Thursday, May 15, 2008

Robo-Call Amber Alert for Black Cat in Brighton

Not being a current pet owner, the problem of a lost dog or cat isn't something that's on my radar. Sure, I see the occasional flyer for a lost pet posted on a utility pole -- an illegal posting of bills which is a $300 fine in Boston (ORD 16-23.1), I might add -- but, when I don't recognize the lost pet, the flyer just goes "out-of-sight, out-of-mind."

In the olden days, people would also go door-to-door asking their neighbors if they've seen Fluffy anywhere lately; sadly, these days too few city folk know their neighbors. Alternatively, someone would find the lost dog and call your phone number listed on its dog tag.

A few days ago, I saw this flyer [right] along my block. Nothing unusual, didn't recognize the cat, didn't think much of it.

Yesterday, however, I got a robo-call -- from -- asking if I had seen the same pet. We're not in Kansas anymore, just Brighton.

It should have come as no surprise to me that in the internet age a company would be formed to help reunite people and their lost pets. Not just a website where you can post electronically the same flyer you used to post on the utility pole, but a system that helps you fan out in the neighborhood to ask people if they've seen your lost pet. Maybe I've been in a pet-free cave the last few years, but I had not previously heard of the "findtoto" service.

This company will send out a series of robo-calls to phone numbers in your areas to ask people if they've seen your lost pet, and provide a contact number in case you have. They also list your pet, along with photo, from their online database. (Their database display methodology is currently rather poor, because it lists all lost pets in your state. If their business expanded greatly, you would want to be able to search by town or zipcode.)

Here's Brighton's lost cat:
Scott, 2008-05-03, 877-738-8686, Brighton, domestic short hair, Bunny
Doesn't quite look like a bunny, but I digress. The poor thing has heart problems and needs daily medication. The findtoto database listing provides what I presume to be the company's phone number, not the owner's home phone number (which is provided in the robo-call and on the physically posted flyer), which is 617-254-5957 in this case; the cat disappeared from Larch Street in Brighton, which is next to The Cenacle and a few blocks away from here.

How much does this service cost? A lot! Prices range from $65 for 250 robo-calls (suitable for a low-density rural location) to $425 for 5000 robo-calls in a dense, urban environment.

Note that the organization's website claims that they are exempt from the National Do Not Call Registry, which would explain why their call went through to my house despite having registered my phone number with the list.


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Shaun said...

Interesting. I seriously doubt, however, that this org is exempt from the Federal Do Not Call Registry.

Fishy stuff.

Shaun Dakin
CEO and Founder