A Rallying Cry Against Scummy Carrier Voicemail Messages

Illustration for article titled A Rallying Cry Against Scummy Carrier Voicemail Messages

The New York Times' David Pogue is sick and damned tired of wireless carriers wasting our time and our minutes with their intentionally drawn out voicemail messages. And he wants your help to get them to change.


You know the messages: "At the tone, please record your message. When you have finished recording, you may hang up, or press 1 for more options. To leave a callback number, press 5. (Beep)" That's 15 seconds that you owe every time you leave a voicemail. And it's just as bad when you check your voicemail. And the entire thing is a scam.

These little 15-second waits add up–bigtime. If Verizon's 70 million customers leave or check messages twice a weekday, Verizon rakes in about $620 million a year. That's your money. And your time: three hours of your time a year, just sitting there listening to the same message over and over again every year.

In 2007, I spoke at an international cellular conference in Italy. The big buzzword was ARPU–Average Revenue Per User. The seminars all had titles like, "Maximizing ARPU In a Digital Age." And yes, several attendees (cell executives) admitted to me, point-blank, that the voicemail instructions exist primarily to make you use up airtime, thereby maximizing ARPU.

Well that's pretty shitty! So what to do? Harass the hell out of your carrier and get them to quit it. Pogue has links to places where you should yell at all four major carriers. Here they are:

Verizon: Post a complaint here.
AT&T: Send e-mail to Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations.
Sprint: Post a complaint here.
T-Mobile: Post a complaint here.

In the end, will it work? Maybe. But you can't win if you don't play, and these are your overpriced minutes we're talking about here. So I think you know what to do. [Pogue]


Stephen James Nesbit

One thing that a lot of people aren't realizing here, is that when you make ANY phone call at all, you are automatically billed for 1 minute. This may not be true for all carriers but it is for a number of them. So just checking your voice mail doesn't cost you 15 seconds.. it costs you 1 minute.

There are ways around it of course, devices like the iPhone have visual voicemail, where the messages are stored on your iPhone and you just click them to listen. But then of course you are paying either $20 or $30 *per month* for the data plan, and the visual voicemail is PART of that data plan. On the original iPhone you have the option to opt-out of the data plan, but you LOSE the visual voicemail.

So, 15 seconds? I'm more worried about the automagically billed 1 minute. If you call someone and it rings more than like twice or 3 times, it's appears as a 1 minute bill on your plan.

I know this to be true on AT&T, and it was that way on US Cellular when I was with them. Possibly T-Mobile as well.