Sep 30, 2008

Business Plan

I am definitely not the "how can I make money off of this?" kind of person, so don't get me wrong here. This idea has come out of a sincere desire for a service that I and those like me would utilize daily. If I make tons of money off it, so be it. But this is for the people. And my yacht.

Here it is: A toll-free Wikipedia/any other resource website-on-demand hotline. Have you ever been in the car without internet access and thought to yourself "How old was Marie Antoinette when she died?" Did you resolve to look it up when you get home, but forget until it randomly crosses your mind in the grocery store (where you are also without internet access) a week later? Did the Unknown Factoid build into a major stress in your life that you can never quite pinpoint, reach the point where you bring a gun to work, shoot the place up, and end up on death row?

Our hotline can help. With [company name to be determined], you will never have to wonder about anything that can be found on the internet again! Here's how it works: you call in, listen to a brief advertisement and then a customer service representative with internet access will look up whatever you need to know. Want to know how many seasons Smallville has been on the air? No problem! Want to know what the average bra size for an American woman is? We've got it for you! Want to know what the ideal growing conditions for Easter Lilies is? We're here for you!

When I told Trevor about this great idea of mine, his response was something like, "You would be their number one customer. People aren't obsessed with every random thing they can think of like you are." Now, as a reader of my blog, I am assuming you are a dear friend of mine and therefore probably a bit of a trivia whore yourself, as these are the kind of people I gravitate toward. However, it's not just you and I that can find a use for this. Regardless of who you are, everyone has those moments walking out of the theater wondering, "What other film have I seen that guy in?", for just one example. No matter what a person's interests are, everyone uses the internet, so everyone would have a purpose for a hotline like this. It could be "Who won the Phillies/Brewers game this evening?" for the guy coming out of the business meeting, "What's the difference between chuck steak and flat iron steak?" for the housewife in the grocery store, "What are the requirements to get on Survivor?" for the I'm-going-to-be-famous-one-day 20 year-olds hanging out in the park, "Which UC schools have the highest and lowest tuitions?" for the worried high school student, "What was the name of that one lady who shot Andy Warhol and why did she do it?" for the crew at the coffee shop, or "Which film got better reviews: Sixteen Candles or Can't Buy Me Love?" for the indecisive couple in at Hollywood Video (on her night to pick, obviously).

Probably there would have to be some sort of stipulation on what kind of questions could be asked. I can see this being abused in a lot of ways (people who want to be read directions to a place they're traveling, want answers to something that would require an essay to answer, want an answer to something with an objective answer, etc.). The best way I can think of to address this would be to set a time limit. Tell the customer we'll give them as much information as we can find on whatever they want, but when time is up, that's it. If the customer calls in with "Tell me everything there is to know about Bangladesh", the customer service rep will give him or her a two minute rundown (perhaps after a pertinent question to help narrow it down a bit "Are you looking for history? Or perhaps you're wondering about tourist attractions? Contemporary culture?") and that'll have to be enough. If it's something that proves difficult to research ("What happens if a presidential candidate dies?") or to explain ("How does a sewing machine work?") the rep will give it the two minutes and if they can't find an answer, apologize and move on.

The company would be centered in a college town and offer very flexible scheduling and slightly-above-average hourly wages. This would hopefully attract intelligent, internet-savvy, college-aged employees. Turnover is high in all call center environments, but the job would be more interesting than the average marketing or customer service call center job, since you're learning things along with your customer, so I think it would be manageable. Especially since there isn't much training required.

The hotline would become archaic eventually, as more and more people are gaining mobile internet access, but there are definitely several years of potential in this.

I don't see how this could fail to make me filthy rich. Investors, please?


James said...

Perhaps your first inquiry would be "is there a service that allows people to call in for answers?" (second paragraph in products), there's another one that's specifically geared to it..but i can't remember the phone number off the top of my head. Ah, here we go:

Anonymous said...

It already exists, it's called chacha and the number is something like 242242. You can look online at That number is for texting, actually, I think there is a 1800 number too. Haha I sound like I am in a commercial, but I discovered this right before I left (unfortunately it only works in the US) and I was IN LOVE. It is exactly like you describe, and real people answer your questions so sometimes they give you additional information or editorial comments. You can ask anything. We once asked it how to pick up science chicks, and they offered helpful tips. IT IS PRETTY MUCH THE BEST THING EVER.


Anonymous said...

They pretty much came to the same conclusions as you: instead of a time limit, there is a character limit for texts (both questions and answers). Guides are located all over America and are set up so texts can be directed to people with specific expertise (obviously they use search engines too but I think this makes it faster). There are obviously words/phrases you can't use and will get you banned, that's pretty self evident. I don't know if they will give you directions but there are shortcuts for things like local weather, stocks, etc.

I should also mention it is extremely addictive.


Rachael said...

That is seriously the best idea ever. Period. The end.

nikki said...

First, I have to say yours is one of my favorite blogs to read. Second, I miss your freakin' guts.
Third, if you ever start this business despite the existence of chacha, please let me know because that would be an awesome job.
Fourth, what DOES happen if a presidential candidate dies?

Trev said...

I can't believe you made me sound so unsupportive. You totally left out all the praise I gave your genius idea. Also, you really would be the biggest customer.