OT where off-topic
Prohibited where void.
Well this was worthy of a thread of its own.
It turns out that each carrier offers a bypass the instructions
keystroke that takes you directly to the beep. (It bypasses both the
persons own recorded greeting and the 15-second carrier nonsense.)
To be as evil as possible, the carriers do not promote or tell you
about the existence of this keystroke. Furthermore, the key to press
is different with each company:
* for Verizon
1 for Sprint
# for AT&T
# for T-Mobile
Every time you dial a number, youd have to know which carrier that
person uses. Which is, of course, impossible.
[ I just tried it for my AT&T phone and it worked. I might add Press
# to skip the message, to my message. I'll have to time their message
to know if it's worth it ]
And you cant just press *-1-# in a row, hoping to cover all
basesbecause if you press the wrong keystroke for the wrong carrier,
you wind up boxed into that systems voicemail menus.
If youre clever, though, you can do the one-star-pound method
recommend by this blogger:
STEP ONE. Press 1. If its Sprint, you get the beep, and youre done.
If you hear an error recording, go on:
STEP TWO. Press *. If its Verizon, you get the beep. If not:
STEP THREE: Push #. You get the beep for T-Mobile or Cingular.
You have to pause after each one, and you have to keep listening. But
its one small way to fight back. Remember: One Star Pound.
Tomorrow in my e-mail column, Ill offer a more sweeping suggestion.
(Sign up at nytimes.com/email.)
Update | 11:17 p.m. AT&Ts Mark Seigel has asked that complaint
messages be sent to a different e-mail address, provided below.
Update | 7:50 p.m. Will England of Sprint says the company has now
created a brand-new customer forum dedicated to this topic.
Update | 5:19 p.m. T-Mobile had deleted hundreds of complaints on this
topic from its forum, and even blocked any new messages containing the
word beep. But it has now created a new forum just for complaints on
this topic, linked below.
Over the past week, in The New York Times and on my blog, Ive been
ranting about one particularly blatant money-grab by American
cellphone carriers: the mandatory 15-second voicemail instructions.
Suppose you call my cell to leave me a message. First you hear my own
voice: Hi, its David Pogue. Leave a message, and Ill get back to
youand THEN you hear a 15-second canned carrier message.
* Sprint: [Phone number] is not available right now. Please leave a
detailed message after the tone. When you have finished recording, you
may hang up, or press pound for more options.
* Verizon: At the tone, please record your message. When you have
finished recording, you may hang up, or press 1 for more options. To
leave a callback number, press 5. (Beep)
* AT&T: To page this person, press five now. At the tone, please
record your message. When you are finished, you may hang up, or press
one for more options.
* T-Mobile: Record your message after the tone. To send a numeric
page, press five. When you are finished recording, hang up, or for
delivery options, press pound.
(You hear a similar message when you call in to hear your own
messages. You. Have. 15. Messages. To listen to your messages, press
1. WHY ELSE WOULD I BE CALLING?)
I, the voicemailbox owner, cannot turn off this additional greeting
message. You, the caller, can bypass it, but only if you know the
secret keypressand its different for each carrier. So youd have to
know which cellphone carrier I use, and that of every person youll
ever call; in other words, this trick is no solution.
[UPDATE: Apple iPhone owners dont hear these instructionsApple
insisted that AT&T remove them. And Sprint already DOES let you turn
off the instructions message, although its a buried, multi-step
procedure, which you can read in the comments below.]
These messages are outrageous for two reasons. First, they waste your
time. Good heavens: its 2009. WE KNOW WHAT TO DO AT THE BEEP.
Do we really need to be told to hang up when were finished!? Would
anyone, ever, want to send a numeric page? Who still carries a
pager, for heavens sake? Or what about leave a callback number? We
can SEE the callback number right on our phones!
Second, were PAYING for these messages. These little 15-second waits
add upbigtime. If Verizons 70 million customers leave or check
messages twice a weekday, Verizon rakes in about $620 million a year.
Thats your money. And your time: three hours of your time a year,
just sitting there listening to the same message over and over again
In 2007, I spoke at an international cellular conference in Italy. The
big buzzword was ARPUAverage Revenue Per User. The seminars all had
titles like, Maximizing ARPU In a Digital Age. And yes, several
attendees (cell executives) admitted to me, point-blank, that the
voicemail instructions exist primarily to make you use up airtime,
thereby maximizing ARPU.
Right now, the carriers continue to enjoy their billion-dollar scam
only because were not organized enough to do anything about it. But
it doesnt have to be this way. You dont have to sit there, waiting
to leave your message, listening to a speech recorded by a third-grade
teacher on Ambien.
Lets push back, and hard. We want those time-wasting, money-leaking
messages eliminated, or at least made optional.
I asked my Twitter followers for help coming up with a war cry, a
slogan, to identify this campaign. They came up with some good ones:
Wheres the Beep?
Let it Beep
We Know. Lets Go.
Lose the Wait
My Voicemail, My Recording
Hell, no, we wont hold!
My favorite, though, is the one that sounds like a call to action:
Take Back the Beep.
And heres how were going to do it.
Were going to descend, en masse, on our carriers. Send them a
complaint, politely but firmly. Together, well send them a LOT of
If enough of us make our unhappiness known, Ill bet theyll change.
Ive told each of the four major carriers that theyll be hearing from
us. Theyve told us where to send the messages:
* Verizon: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/FJncH .
* AT&T: Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* 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.
Yet all four carriers promise that theyll 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 youll pass these instructions
along, blog them, Twitter them, and spread the word. (Gizmodo,
Engadget, Consumerist and others have agreed to help out.) And I hope
youll take the time to complain yourself. Do it now, before you
Second, well all be watching. Ill be reporting on the carriers
responses. If they ignore us, well shame them. If they respond, well
Either way, its time to rise up. Its time for this crass,
time-wasting money-grab to end for good.