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Fonolo lets you skip phone menu purgatory

Ever been stuck listening to a computer's voice telling you which buttons to press? Avoid that robotic hell with Fonolo.

Getting stuck listening to automated phone menus can be downright dreadful. Some systems require half a dozen or more menus to get you to an actual human being. A service called Fonolo is trying to make this experience a lot easier by listing the entire phone tree on one page and giving you little call buttons to skip right to that part of the menu. The best part is that it actually calls you when it's time to talk to someone and you don't even have to do any dialing!

Fonolo is officially launching to the public in early September, but I got a sneak peek Monday. There are just 50 company numbers in the listing, but there should be several hundred by launch. One of the best uses for this technology is for calling department stores and banks--both of which can have five or more sub-menus that you must suffer though to reach a human. Digging around in Circuit City's listing I was able to find the department I wanted to call in just a few seconds, whereas it probably would have taken me about five minutes if I had called in.

As part of the sign-up process, you give Fonolo various numbers it can call--be it your office, home, or mobile line. Next to each option there's a call button that will let you pick which number you want the call sent to. You can track how long the call is and actually hang up from your browser; Fonolo is simply the routing the call.

Eventually the service plans to let you record these calls (potentially for sending to the Better Business Bureau or other such organizations), although the feature is currently disabled. You can sign up to use Fonolo before its September launch on this page.

Fonolo shows you how to skip some of the annoying automated phone menus you run into when calling many large businesses (click to see entire tree). CNET Networks