In August, Google announced the creation of Google Helpouts, a live chat service that lets semi-vetted, self-declared experts in any number of fields make themselves available for help, guidance, and tutorials for a price. The service is finally live, and in some categories, there are plenty of people willing to give their advice away for free, along with a number of retailers hoping you’ll come to them for help.
For example, in the Art & Music category, there are at least 35 people offering to teach you how to play drums (or piano, or guitar), learn origami, take photos, or help with your audition without charging a fee.
You’ll find around the same number of helpful folks offering gratis advice in the Home & Garden section, though here there are “helpers” who are backed by corporate sponsors like Home Depot, Sears, and a few smaller businesses looking at Helpouts as a marketing and customer-engagement tool.
An even bigger example of corporate toe-dipping can be found in the Fashion & Beauty category, where there are currently around 20 free Helpouts. Thing is, half of those are from makeup retail giant Sephora.
We have mixed feelings about already seeing a number of retail heavy-hitters already involved in this service. On the one hand, there are people at these companies who are indeed experts in their respective fields who could have very helpful bits of advice to share. On the other, all of these businesses exist to move products or sell services, so while the advice may be free, one has to wonder if it’s unbiased. Will a Sears or Home Depot rep admit that an affordable tool is just as good as a brand-name version that costs twice as much?
If anyone decides to give Helpouts a shot and wants to share their feedback, you can always write us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.