back to article US carriers are taking the beep

New York Times columnist David Pogue's ongoing campaign to reduce the length of voicemail messages is bearing fruit, as an update from the man explains the operators are starting to listen. Pogue launched his campaign, titled "Take Back The Beep" two weeks ago, complaining that the lengthy messages that operators play when one …


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  1. EddieD

    Not just the US

    When I first joined 02 there was a voice message that played to folk along the lines of "Welcome to the 02 voicemail of 077xxxxxxxx, shortly you will be able to record a message. After the message, if you wish to rerecord a new message, you can press 2 to start over. When you are finished, press 3 to finish the message. If you wish to hear these instructions again, press 4. Press 1 after the tone to start recording your message". There was then a 10 second wait before the tone. This peeved me a tad, so I recorded a new message "Hi, leave a message". This worked for about 3 months, I then found that they were playing the old message first, and then they bunged my 2 second prompt between their message and the beep.

    I won't bore you with the palaver that you went through to receive your voicemails, partly because of the shenanigans I mentioned above, but mainly because I switched voicemail off and now can't remember all of the crud that happened there

    Maybe all of the above was because I was (and am) a PAYG cheapskate, I really don't care.

    If I'm not available, send me a text message. It will save time, a lot of money, and one hell of a lot raised blood pressure.

  2. Solomon Grundy

    Why Now?

    Why in God's name is this just now becoming a relevant issue? I've had mobile phones since they were only available in bags and weighed 8 pounds and cost tons of money to use and voicemail hasn't changed at all really.

    Now phones and service are dirt cheap and people just now get around to bitching about the voicemail prompts? Idiots.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Voicemail that you have to dial up?

    Why oh why can't mobile phones have a built-in voicemail function?

    My Sharp 904SH (I live in Japan) has had this for 3 years - okay, it only works of course when you're in network coverage, so if you turn the phone off you still have to dial up for your messages... But 95% of my voicemails are free - completely - to retrieve, and *I* choose how long or short the message is!

  4. Peter H. Coffin

    Seems only an irritant

    Who leaves voicemail messages anyway? I can't remember the last time I got any content in a voice mail other than "Call me" and a missed call in the phone's Caller ID log is enough to convey that.. For any information that's appropriate to leaving in a voice mail box, SMS is clearer and requires no transcription anyway.

  5. Simon Williams

    'Actively exploring how to shorten voicemail...'

    I'm no Cook or Shackleton, but I would have thought any voicemail provider ought to know its system well enough not to have to actively explore how to shorten voicemail. Just removing the unwanted adverts would do it. And how would you explore in any way other than actively?

  6. Paul 4

    You have reached the voicemail of <name> please leave a message


    Easy realy.

  7. Rog69
    Thumb Up

    An Idea

    What we need is a system where the provider can put as much crap as they want but any caller would have a skip message option by pressing a standard key (ie the same across all networks) so they can go directly to leaving a message.

  8. Eddy Ito

    SMS not an answer

    When they ding you the price of a minute for each message, what does it matter if it takes an extra minute for voice mail?

  9. Sly

    @Simon Williams

    They have to get together a committee... then they have to go over what's been done... then they have to go over what is currently in use... then they have to run surveys and polls to find out what prompts customers would like to keep and which ones to ditch... then they have to analyze that data... then they have to ... ... <insert 2 years worth of red tape and salary extensions for the committee>

    all we really want is "press 9 for options" or some such nonsense and move on to the voice mail message.

  10. Mike S

    Voicemail is annoying...

    mostly because everyone says "I'm not hear, leave me a message with your name and number and the time you called, and I'll call you back." Then, the network operator voice comes on "to record a message, just wait for the tone. When you've finished your message, press 1 for more options, or press 2 or hang up to end the call."

    And the thing is - I know how to use voicemail! Everybody does. We don't need instructions. I knew you weren't there when the phone rang for times and then your message came on.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    For Verizon, at least, pressing (*) skips the entire recorded message and prompt. I'm not familiar with other carriers' systems, but I expect they have similar undocumented features.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The one that blows my mind is the Cisco IP phones

    When I hit the voicemail button it says:

    "Please enter you password followed by the hash key" *********#

    "For voicemail, press One"

    Huh? What do you *think* I wanted to do?

    While this doesn't cost any money directly as it's an internal PABX, it does waste time. I'm also certain that I've heard this on some mobile operators.

  13. Eugene Goodrich
    Paris Hilton

    @SMS not an answer

    "When they ding you the price of a minute for each message, what does it matter if it takes an extra minute for voice mail?"

    If you pay for each minute in whole-minute increments, then a 15-second voicemail prompt (vs. a 0-second, theoretically-perfect prompt) will 25% of the time push you over the next minute boundary if we assume a random distribution of the number of seconds within a minute you were going to end on naturally.

    If you can guarantee your message-leaving plus the 15-second wait time will be under a whole minute, then this might not affect you. And if your message-leaving would typically take 46 to 59 seconds (or, say, 106 to 119 seconds) then you'll buy an extra minute much more often.

    If we assume that voicemail-leaving calls are typically short calls, i.e. 1 or 2 minutes long, then adding an extra minute (even a quarter of the time) is a significant increase: a 25% or 12.5% increase in charge (assuming 25% of the time an extra minute is added to what would be either a 1-minute call or a 2-minute call).

    At 12.5% extra taken for no particularly good reason, you'd think they were the government or something.

    Paris, because I'd give her the extra 15 seconds for free.

  14. Robert E A Harvey
    Paris Hilton

    Free voicemail

    Well, I'm with Virgin in the UK, and voicemail retrieval is unbilled. But I turned off voicemail anyway, 'cos while I was in india I got charged for the incoming call, could not retrieve it, and the messages had been purged by the time I got home.

    It's simple. If I don';t answer the phone you can;t talk to me. You can send a text, or not bother.

    What happened to the idea of sending texts from BT phones? They will read them out to you, and when they announced that they promised to have a voice-to-text sending service RSN.

    We need an 'I dont give a stuff' icon, but till then Paris will do

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