Take Back The Beep

David Pogue

David Pogue

David Pogue is a genius.

The New York Times technology columnist, “Missing Manual” publisher, Emmy-winning CBS correspondent and frequent NPR guest is a Westporter.  I’m proud to call him a friend.

I’m particularly excited about his latest crusade, announced today in his weekly (free) email column:  a nationwide effort to get US cellphone carriers to change the obnoxious, minutes-eating “instructions” we hear many times a day.

You know the ones:  “Record your message after the tone.  To send a numeric page, press 5.  When you are finished recording, hang up, or for delivery options, press pound.”

Has anyone, anywhere, ever sent a “numeric page”?  Considered other “delivery options”?  Or thought about holding on forever, unaware that it is possible simply to hang up?

Sounds humorous.  But those “instructions” are deadly serious.  We pay for them.  Cell executives have told David that they exist primarily to use up airtime.  He figured that if the 70 million customers of just 1 carrier — Verizon — leave or check messages twice a day, the company could rake in $620 million a year.

David wants to send a message right back.  He writes:

We’re going to descend, en masse, on our carriers.  Send them a complaint, politely but firmly.  Together, we’ll send them a LOT of complaints.

If enough of us make our unhappiness known, I’ll bet they’ll change.

I’ve told each of the four major carriers that they’ll be hearing from us.  They’ve told us where to send the messages:

* Verizon: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/FJncH

* AT&T: Send e-mail to Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations: MS8460@att.com

* Sprint: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/9CmrZ

* T-Mobile: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/2rKy0u

Three of the four carriers are just directing us to their general Web forums.  Smells like a cop-out, I know.  (As for AT&T:  Props to the guy for letting me publish his e-mail address!  Hope he knows what he’s in for!)

Yet all four carriers promise that they’ll read and consider our posts.  And we have two things going for us.

First, I have a feeling that the volume of complaints will be too big for them to ignore.  To that end, I hope you’ll pass these instructions along, blog them, Twitter them, and spread the word.  (Gizmodo, Consumerist and others have agreed to help out.)

And I hope you’ll take the time to complain yourself.  Do it now, before you forget.

Thanks, David, for trying to help save Americans millions of hours — and dollars.  I’ll contact all 4 carriers right now.

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5 responses to “Take Back The Beep

  1. Thanks for pointing this out: I just copied, pasted & sent in to Verizon reminding them that I don’t want my carrier of nearly 10 years to be trumped by AT&T in this regard. Even though I’m an unlimited subscriber I don’t want my carrier to be thought of as the one that manipulates its subscribers inorder to maintain profitability.

  2. Tim Caffrey

    I have his Missing Manual Mac books! Great writer.

  3. Funny timing – lifehacker just posted this today: “Bypass Cellphone Voicemail Instructions” http://tinyurl.com/mwj2jn .

    In short, hitting 1 * # at the prompt skips it on some carriers.

    You should still write your carrier, but this might help in the mean time.

  4. I’ll check that out, Charles. In the meantime, I just wrote Verizon. (Without my glasses on, I can’t even see the * and the #!)

  5. Reply that I received from Verizon this morning:

    Good Morning,

    Thank you for contacting Verizon Wireless through our website. My name is Donald, and I can definitely understand your concerns regarding the length of your voicemail greeting. I will be happy to review this information with you.

    The voice mail instructions are there to assist the many callers who may be unfamiliar with the correct prompts, including advanced options such as review or re-record message or mark urgent. However, there are steps you can take to control the length of your greeting and to speed callers through the voice mail greeting.

    In a customized greeting, you can inform callers up front to skip the rest of the instructions by pressing *. (For example: “This is John. To skip the rest of this greeting and leave a message please press *).

    · You can remove the last line of the instructions (“to leave a callback number, press 5”), by using Administrative Options in your voice mail menu.

    · You can customize your greeting so it is shorter for callers.

    · You can also use our automated language, inserting your name only to shorten your message.

    · You can remove your voice mail feature by calling customer service.

    Verizon Wireless is committed to satisfying our customers. We listen to our customers and appreciate any feedback on our services. Please visit verizonwireless.com http://support.vzw.com/how_to_use/basic_voice_mail.html to learn more about using our voice mail system and other Verizon Wireless features. Thank you for using Verizon Wireless.

    I hope the information I have provided you regarding how to change your greeting settings was helpful. We appreciate your business and thank you for using Verizon Wireless products and services. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail.


    Internet Response Team Coordinator

    Wilmington, North Carolina

    If you have received this e-mail in error or are not the intended recipient, please notify us immediately by replying to this e-mail and deleting it and all copies and backups thereof. If you are the intended recipient and are a Verizon Wireless customer, this response is subject to the terms of your Customer Agreement