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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