-Phone is so much more convenient than a telephone directory, newspaper, or endless calls to shops, restaurants, and movie theaters, that it is easy to get hooked. The only draw-back I have found is that not all establishments are included, and sometimes one of your favorite spots will not be listed.

The concept is still young, however, and as the number of callers increases, it will become easier for advertisers to see the value of reaching the computer-literate shopper.

In the meantime, Buy-Phone is a wonderful resource that’s fun to use. And, it is always there waiting when the LAMG BBS is busy.