I hate ordering at drive-thrus; whenever possible, I force whoever’s in my passenger seat to lean over and yell our order across me. It’s strange, the amount of embarrassment speaking to another person can cause, but it does. But thanks to apps like TalkTo, actually talking to anyone — friend or business — can finally be the thing of the past we all wish it was.
TalkTo is a free app for texting all your business inquiries. With TalkTo, you can make dinner reservations, order takeout or inquire about a store’s products without ever having to talk to anyone. After entering the business’ name and your inquiry, an operator at TalkTo’s headquarters will personally call the store and mediate any discussion between the user and the business.
I would call myself a generally “awkward” person, but I think even the most charming of extroverts would admit that calling in an order is always a little uncomfortable. Without the subtle nuances of face-to-face conversation, during calls we talk over, interrupt and misunderstand one another.
I first heard about TalkTo on a forum about makeup. Girls were complaining on the forum about how difficult it was to track down a certain palette, and one user suggested using TalkTo to contact drugstores in the area. All the girls gushed about how great the app was, and about how impossible it would have been to actually call the drugstores. It’s sad, but they had a point.
What TalkTo allows us to do is lay out our exact request in text form, free from any possible misunderstanding. If you want to know exactly how many bananas a grocery store has in stock, you can essentially text the store and someone will answer, and no one will even speak to you with an annoyed or confused tone.
Beyond just saving us all from a little awkwardness, TalkTo can also save us from some amount of embarrassment — real embarrassment. Sometimes, you just want to know some embarrassing stuff about a store: How much do their laxatives cost? Do they carry extra-strength deodorant?
Upon discovering TalkTo, I tried to think of something to use it for. I’m too poor for dinner reservations, although I guess I could text the Sheetz up the road and ask it to save me one of its outside tables. I settled on asking Best Buy how much its cheapest Xbox 360 headset would cost, and it answered within minutes “The cheapest we have will be $19.99. Have a great day!”
After realizing that TalkTo is completely anonymous, though, I decided to ask Rite Aid if it carries any flavored personal lubricants. Expecting it to assume that I was a 13-year-old with an underdeveloped sense of humor, I was surprised by its completely congenial response of “Yes, we have different flavors available. Feel free to come in and take a look. Have a great day!”
In theory, you could set up a doctor’s appointment with TalkTo and never have to verbally discuss your private and sensitive medical issues with someone over the phone — that is, if you’re comfortable discussing your sensitive medical issues over text. In reality, though, this is just an app for the texting-and-instant-messaging-addicted masses to escape interpersonal interaction in yet another way.
Maybe it’s sad that we’ve gotten to the point where we can’t even call the grocery story down the street, but we’re at this point whether we like it or not. We might as well enjoy it with an app as simple and useful as TalkTo.
Mary Kate White is a senior media arts and design major. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.