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If you're gonna leave me a voicemail, please say something important.

The new rules of voicemail


I pretty much hate voicemail. I've asked some of my friends and co-workers, and most of them agree: except for news too big to put into a text message, voicemail is about the biggest pain in the butt in verbal communications.

It's slow and cumbersome, and even with the iPhone's nifty proprietary visual voicemail, it's a wordy way of getting the message across.

How many times, for example, have you stopped what you're doing and interrupted a real-live conversation to listen to this message:

"Hi, it's me at 10:24 a.m. Give me a call back."

Chances are that message came from someone quite a bit older than you, someone who just doesn't get the medium.

Voicemail and answering machines aren't the same.

Since your phone has caller ID, you already know who called and what time they tried to find you. And leaving a message like "call me back," is the anti-message. It doesn't say anything at all.

My friend Eron and I have a system, though I'm sure we're not the only ones who do. If we're calling just to shoot the breeze, and the other doesn't answer, we hang up. When one of us sees "missed call," and no message, we know it's not life or death, and we call back at our convenience.

Alternatively, when we have something to say that doesn't require a call back, we send a short text message like, "Brewers win!" and it's descriptive enough. No need for a voicemail.

The last resort is a voicemail. If I see that Eron called and I have a voicemail waiting, I know it's at least fairly important and I check it right away.

Easy and efficient. That's how we roll.

Seriously, though, it's not just the act of receiving voicemail that's so maddening. Leaving a message can be an excruciatingly long process, too.

First, there's the greeting: "Hi, you've reached the cell phone of [insert name here]. I'm either on the phone or I'm not available to take your message, but your call is important to me. Please leave your name, number and the time you called, and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Have a great day!"

Polite, yes, but sooooo wordy!

Then, and this is what drives me nuts, the robot woman tells me how to leave a message, as if I've never done this before in my life:

"If you'd like to leave a message, please press one ... or wait on the line. If you'd like to leave a call back number, press four. If you'd like to page the person you're calling, please press five. When you're doing leaving a message, press pound or just hang up."

Then -- wait for it -- beep.

I'd like those 40 seconds of my life back, please.

My conspiracy theory is that the robot woman gives you that ridiculously long set of directions just to eke more minutes from your cell phone plan, and it's some sort of collusion between wireless carriers.

And don't even try to skip through the robot woman, as every carrier does it differently. If you hit pound when you should've hit star, or seven when you should've pressed one, suddenly, you're being asked to enter a password and your only choice is to hang up and start over again.

I've heard lots of people say that the omnipresence of cell phones is destroying society. I've even seen bumper stickers telling me to hang up and drive (to that I say, "Mind your own business, pal.")

I have no doubt that cell phones can be a blessing. Instead of sitting in rush hour listening to talk radio, we can talk to friends across the country without paying long distance.

Just turn it off at the restaurant or in the movie theater, please.

Overall, silence is nice, but communication is better. But please tell me how to "press pound" and skip all these shenanigans.

Talkbacks

alba | July 30, 2008 at 3:44 p.m. (report)

Dusty - I can't find a way to kill the robot lady! Can you post what the exact option was for your service?

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firefly | July 30, 2008 at 7:19 a.m. (report)

this blog came off to me as mean-spirited and pretentious. if you were my friend/acquaintance I would be hesitant from now on to communicate with you at all for fear that what I had to say "wasn't important enough".

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danielnathan | July 29, 2008 at 4:16 p.m. (report)

LMAO Love that robot woman bit! Text and emails much easier to deal with. Although texting back and forth is even more obnoxious in my opinion.

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Dusty_Bottoms | July 29, 2008 at 10:16 a.m. (report)

You know that you can TURN OFF THE ROBOT LADY, don't you? Anybody who doesn't have her turned off should be arrested, in my opinion. Call your voice mail, go to "notifications" or "preferences" or "greeting options" or whatever they call it on your system, and turn her off. My phone says "Hi, this is Dusty, please leave a message. Beep." Anybody who thinks texting is easier than checking your VM is just silly, or has their voice mail set up wrong. I push speed dial 1, and my voice mail plays. It's not that difficult, and very quick. Again, explore your voice mail system's preferences.

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Z_boy | July 29, 2008 at 9:52 a.m. (report)

Every person I know who has Caller ID, I always *67 before calling so my number doesn't show. This seems to irritate people.

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