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David Pogue Wants to Take Back the Beep 383

Posted by timothy
from the pogue-mahone-jerks dept.
David Pogue has distilled into useful form a long-standing complaint I have (and one reason I have long had a voice mail greeting that asked people not to leave me voicemail): cell phone companies set up the greeting, caller instructions, and playback system prompts in large part to maximize their revenue per user; by his calculations, the "mandatory 15-second voicmail instructions" from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and others is earning those companies something near a billion dollars a year in charges. Pogue suggests that users should "take back the beep," and to that end provides contact information for the largest cell carriers in order to register a complaint — and, more helpful in the short run, suggests ways in which to make better use of paid-for phone minutes by alerting callers how to bypass the annoying instructions.
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David Pogue Wants to Take Back the Beep

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  • by alain94040 (785132) * on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:18PM (#28887345) Homepage

    Does the extra 15 seconds added by the operator really cost me anything since my phone bill uses 1-minute increments?

    What would save us consumers a lot more money is having cellphone operators bill usage by the second. The European Commission already
    forced the European operators [cnn.com] to adopt 1-second billing increments.

    --
    crowdsource your iPhone app ideas [fairsoftware.net]

    • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:21PM (#28887413)

      Damn it, every single good technology regulation idea I've seen in the past ten years, from universal cell phone chargers to browser choice in operating systems, has come from the EU. Why can't we stand up to big corporations here in the US?

      • by Moryath (553296) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:26PM (#28887501)

        Welcome to the U$: government by the corporations, for the corporations.

        Track how much slush fund money Obama got under the table from certain groups if you don't believe me. Keep track of why certain Florida/California representatives might as well tag their names with (D-Disney) rather than (D-State).

        Look at who paid for - and got - the last three copyright extensions, the DMCA, etc.

        This is what happens when your campaigns are privately financed and not on level playing fields (e.g. same budgetary restrictions per candidate).

      • by Captain Splendid (673276) <capsplendid.gmail@com> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:29PM (#28887593) Homepage Journal
        Why can't we stand up to big corporations here in the US?

        Because you're not a bunch of socialists who hate capitalism?

        Crap, there's shit dribbling out my ears again...
      • by Jurily (900488)

        Actually, second-based billing was in place almost everywhere long before the EU standardized it. It sells more, and we don't have three-way shared monopolies and price fixing around here.

      • We don't need to regulate it. Just do what I do and say at the end of my voicemail, "press * to leave a message". This varies from carrier to carrier so you'll need to find out what yours is. Sprint is 1 IIRC, others might be #, etc.

        • huh? Please explain this.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by jrmcferren (935335)
            On at&t, and T-Mobile pressing the # key skips the greeting, on Verizon Wireless and Sprint you press the * key. It is usually the key opposite of the key you press to get the login prompts. For example you press * on at&t to get the login prompts, and # to skip the greeting.

            A Proud at&t User.
      • by FudRucker (866063) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:44PM (#28887851)
        This_is_why [youtube.com]
        • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @04:13PM (#28888345)
          The paranoid ramblings of a deluded old man shouting at hippies from his black sweatpants?
          • by sammyF70 (1154563) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @06:31PM (#28890257) Homepage Journal

            hmm .. let's take Carlin's speech point by point, by slightly paraphrasing what he says :

            • "politicians are puppets controlled by corporations and rich lobbies" . I'd say that is true for the most part, even if it doesn't happen in a direct way. Corporations can threaten to cut jobs, close down factories or offices, relocate in another state or country or even just disproportionally increase the price of their product if the CEOs think that new legislations might decrease the profit for their shareholders. That would result in, at least, jobs being lost in the area and might (and probably would) prove a big enough incentive to stop certain laws or regulations to be passed. Everybody is just doing their job : politicians have to evaluate whether the law or regulation is worth the corporation's reaction, and corporation's need to maximise the profit for the shareholders. (I'll pass the cases where hands have to be greased or forced, or when a politician only thinks of his career)"
            • "Corporations, etc ... don't want the common folks to be capable of critical thinking", Although it would make sense (read "1984"), there is no direct evidence of it ... only circumstantial : the rise of Fox Network for example, or the way newspapers will rather tell you that Lindsay Lohan broke her toe nail, or that the giants won the superball rather than that, again, X american soldiers were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan one day earlier. Incidentally repeatedly pounding on how great your nation is and making kids repeat that over and over is a great way to hammer obedience in the mind of the people you want to govern
            • "Society has a class system, and most people are not in the ruling/rich class". well ... that there is a widening gap between rich and poor [nytimes.com] (yes, I know ... 2 years old. But I don't believe this has changed much. Prove me wrong). So ... nothing to see. He is right. And before you reply "The poor deserved it. Everybody can be rich", check this very nice and interesting TED talk about (along other things) Meritocracies [ted.com]
            • "Politicians don't care about the people who elect them". I'm not completely as nihilistic as Carlin. I honestly think many politicians start their career because they actually genuinely care. Sadly, as should be obvious to anybody who switched from his productive job to Management and was full of hope to be able to make a change, the higher you are the thinner the air is and the more you just struggle to survive. Even if some politicians do still care about the people after they've been elected to a position of power, helping people is probably more of an afterthought while juggling with more important issues (what those can be is probably not even something the politicians can decide themselves)

            so ... 'the paranoid ramblings of a deluded old man shouting at hippies' ? perhaps, but at least he actually knows what he is talking about.

      • by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:51PM (#28887981) Homepage

        It's a double edged sword. Yes, there are some great EU market regulations (like standardized cellphone chargers), but there are some pretty terrible regulations, too. Many of the EU market regulations are extremely expensive to comply with. You would not be happy, I assure you, if prices at Fry's and Microcenter were as high as prices are at retail stores in France.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by QuoteMstr (55051)

          The French have a higher standard of living than we do, so of course you can expect some prices to be higher. Can you give me a concrete example of a poor market regulation though?

          • by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @04:14PM (#28888347) Homepage

            Their standard of living has nothing to do with retail prices. What are you smoking? Retail prices are the result of manufacturing or import costs, plus the overhead imparted by regulatory compliance.

            And having spent plenty of time in France and in the US, I really doubt they have a higher standard of living by any sane metric.

            • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @06:58PM (#28890595) Homepage

              35 hour working week. Higher minimum wage. Minimum 5 weeks holiday a year (UK, France has even more). Lower crime rates. Better public transport. Free and universal public healthcare. I could go on.

              Which of those metrics is not sane?

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Lord Ender (156273)

                Ha! My ex is a lawyer in France, and I can assure you she works far far more than 35 hours per week. The standard work week is a fantasy. The French, in almost every case make significantly less money than their American counterparts.

                They have a better social safety net. True. But overall, they are significantly poorer.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2009 @05:47PM (#28889743)

            I'll bite. Medical Device regulations, for one. To sell in Europe you need to be ISO-certified, which means you have to buy the standard (in this case, ISO 13485), for a couple thousand - then you have to contract with a certifying organization, which you will pay several thousand dollars to have someone come and audit your paperwork for a few days before making some findings and leaving (they don't want to revoke your certification, though - if they do that, you'll get a different certifying body next time, and they won't get your money. You are the customer of the person auditing you - there's a pretty clear conflict of interest).

            ISO 13485 mandates that you "establish, document, implement, and maintain a quality management system and maintain its effectiveness." Basically, they mandate... paperwork.

            By contrast, in the US, you need to abide by FDA's cGMP part 820, which is freely available on their website and which they will periodically audit you on and put you out of business if you're not compliant.

            The FDA, meanwhile, says "[t]he requirements in this part govern the methods used in, and the facilities and controls used for, the design, manufacture, packaging, labeling, storage, installation, and servicing of all finished devices intended for human use. The requirements in this part are intended to ensure that finished devices will be safe and effective and otherwise in compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the act)." They mandate good manufacturing practices that insure you don't kill people with your product, and on the offchance that you DO, that you keep records that would enable you to do an immediate recall while notifying the FDA.

            ISO mandates process diagrams and a quality policy. Useful.

            In fact, the whole reason that ISO 13485 came about is because the FDA determined that ISO 9001 was stupid and dangerous, and that any medical device manufacturer who became 9001 certified would not get cleared for sale in the US.

            (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fda.gov%2Fdownloads%2FMedicalDevices%2FDeviceRegulationandGuidance%2FPostmarketRequirements%2FQualitySystemsRegulations%2FUCM134625.pdf&ei=TCFySuzPNYGHtgemn52NBA&rct=j&q=fda+iso+9001&usg=AFQjCNEDKFkwfQgd-cptfspZx13gF-idgg)

            (Posting as an Anonymous Coward since I've never been to slashdot before. 'Sup guys?)

            • "In fact, the whole reason that ISO 13485 came about is because the FDA determined that ISO 9001 was stupid and dangerous" hm. No. The doc just says they don't see it as necessary to force firm to change to a standardized process. And neither do the EU rely on ISO 13485 for safety too. It is jsut for traceability to have a standardized way of getting documentation and process audit done. The satuff still has to go through a safety test anyway.
    • Well, if your voicemail was intended to be 1:55, and you have to wait an extra 15 seconds, you will be charged 3 minutes instead of 2. That does not amount to much for most people, but it does add up, and cell carriers do make a decent amount of money by forcing everyone to use extra minutes like that. I have to wonder why no price fixing investigations have ever been taken up in response to that sort of behavior.
    • by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:26PM (#28887513)
      Regardless of cost it's still incredibly obnoxious having to listen to that crap. Particularly when someone either already has a long message or has gone out of his way to make a short one. Does anyone ever even use those garbage options? Page them? wtf? is this the 90's? If I'd wanted to do that I would have sent him a text.

      My second favorite are the menus that start with "Please listen carefully as our options have changed blah blah blah..." It seems, almost invariably, that those messages just become permanent. Someone changes the system and forgets they added that message or never bothers to update it.
      • by mcmonkey (96054) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:32PM (#28887655) Homepage

        Does anyone ever even use those garbage options? Page them? wtf?

        And are there any cell phones left out there without caller ID? Don't they already have my number in the missed calls log?

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          If their phone is off/out of range, you won't show up in the missed calls log because the phone never got the call.

          I imagine a page is sent via SMS, which means it will eventually get through rather than just the vague "You have X new voicemails" notice. I don't exactly scramble to answer that myself.

          • If it's off/out of range, it also won't ring. So, as long as it rings, you know you're in their missed calls log.

          • by Ifni (545998)

            If their phone is off/out of range, you won't show up in the missed calls log because the phone never got the call.

            Of course, at least with Sprint, it tells you who called (by name if they are a Sprint customer, by number otherwise) when you retrieve the message, no need to even have your cell phone record the caller ID in your call log. Of course, if your friend isn't a Sprint customer and you don't have their phone number committed to memory, this could be less than convenient, but one would hope that you might possibly recognize their voice.

      • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:37PM (#28887751)

        My second favorite are the menus that start with "Please listen carefully as our options have changed blah blah blah..." It seems, almost invariably, that those messages just become permanent. Someone changes the system and forgets they added that message or never bothers to update it.

        Hey, I programmed that system. That message is prepended to the menu anytime the menu changes. Exactly one week after the message has changed the system automatically changes the menu to remove the prepended message. There's no way that message constantly appears.

        *checks logs*

        • Menu changed 01/08/09 12:32:01
        • Menu changed 01/15/09 12:32:01
        • Menu changed 01/22/09 12:32:01
        • Menu changed 01/29/09 12:32:01
        • Menu changed 02/05/09 12:32:01
        • Menu changed 02/12/09 12:32:01
        • Menu changed 02/19/09 12:32:01
        • Menu changed 02/26/09 12:32:01
        • Menu changed 03/05/09 12:32:01
        • ...

        Wait a second...

      • by rock_climbing_guy (630276) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:37PM (#28887767) Journal
        If you leave a long message, put your phone number at the *beginning* of the message so if they need to hear it again, they don't have to play the whole message.
      • by LMacG (118321) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:44PM (#28887859) Journal

        That "our menu options have changed" message kills me. Changed when? From what? Sorry, Bank of XYZ, but I didn't memorize your options in the first place. Sorry.

    • It may not cost you anything, but not everyone has the luxury of being on an unlimited or high limit plan. In fact, there's a good number of people that don't have a traditional cell phone contract and use the rechargeable/calling card/by the minute/pay as you go type phones.

      Personally, I have an older contract that doesn't have a ton of minutes each month. I don't regularly use more than half of my minutes each month, but then again I hardly talk on the phone. I know a good sized chunk of people who hav

    • Billed by the minute means that any fraction of a minute is counted as a full minute. So yes, it is costing you.
    • Are you kidding? What about all the calls that would have been 45-59 seconds long in the last minute? That 15 seconds costs you an extra minute on 25% of your voicemail calls.

  • Earth to David! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's called the # key. It works on T-Mobile and with many other vendor's voicemail systems. It was not a grand conspiracy to rack up minutes when answering machines allowed you to customize your greeting (even though long distance charges were 28 cents a minutes back in that day). It's not a conspiracy now.

    Try the crumbly windmills next time.

    • Re:Earth to David! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anubis IV (1279820) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:34PM (#28887693)
      He mentions the # in the article. That's not the point. The point is that millions upon millions of customers are not as smart as you are, so they listen through that voicemail message every single time they want to leave a message. That adds up to hundreds of thousands or millions of wasted man-hours each year, as well as additional charges to some customers.

      And if you had read TFA, you'd have noticed that he mentioned the fact that he's talked to high-up execs at these companies and that they admitted to him that they do it for the purpose of collecting additional charges. So, while "conspiracy" may be a rather strong word, it's not altogether inaccurate.
      • Re:Earth to David! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:48PM (#28887923)

        If we're going to talk about how cell companies nickle and dime their customers, there are way bigger fish to fry than voicemail - SMS, MMS, ringtones, etc.

        • there are way bigger fish to fry than voicemail

          Agreed

          SMS

          The markup on this is insane, and the main reason why I use it as seldom as possible. I send barely a dozen text messages a year and will keep it that way until the prices come down to earth. And don't try to sell me on an "unlimited text" plan because I have never in my life sent $5 worth of text messages in a month.

          MMS

          I honestly haven't found a good reason to care about this one yet, one way or the other. Voicemail is adequately cheap and effective for me.

          ringtones

          On this one I don't care how much they char

        • It would be nice if they nickel and dimed us. Instead they dollar and five-dollar us.

          I just got a new phone with a new contract. It has mobile web, and they charge $2.50 per mb. According to their site they estimate that 2mb will be somewhere between 20-50 mobile web pages.

          So I go to test this feature. I log onto the mobile web, go to hotmail but don't load any messages. One screen. (Maybe 2-3 if you give them the benefit of the doubt.)

          Then I go to the gmail mobile web site, load ONE email, then disconnect.

      • by Itninja (937614)
        So just start your voicemail greeting with "You can press # to bypass this message...". Problem solved!
    • not universal (Score:3, Informative)

      It's called the # key. It works on T-Mobile and with many other vendor's voicemail systems

      On Sprint you press 1.
      On Verizon there is no key. You can mash keys until you run out of buttons and the closest you'll get is a prompt asking for the customer's PIN.
      I don't know anyone currently on AT&T so I don't know what the option is for their voicemail (if there is one).

      It's not a conspiracy now.

      Its not a universal standard, either. Maybe we don't need to go all the way to beep-only, but it would be nice if there was a consistent way to bypass other people's voicemail greetings, especially if you don't know beforehan

      • TFA had several people posting that * skips the greeting on Verizon... or is this just to log in to check the voicemail?

  • T-Mobile doesn't charge me to call my own voicemail, so that doesn't matter. As far as leaving a message for others, does anyone really leave longer than a 45-second message anyway (keeping the total under a minute)? Name, number, quick reason you're calling, that's all you need usually.
    • Re:T-Mobile (Score:5, Funny)

      by Xtravar (725372) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:28PM (#28887577) Homepage Journal

      As far as leaving a message for others, does anyone really leave longer than a 45-second message anyway (keeping the total under a minute)?

      Mothers.

    • If someone made a 120 calls that were each 30 seconds long, I seriously doubt that their bill for the month would show 0 minutes. More likely, it would show 60 minutes of calls. Just because a specific call is under 60 seconds does not mean that the cell phone companies are ignoring it. They all get rolled together in the end.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by clone53421 (1310749)

        No, you'd get billed for 120 minutes. It rounds up, not down.

      • No, it will show 120 minutes of usage. US carriers bill in 1-minute increments. The point is that while 120 calls of 0:59 duration bill as 120 minutes of usage, 120 calls of 1:01 duration (that's four minutes' more total airtime) will bill as 240 minutes of usage.
  • by Flaggday (1373017) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:26PM (#28887519)
    Maybe my perception is wrong, but aren't the majority of U.S. cell phone users on a plan that they're paying for in terms of 100s of minutes at least? 15 seconds is annoying, and I agree with his preference for these things going away, but who doesn't just have a monthly plan that dwarfs their actual usage to start with? Pogue's back-of-the-envelope calculations seems to completely ignore this.
  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:27PM (#28887529) Homepage
    But there is no doubt it is a huge earner for the networks. Here in Ireland, and even on Skype now you often have to pay something like 5c as soon as the phone is answered, this includes getting someones voicemail. I never leave a message, I have listened to my own messages being played back at someone elses house and just didn't like it. I prefer to call back or send a SMS.

    The worst has to be getting someone's voicemail when calling from a satellite phone, 75c down the drain for nothing. Really wish there was a 5 second chance for you to hang up and not get charged, or better still abolish voicemail altogether. Let people run their own answering machines if they desire but ban voicemail
    • Really wish there was a 5 second chance for you to hang up and not get charged, or better still abolish voicemail altogether. Let people run their own answering machines if they desire but ban voicemail

      That works fine for landlines, but for people who only have cell phones, they can't run an answering machine.

      • I'm sure of the hackers here will be able to whip up an App for the popular phones (S60, WM6, iphone), or better yet hard-hack a micro casette recorder into a phone.
      • by prockcore (543967)

        Call my google voice number and you'll get google's voicemail, not AT&Ts.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:29PM (#28887599) Journal

    Get a real phone plan, or one from a decent provider. AT&T just capped my rollover minutes when I hit something like 4000 (in just 2 years on the minimal 700 minute a month plan). Does anyone really have a plan where they regularly go over their monthly allotment, and it's not cheaper to get the next tier?

    If the 15 seconds is too painful, read up on the options to skip the message. As for the man up comment - that goes for you, too, Timothy. And while we're at it, why don't you go ahead and turn in your geek card for not knowing you could hit # and skip right to the beep.

    Yes, I am in a foul mood this afternoon; thanks for asking.

    • Go to the next tier? yeah, thats playing right into the hands of AT&T. I'm billed by the second and i still get pissed off that I have to pay to listen to some recording that hasn't changed in 4 years.

      You seem to be supporting the Big American Telco's mantra that prepaid = for poor people and kids who can't control their spending. I was in the good ole US of A a while ago and it seemed like the T-mobile staffers job was to laugh at me first when I told them I had a pre-paid sim, tried to sign me up t
    • by Jay L (74152) * <jay+slashNO@SPAMjay.fm> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @07:20PM (#28890793) Homepage

      While we're turning in geek cards...

      Yes, # skips the greeting when calling AT&T subscribers and, apparently, T-Mobile subscribers. If you call a Verizon customer and press #, you get the login prompt, and (AFAICT) no way to actually leave your friend a message without calling back.

      So, just as TFA says: You can skip everyone's greeting, but you have to memorize which carrier they use.

      C'mon, hand it over.

  • Although I would question the validity of a billion dollar scam (as another user points out most plans get free minutes and if you exceed your quota by 15 seconds or 1 minutes, wow...) Perhaps it is a cross billing issue between providers?

    I HATE that stupid message. It will be the second reason I can't wait to dump Verizon Wireless this fall when my contract expires. Yes I have the "You may press * to bypass this message" at the start of my greeting (yes, it is * for Verizon) but nobody else does this so

  • If you are calling a sprint customer, you can bypass their voicemail greeting by pressing 1, and get the beep you really want.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum is Verizon, who as best I can tell does not allow you to bypass the greeting and prompt. Indeed if you don't like it when people leave you voicemail, become a Verizon subscriber and use a super-long greeting. People will give up on leaving a voicemail on your phone.
  • All cell phone companies allow the caller to skip straight to the beep.
    It is usually # or *.
    Figure yours out.
    Make your message something to the effect of:
    "Hi, this is fred. I can't take your call now. Leave me a message. In the future, to skip straight to the beep, press X"
    Most cell phone companies have a "fast prompt" setting for retrieving your messages. It isn't fast enough for a geek who is used to memorizing interactive prompts, but it is at least 50% faster than normal prompts. Turn yours on.
  • or maybe it's the pound. Most carriers let you skip the message with that.

    • On mine, * logs me into the voicemail (well, I have to enter the password) and # skips the greeting.

      Also, TFA noted that some carriers allow you to press 1 to skip the greeting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by T Murphy (1054674)
      Just mash all the buttons to be sure. The worst that can happen is you beep back at the person for beeping at you. It'd serve them right anyways.
  • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:48PM (#28887917) Journal
    I understand the concern of unnecessary use of a few seconds per phone call 5 or 10 years ago, but lately with the advent of VOIP I'd contend this concern has slowly been fading out.

    Flashback to 1995 when cellphone bills and long distance calls were by the minute and rather expensive. Only landline local calls were exempt from by-minute charges, and phone companies had a lot of opportunities to increase revenue by lengthening phone calls just a little bit.

    Compare that to today when most cellphone users have free night and weekend minutes plus anytime minutes, most landlines have free long distance and some users with unlimited cell plans are immune from these charges. The only people affected are those making international calls or using cellphones during the day while over their minutes. This is an increasingly small demographic.

    Compound that with the fact that data is where most of the cellphone money is and you quickly see that keeping people connected via cell tower may prevent more business / data users from connecting who really have the high paying plans. It's actually in cellphone companies' best interest now to keep those lines as clear as possible to support good service to as many new / existing customers as possible instead of keeping the airwaves as busy as possible.

    If you have one of the plans which makes you fit into the demographic affected by a 15 second delay, then I can understand your desire to shorten the time to when you can leave a message or leave none at all, but I personally am a fan of voice mail intros as it lets me know I didn't accidentally dial a wrong number. My advice for you is to learn the quick-keys on various carriers that bring you to the voice mailbox immediately (like # on T-mobile and Sprint.) I wouldn't disagree to going to a per-second billing like the EU did, but I promise you can take off your tinfoil hats - there is no conspiracy to make you use more minutes anymore and removing voice mailbox introductions would actually be removing something valuable for some people.
  • I refuse to use it...either to leave it or receive it.

  • Reminds me of one of my brother's best answering machine messages on his landline:

    Hi, you're reached Bob. If you don't know what to do here, there's really no helping you. (BEEP!)

    This, of course, would be ruined with a cell phone voicemail system...

  • I don't know what regulator would do it (DOJ Anti-Trust or Commerce), but if the cell phone market is supposed to be competitive, regulators should jump all over the cell carriers when they all engage in the same practice billed at the same rate.

    The carriers should be required to provide documentation supporting their pricing and if they all have a similar high margin for a given service (eg, over 20% or something) the regulator should find them "non-competitive" and order them all to cut their price to wha

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by QuoteMstr (55051)

      Huh? That's incoherent. If four companies each charge the same for a message and they have identical margins, then their cost is the same. A lower uniforn margin applied to the same cost will result in a uniform price. Also, if you were to try that, companies would just doctor their margin figures to support a higher price.

      The Sherman Antitrust Act [wikipedia.org] already has a remedy for price fixing: the act made it a felony. All we need to do is enforce this 1898 piece of legislation.

  • Here in Brazil we have a ~7sec message about voicemail, but you only start PAYing after the message is over and you get the actually voicemail.
  • by pdragon04 (801577) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @04:00PM (#28888141)
    I hadn't even realized it until I was bored one time when I was checking my voicemail. I went through the other options to see what was available and one of them was to turn off these pre-recorded caller instructions that he's complaining about.

    Maybe people just need to check what options their voicemail provides them instead of jumping to drastic measures like this? Wait... I forgot who I'm talking to here...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ljw1004 (764174)

      When I used Cingular a few years ago, I could turn it off.

      Now that I use T-Mobile, I can turn it off. (I just did it this morning).

  • I once worked with a guy whose incredibly verbose "please leave a detailed message" message ran to about 45 seconds. In English. It was then followed by about a MINUTE of Spanish.

    THEN, only AFTER you had listened to all this, could you actually leave him a message...

    Needless to say, I never bothered leaving him any message at all.

    My voicemail message just says "please leave a BRIEF message".

  • Turn off voice mail.

    I have no land line, no answering machine, just a cellphone and the voice mail on it has never been enabled.

    I don't think I am missing much.

  • by bruckie (217355) <slashdot@brucec.net> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @04:50PM (#28888955) Homepage

    An interesting, relatively unknown fact that I picked up while working on telephony systems a while back: carriers get paid (by other carriers) for incoming calls.

    Not only do you pay more to your carrier to listen to the inane voicemail prompt (since you might use more minutes), but your carrier also pays more to your friend's carrier. For example, if I'm an AT&T customer and I call a Verizon customer to leave a voicemail, AT&T has to pay Verizon for every second that I'm on the phone. This (perverse) incentive makes more sense than charging people for more minutes, since often the company charging for minutes (AT&T in this case) is not the company that controls the recorded message (Verizon).

    --Bruce

  • by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@neverb o x . com> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @04:56PM (#28889023) Homepage

    We're at the point in society where people should know how to leave a message on a damn answering machine. Hell, we stopped having the 'http://' on URLs in ads and business cards five years ago, but somehow people have forgotten how to operate an answering machine/voice mail after them being common for 25 years!

    Also, we don't need to be informed someone can't answer the phone, but to leave a message and he'll get back to you. First of all, the voice mail message does not magically know that that is true...maybe he can answer it, and just didn't. Maybe he's dead, and won't return your call ever. Maybe he just doesn't fucking like you. Stop telling me nonsensical shit you don't actually know, you machine. Just record the damn message.

    When an answering machines picks up, I should hear, in most cases, be something like "This is John Smith's phone. *beeeep*".

    And the only reason there should be any message at all is to confirm we have the right phone number.

  • by Barbarian (9467) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @08:30PM (#28891349)

    I'm on Bell Mobility in Canada (until July 2009 when I can change without penalty) and not only do we have the listed voice mail annoyances, we also pay $6 each a month for caller id and voicemail. Also there is no trick that a caller can use to skip the greeting. If you record your own, it appends "At the tone, leave your message" anyways.

    Did I mention we have to pay about $20 more a month on average (even after currency conversion)?

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