Imagine being able to pick up the phone, dial a number and listen to a prerecorded message containing pertinent facts on a particular business in your community.

Washington-area residents will soon be able to do so, with something called the V.I.P. Consumer Information Service. Its creator, Eli Argon, president of Prime Media Inc. of Bethesda, refers to it as "dial-a-store."

The service is designed to provide information on local compaines without inconveniencing store personnel.

This is the way it will work: The business gives Prime Media all the information it wants included in the listing, such as hours and days of business, location, prices and selection of merchandise. Then a two-minute "audio report" is produced.

Callers tell an operator which business they are interested in and the appropriate tape is played over the telephone. Reports can be changed or updated to include prices changes or sale information.

The service will go into a limited market test in mid-November, primarily in Montgomery and Fairfax Counties, Argon said.

Consumers will call a number that will be advertised in newspapers and magazines and on television and radio. In addition, a list of VIP clients will be compiled into a booklet and distributed to 200,000 households in Montgomery and Fairfax Counties shortly before Thanksgiving.

During the holiday season, Prime Media will tell participating stores how many people called and what they thought of their audio report.

The cost of the service to the stores varies, depending on which jurisdictions firms are interested in and which of the several different plans they select. Stores will receive discounts for advertising in more than one zone, Argon said.