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May 21, 2009

Voicemail fail
Posted by Patrick at 11:54 AM *

How I hate getting voicemail messages that go “Hi Patrick, inaudible inaudible inaudible inaudible, call me back! Thanks.” From a number that blocks caller ID.

I have no idea who it was, and there are about two dozen matters pending in which it could be important.

I’m on the verge of changing both my personal and work messages to “Sorry I didn’t pick up the phone. Don’t leave voicemail. Send me email at kthxbye.”

Voicemail. It’s dying. Let’s kill it.

Comments on Voicemail fail:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 12:05 PM:

(Not that I'm all that great at responding to my torrent of email, either, but at least I can read it, and it's easy to sort through, skim, track, refer to later, and all the other things one might wish to do with a digital communication. Voicemail fails at practically everything.)

#2 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 12:12 PM:

Heh. I either don't have voicemail at all, or in the one case have a message saying "send email".

Unfortunately, it seems that people don't actually -listen- to messages saying "send email".

#3 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 12:19 PM:

Some of our departments where I work have voicemail, some don't. My office doesn't, so the secretaries are always asking me to take a phone message for my supervisor when he's not available (they don't because we're a big department and they're nowhere near us).

When I tell them he's not available and 'would you like to leave a message', more often than not they say "oh I'll just email him with my question then". Well, why didn't you do that INSTEAD OF phoning him in the first place?

OTOH, if I have to leave a voicemail for someone at our department who has it, 9 times out of 10 I never hear back from them anyway.

#4 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 12:21 PM:

In 4 weeks I've had 8 phone calls here at work, and 4 of them were personal.

What I hate are the messages were at the end the sender rushes through their phone number resulting in 4 or 5 replays of the message to try to figure out the number.

#5 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 12:27 PM:

xeger @ 2:

Some people don't actually listen to messages at all. I have, on multiple occasions, had voicemail left by non-English-speakers for people who most assuredly are not me. My message is both clearly in English and states my full name.

I love my work voicemail. "You have one new message. To play your messages, press..." Of course I want to play the message, you sodding infernal machine! If I wanted to futz with the greeting or something, I wouldn't have called when I had messages.

#6 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 12:31 PM:

The ironclad rule in this house is that calls without ID that arrive during dinner aren't answered. They are always solicitations anyway.

#7 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 12:35 PM:

I don't answer calls that block caller ID, even if I'm there. If you don't want me to know who you are, chances are I don't want to hear from you. And if I do...I'll take that risk.

#8 ::: Sarah W ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 12:42 PM:

The work voice mails that have me bruising my forehead on the desk run something like this:

My name is Ann Smith: A-N-N- S-M-I-T-H. I wonder if you would have any information about my great-great grandfather John Mumble Mumblemaiaer? He should have been in your area around mumbleteen-mumble.

Please call if you find anything. My name is Ann Smith, S-M-I-T-H and my number is fivefivefiveeightmumblefourmumble.

And then I end up playing phone book Sudoku all morning.

Mind you, I'm getting pretty good at it.

#9 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 01:28 PM:

I hardly get any voicemails at work anymore - whether it's due to my mostly being at my desk, or the extreme CYA nature of my particular division is still to be determined.

At home we have caller ID and no voice mail. If we don't recognize the number or it's blocked we don't answer. All my family members and other assorted important people have my cel phone number, which has voice mail in case they are desperate to leave a message. This system seems to work out just fine.

#10 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 01:36 PM:

KeithS @5 -- My work voicemail system does much the same, plus it requires *multiple* button presses to listen to your first message. It also won't let you delete a message until you've heard the entire thing. Arrrgh.

Work voicemail systems are worse than cellphone voicemail systems for the same reason that enterprise software is worse than consumer software.

#11 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 01:46 PM:

That last one was me-- I was calling about the usual thing. It looks like it's going to come up a little umami, apart from that one part which isn't what it was going to be. (With the border all thin next to the edges, and the discs spinning round and around and around.)

#12 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 01:52 PM:

When Google re-launched GrandCentral as Google Voice they added in a voicemail transcription to email service. It's only about 80% accurate, but that's more than enough for me to get the context. I can honestly say I haven't listened to a voicemail since then.

Of course, those who know me also know that I hardly ever answer my phone, but that's a whole 'nother issue :)

#13 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 02:16 PM:

My brother's voicemail message has said "I never check this; send me email at _______" for years.

#14 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 02:17 PM:

John L. @3: "Well, why didn't you do that INSTEAD OF phoning him in the first place?"

In my experience, a lot of questions -- particularly relatively small questions, or questions that require a little back-and-forth communication -- can be rather more efficiently solved by phone than by email, especially when the person being asked is not in a mode where they're likely to have problems with being interrupted. (For example, a friend of mine is working on her house today; she emailed me early this morning to ask if she could borrow my sander. The right way to respond was calling her back -- in less than a minute, with only one interruption to both of us, I'd confirmed that I could loan it to her and we'd agreed on a time and place to hand it over. It's taking me nearly a minute just to type out this explanation!)

For my work, where most of us are programmers who are likely to find phonecalls quite interruptive to our process, I've found that our internal IRC network is pretty much ideal for this -- it allows real-time conversation, but is not real-time interruption.

Meanwhile, on the original topic -- one of the things I really like about my phone service is that they'll convert voicemail messages to MP3 and bounce them to my email. That way, I'll at least know that I got the message in a timely fashion, and also I don't have to deal with an interminable phone menu to listen to them and erase them.

#15 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 02:34 PM:

I rather like voice mail, when it works. Unfortunately, it usually doesn't. Problems:

Mumblers, like your callers. Learn to speak clearly, even if only for voicemail. Pause between words.

Assumers. "Hi. Give me a call; it's important". I don't recognize your voice. (Nothing personal; I don't recognize *anybody's* phone voice) And don't assume I have your phone number handy; I probably don't.

The Tech. My home answering machines work just fine. The voicemail on my cellphone will be delayed by up to several *days*.

#16 ::: Max Kaehn ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 02:39 PM:

I have a service that automatically screens anyone calling who doesn’t offer caller ID; they get kicked over to a set of prompts that allows them to input a password to ring through directly, or tell their name to a computer that will then call me to ask if I want to talk to them. The menu that it then prompts me with includes the option of telling them "take me off your list". It has drastically cut down on the amount of phone solicitation; nowadays it's mostly charities, to whom my response is "Let me know the URL of your web site; it is the policy of this household not to respond to phone solicitation."

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 02:55 PM:

I find gabbled (and garbled) phone numbers annoying. I repeat my phone number when I leave it. I'm one of those people uncomfortable about talking to a machine; I'm never sure what to say, what tone to take, and I don't know how I'll sound to the person picking up.

Xopher: Skype can create a problem for people calling from it since it doesn't have a traditional ID.

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 02:57 PM:

lightning #15: Which company is your mobile service provider? Verizon, which is mine, can be occasionally quirky about messages I find.

#19 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 02:58 PM:

Evan Goer @ 10: "It also won't let you delete a message until you've heard the entire thing."

This works with my cell and desk phone: press 3 twice, quickly. That takes me to the end of the message where I can do with it as I wish.

#20 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 03:04 PM:

Evan Goer @ 10:

Because enterprise software has to have extra bloat and 'features' to justify its price tag to management?

Fragano Ledgister @ 17:

I don't mind being recorded by a machine. I never quite know how to sign off, but people manage to call me back just fine. I thoroughly hate and despise talking to a machine. Those modern telephone menu thingies that want you to speak to it rather than just push buttons are loathsome.

#21 ::: Pablo Defendini ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 03:18 PM:

There are four people who I talk to over the phone on a regular basis: My uncle, my brother, my cousin, and a dear friend whose only failing in my eyes is that she's a damn luddite. (well, five if you count my local Mexican restaurant. But services like are quickly putting the kibosh on phone ordering)

I rarely check my voicemail on mobile, and I don't even know how to access vm on my office phone.

I've taken to not answering the phone in order to force certain people who I want to keep a record of convos with to use email or IM.

So do let's kill it dead. I'm two steps away from getting rid of vox altogether, and relying on Skype for when I absolutely positively have to do it.

#22 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 03:21 PM:

I've set up the voicemail at my home institution to feed into my e-mail, where I can see who called, for how long, can play it with a click, and (important) can also delete it with a click.

Right now, I'm on sabbatical, so it says to e-mail me.

As far as I'm concerned, phones are only for what Brooks Moses (#14) described: you need an interactive conversation with me, this instant.

Barring that, asynchronous communication (e-mail or texting) is infinitely more polite, since you aren't expecting me to drop what I'm doing to talk with you.

#23 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 03:24 PM:

I use voicemail at work, where it's essential (the nature of the business I'm in doesn't always allow for email, for various *headdesk* reasons), but I find myself using email more and more for personal things.

Michael, I was taught to give my name and phone number twice in each phone call: "Hello, this is Velma at Annoying Organization. My number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. [body of message] Again, this is Velma at XXX-XXX-XXXX." As a result, I think I get more replies to my phone messages than most of my coworkers.

#24 ::: Molly ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 03:25 PM:

My grandmother is the single biggest detriment to any system I could put in place to simplify my voicemail interactions. Her phone number is blocked to caller id, so I have to answer all calls in case they're her (fortunately, they usually are).

And any attempts to put up messages explaining my policy of not listening to voicemail result in tragic voicemail messages from her commenting on the outgoing message.

Fortunately, I am now using Google Voice. At first I was getting transcriptions like "thirty" for a minute-long message, but it's gotten a lot better and I can now get enough context to avoid listening to messages.

#25 ::: Chuk ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 03:47 PM:

I am not in general a voicemail fan, but I love the interface for the visual voicemail on my phone. No more "press button 6, then 7, then 42", just clearly labeled buttons on the touch screen.

#26 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 03:51 PM:

I do what Velma does, for the same reasons.

#27 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 04:00 PM:

I also prefer e-mail messages to voicemail, but I don't always prefer e-mail communication to just talking to someone on the phone. Quick questions, quick answers, sure, but not all questions can be quickly dealt with; some problems need to be talked through. Of course I don't like garbled or mumbled messages, or messages from people who speak so quickly that I lose the last two digits of their phone number. But if people leave incomprehensible voice mail messages, that's on them, and I no longer feel guilty when I can't return the call.

#28 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 04:02 PM:


I'd love to see how this could come through on a voicemail message. I don't have nearly enough experience with spoken TagaLOL.

#29 ::: Lyli ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 04:13 PM:

I like voice mail. That said, I only have a landline and no caller ID, so if you want me to call back at all, you have to leave a message (otherwise, try again later). I do realize I'm in a minority group though.

#30 ::: Flaneurben ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 04:17 PM:

I keep meaning to incorporate Merlin Mann's voicemail tutorial into our departmental induction training.

#31 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 04:30 PM:

Fragano #17:

It could be worse. I'm one of those people uncomfortable talking to a phone generally (and when it's in a foreign language, fugeddaboudit!)

Answering the phone is difficult, steeling myself up to make a simple phone call is damn near impossible.

#32 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 04:37 PM:

I'd much rather use email but people keep calling me. It's the interruption thing as much as anything else. At work, people PHONE me in response to an EMAILED request - and usually the reason I've emailed is because I want the reply in writing.


When I lived alone, I'd turn off the phone wringer and the answering machine volume and call people back when it was convenient for me to do so. This seemed to piss them off, for some reason, but I figured I don't have a duty to be available at all times to anyone who asked.

On the plus, my mother did eventually learn to use email.

#33 ::: Scott Raun ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 04:46 PM:

At work I have to deal with voice-mail. Worse, I have to deal with sales guys calling me to get service.

I'm evil.

After I've had to listen to a voice-mail 4+ times to get the number, I call them back. 9 times out of 10, I get their voice-mail. I say, "Hi, this is Scott returning your voice-mail. I'm at (rattle off my number as fast as I can). Again, I'm at (say my number slowly and distinctly, with pauses)." When they call me back, I point out that I had no choice in returning their voice-mail, so I listened to it as many times as I had to to get the number. If I had been a potential cold-call client, my response would have been 'it's not worth my time & effort to decipher this', and delete the message. Then I recommend writing their phone number down as they're leaving it, to get it slow enough.

I have never had to do this twice to the same person. Pointing out that this has potential negative effects on their sales is a wonderful incentive to learn better!

At home, I apply similar rules. Although mostly I just ignore calls that I can't get the number from on the first pass.

#34 ::: turtle ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 04:50 PM:

See, this is why I prefer to just call back later instead. I've heard my own voice on an answering machine, and no matter how slowly and clearly I speak, I sound like a chimpanzee on helium.

Not entirely sure if voicemail makes EVERYBODY sound like that, or if that's what my voice is like all the time... if the latter, I must be surrounded by some very patient and forgiving people :D

#35 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 05:09 PM:

I've already instituted a "no voicemail" policy. I started it back in college. The college phone policy involved mandating the use of the most obnoxious voicemail program you can imagine, tied to a phone so loud that when it rang, starlings outside my closed window would spook and fly away. I set the message to say I didn't check messages there, then disconnected the phone from the wall.

These days, if I miss a call from someone I want to talk to, I call them back first and clear out the message second. No point to a "missed calls" list if I'm not going to use it.

#36 ::: Keith K ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 05:23 PM:

Evan @10: sounds like you and I have the same voicemail system. I have to use a password to get into it, listen to the menu options every single time and can't delete the message until I've listened to the whole thing, which is obnoxious, as 9 out of 10 messages are from a co worker explaining why she will be 15 minutes late to work in the most rambling explanation ever (she could shave a good 5 minutes off being late if she just skipped the message!)

#37 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 05:47 PM:

Velma @23 and Xopher @ 26:

It's the rush talking of the phone number, as if that's going to save them a penny or some fraction in their phone all.

It's amazing the number of long detailed voicemails I'll get and then have the phone number left as almost a
Charles de Lint signature

#38 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 05:49 PM:

Joann @#31, there are other people like that? I had no idea. I thought uncomfortable-with-phones was a me-specific thing: I haven't encountered any other antiphonists before.

I'm particularly bad at leaving messages for machines: I have no idea why, as the machine has no social expectations of me and I spend my entire day negotiating with machinery far more complex than an answering machine. But nonetheless it is so.

#39 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 05:57 PM:

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister: Which company is your mobile service provider?

Sprint. I once spent the better part of a job interview grousing about Sprint with the recruiter. You can imagine what that kind of delay does for somebody whose livelihood depends on prompt communication.

The other nasty little habit that Sprint has is to suddenly decide that I have to check all my messages (text, voice, video) *right now*, and won't let me do what I picked up the phone to do in the first place.

From what I've heard, all the cellphone companies have their little "quirks". You get your choice of annoyances.

#40 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 06:04 PM:

I despise voicemail. If Dante wanted an alternate Circle of Hell it would be pitch black with one having to deal with voicemail.

#41 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 06:23 PM:

If people want to talk to me or my wife, they call our corresponding cellphones; if they want to talk to our kitchen, they call our kitchen where a happy machine often answers their call. So the messages on the machine are usually "spam, spam, spam, spam, doctor-appointment-reminder, spam", and that high fraction of non-spam is only because most spam calls either deliberately or incompetently don't leave messages. But there are a couple of real humans who call, like one of my neighbors, and if one of us is out of the house, we might call the home phone to find the other if that makes sense.

But cellphone voicemail is essential, even though it's not always reliable. I'm often driving, and my work laboratory is in a dungeon\\\\\\basement with bad cell reception, and there are enough other times that somebody's trying to reach me when I'm not quite reachable that voicemail is a big improvement over beeper-like service.

#42 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 06:50 PM:

joann (31), Nix (38): A few years ago I founded a tongue-in-cheek (fake) organization, Phone Phobes International. Motto: "Don't call us; we won't call you." It sounds as if both of you are charter members.

#43 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 07:02 PM:

joann @ 31, Nix @ 38:

Add me to the list of telephobics. I dread making and fielding phone calls, even when it's a query from someone I know. My spouse often has to make informational calls for us, because I get so nervous. Maybe it's because when I was little, my dad got into a knife fight with Ma Bell. Regardless, I'd much rather e-mail, or even fumble with that IM thingy. Maybe we should form a club: Unhooked from Phonics, or some such.

#44 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 07:04 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 42:

If I'm going to eschew telephones, I apparently need to learn to type faster.

#45 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 07:19 PM:

That's a GREAT idea. Thank you.

#46 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 07:28 PM:

Generally I find voicemail & answering machines useful, tho' callers have problems others described. My 'outgoing message' in a friendly tone asked “… Who you are. Why you called. How we can get back to you” to help them.

Anyone calling from inside a switchboard loses Caller ID in our system, which spoils much call screening.

OTOH, at work, I'll live with a password *grit* but why, oh, why is ‘hear messages left’ not only the second level down, but the second choice on that level!? What sane person changes their outgoing message more often than listening to incoming ones?

#47 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 07:28 PM:

I've gotten voice mail messages from people who dialed the wrong number and, ignoring my own message, left a message for someone else. Sometimes the message is obviously so important that I call the person to tell them they got the wrong number. Examples: an attorney calling a client saying "We have a deadline of midnight tonight to do blah blah blah..." or a school calling a parent "Your child is sick please come pick her up..."

#48 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 07:38 PM:

mary @ 47:

The number of those sorts of messages dropped dramatically when I changed my message to clearly state my name and telephone number, as opposed to just my number. Not to say they've stopped, but I get far fewer.

If you already do that, never mind.

#49 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 07:40 PM:

Michael Walsh @19: I'll give that a shot! My cellphone voicemail does delete the message right away on pressing "7", but I'll try the "33" trick on my corp voicemail.

KeithS @ 20: Nah, it's not about bloat/features. Most enterprise software I've seen ends up having *fewer* features than the equivalent consumer-grade software, while still being harder to use (a neat trick, that).

Enterprise software sucks due to lack of competition and no feedback loop. In enterprise software, the users have no choice -- the company pays megabucks for a "solution" that they can't back out of for years, if ever. The people who approved the purchase aren't responsible for using the software or making sure the contractors fix it.

#50 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 08:06 PM:

mds (43, 44): There are obviously a lot of us.

#51 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 08:06 PM:

Keith S, #48: The number of those sorts of messages dropped dramatically when I changed my message to clearly state my name and telephone number, as opposed to just my number.

I say my name on both my work and my mobile phone, but I'd kind of prefer not to do it on my home phone, since it means that any random person who calls me knows my name, address, that I'm female, and that I live alone.

#52 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 08:43 PM:

Debcha @ 51: My answering machine gives my phone number and then suggests that if the caller is trying to reach [my name] or [my SCA persona], s/he should please leave a message. There are some people who only know me by one name or the other, and it does occasionally confuse people as to the number of people living here. ("That former roommate or whatever, Evan, has been gone for a long time. Don't you think you should take his name off your answering machine?")

Once I got home late in the evening and found a message from a woman who wasn't speaking clearly, obviously hadn't listened to the message, and thought she had reached her doctor. Mumbled something about bleeding badly and asked the doctor to call her back right away. Didn't leave a number. I dialled *69 to get her number and called it... and got a grumpy farmer who was angry at me for waking him up, and figured that his neighbor had used his phone earlier, and NO, he wasn't going to check on her or call the police or anything, <*click*>.

I couldn't think of anything else I could do. In retrospect, I suppose I could have called the police myself and given them what little information I had.

#53 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 08:49 PM:

joann #31: I've known some people like that. The telephone can make conversation seem terribly distant and impersonal.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 09:01 PM:

lightning #39: Verizon's generally been pretty good. But that particular quirk seems extremely annoying.

#55 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 10:24 PM:

I had a cute exchange last night. I had my cell phone off while I was out at a movie; when I got out, it showed one missed call. I called the number back, and got a recording identifying the number as belonging to my landlord's son. I haven't talked to him in about 15 years, so I'm wondering if my landlord has had a some accident. Left a message to call me back; calling my landlord's number gets a busy signal.

It got sorted out the next day. For whatever reason, my landlord has been using a cell phone loaned out to him by his son. Every time he has called on it previously, I'd picked it up right away.

#56 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 11:25 PM:

Chalk me up with the phonophobes as well -- in fact, my sister and I were just talking about it this evening. (I live in the same area as my family, for the first time in 20 years! It's neat!) She's worse than me.

I normally have to work myself up for a day or two to handle something on the phone with anybody I don't already know. Although I'm getting better. Like everything, it's a zen question. If you can pick up the phone before you think about picking up the phone, sometimes it works.

#57 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 12:35 AM:

I've experienced an odd bit of voicemail techfail a few times recently: I would receive a call from a friend who uses a different phone company, and immediately upon finishing the call and hanging up, I would finally get the missed call notice and voicemail received notice from the previous time he'd attempted to call me and didn't get through. I'm wondering if it's some kind of hissy fit the T-Mobile and AT&T network systems routinely throw at each other in the marketshare wars.

#58 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 12:49 AM:

lightning: I have sprint, and my voicemail is pretty straightforward.

I call in, they tell me how many messages I have, and start playing them; most recent first.

If I want to erase it, I press 7. If I want to keep it, I press 9. If Want to hear it again, I press 4. I can do any of these at any point, and they take effect.

If I screwed up, I can (before I quit the call) press * and get a menu which will let me recover tossed messages. Once I hang up, the deleted calls are lost for good.

The only thing I dislike is that once I have a voicemail I've not collected, I don't get told when I have newer ones.

I've never had Sprint force me to collect my voicemail (and I don't do text/video/web from my phone).

#59 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 10:48 AM:

Voicemail is probably the worst-designed application in the entire noosphere. Mine, frex, treats the messages as a queue, so it reads them all out starting with the oldest. FAYLE.

Spinvox and Me2Me are highly recommended.

#60 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 12:43 PM:

debcha @ 51:

That's understandable. Chalk it up to another unthinking bit of male privilege, combined with the fact that I haven't had a landline for years.

Michael Roberts @ 56:

I hate telephones as well. It used to take me a long time to pick up the phone to call someone I don't know. Now it takes mere minutes. I'd still rather email.

Alex @ 59:

Why is it bad that it starts with the oldest message first? Unless it starts with the oldest message and not the oldest new message.

#61 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 12:56 PM:

The only good voicemail I have is on my VOIP line, where it emails the wav to me.

I've had decent (old voicestream). I've had bad (current phone co -- it works, but is totally obnoxious).

And I've had malicious. One of my voicemail systems got upgraded. Only the old code for listen to message got changed to mean delete message.

I've also noticed that cell phone voicemail systems tend to be tuned so that you can't leave a message in under a minute of calling. It's always just over the minute, so they get to bill for another one. Most business and home systems don't to that.

Also, is is just me or has every voicemail tree recently changed it's options?

#62 ::: Dave Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 01:13 PM:

I hate any type of voice menu system with a passion. I want to be able to SEE my options and get cranky when I can't. Voice prompts are too slow, and I'm more likely to get them wrong.

Like others I hate phones in general, and don't maintain a personal voicemail. The missed call list shows who called, and that's all I need to know.

As for cell phone and other provider customer service lines: once I get through the voice menu system I'm generally so furious that it's very hard not to be angry with the innocent reps.

#63 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 01:29 PM:

re 60: Well, when we could set the message on our answering machine, we didn't give out our name either. It was reccoed at the time.

I'm wondering, actually, whether some of the annoyance expressed here has to do with the difference in UI between answering machines and voice mail.

#64 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 03:51 PM:

I do volunteer work that requires me to leave messages. I only found out recently that my stinkin' cheap cordless phone has to be held in a certain way and pointed in a certain direction or I come out "sh'wahwhahh sh'wah sh'wahhwah." It's like the nifty multifunction laser printer/copier/fax that Xerox sold to an old boss of mine without telling him that it only worked when used with the cable provided, which was three feet long. The thing was the size of a shipping carton and heavy. He sent it back.

#65 ::: Hilary L Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 04:00 PM:

I have Cablevision for my phone service. I use their online voicemail retrieval system exclusively because often if I dial in, the little blinking light that signals that I've had a message left continues to blink after I've listened to the message. For some reason, listening to the wav and deleting the message online works better.

The bane of my life is Westchester County's automated calls. Often they have useful information (dates for e-waste recycling, etc.) but half the time they come from an unlisted phone number, so I have to listen to all calls without numbers. Admittedly, it's usually them and I can tell in 5 seconds if I need to hear the rest, plus they've got the art of useful and clear information down pat.

I am not going to rant about work voicemail as other people have covered all of my complaints.

#66 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 04:52 PM:

Apropos of wrong numbers, it's about that time of year again and some time this summer I expect we'll be getting a call from Liza.

You see, we have the same telephone number as Liza's daughter, except for the area code, and when Liza's summering in our great state, she forgets to dial the area code sometimes, which led to our first amusing conversation:

-- "Hello, how are you?" (spoken by a gloriously friendly older female voice with an accent influenced by the greater NYC area)
"Um. I'm sorry, who is this?"
-- "It's Liza. (pause) Your MOTHER."
"Um. I'm pretty sure my mother's name isn't Liza, and I don't think his mother's name is Liza either. Are you sure you have the right number?"

She's a doll. I miss her when she remembers the area code.

#67 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 05:46 PM:

Thena #66:

Since I know that you're in Maine (down to 'Gusta). Liza is probably from Rhode Island, Delaware, or DC(since she needs to come from a place with 7 digit dialing).
Geeks R Us

#68 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 05:57 PM:

John Houghton (67): She could also be from Long Island, which would go with the NYC-area accent.

#69 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 06:35 PM:

Michael Walsh @ 19: the "33" trick worked! My hero!

#70 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 07:44 PM:

Another person here who prefers email, mainly because my hearing sometimes makes phone conversations difficult (although with good phones it's less of a problem). However, my boss is not a visual-mode guy; he actually needs to hear something for better comprehension. Once I realized this (after sending him an email, having him call me with questions, and reading my email to him, with resultant light-going-on-ness), I now send my emails and then call him.

If I could do everything by email, I'd be happy. Well, almost everything.

#71 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 08:12 PM:

#58 ::: Terry Karney --

95% of the time, my Sprint cellphone is one of those delightful pieces of technology that just sits there, does its job, and doesn't get in the way.

Perhaps the "Check your messages *now* nonsense is a "feature" of my phone. I don't pretend to have all its little "features" sorted out. The "check messages" nonsense comes up occasionally when I open the phone to do something else, like make a call. It opens into a memu that I've never seen anywhere else, with a summary of all pending messsages. Only way out is to hit the "end" button until the menus go away.

#72 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 09:04 PM:

Mary Aileen #68:
Darn, I didn't check New York, assuming that with all those area codes, there would be overlays (more than one area code for a given area) %mdash; but the only overlays are in and around NYC (which means I probably missed other places with 7-digit dialing). My bad, I'll turn myself over to the NANP police now.

#73 ::: Mike Kabongo ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2009, 11:12 PM:

If you are using a smart phone, or most cell cell phones the best thing in a long time is Youmail. You can customize greetings per phone number or group, and receive an audio clip of the voicemail by email. I may start using it on my business phone. I've used it on my personal phone for years. is the website

#74 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2009, 12:18 AM:

Don't have a cellphone, and my home phone has an answering machine on it with the message "Hi! This is Dave's answering machine, at . Please leave me a message, if you're not a recording!". Despite that, I do still occasionally get wrong-number messages, though rarely; even more rarely there's a series of them over a week or so obviously all from the same person. I'm not using this as a work phone (and at work I'm not supposed to be _using_ the phone for intracompany calls at all), so it's less of a problem for me than it could be...

Sounds like Patrick may first want to try appending, to his current voicemail message, "If I can't understand part of the voice message you leave, I'm quite likely to be unable to call you back.", or the like.

Stephan@11 - ... ... your soapmaking efforts SCARE me sometimes.

#75 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2009, 02:38 AM:

For a while we were getting toner phoners and push polls every darn day including Sunday. My husband finally rerecorded our answering machine message so that the first thing callers heard was his voice booming, "We screen our phone calls." Lots of dial tones on the ol' minicassette. (Yes, we still use an answering machine that takes tapes. It still works, why fix it?)

#76 ::: Dan Boone ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2009, 02:55 AM:

Add me to the ranks of people who dislike placing phone calls to strangers. Doubly worse if I need to ask them for something. Usually, I have to rehearse that call several times in my head before I can dial it. I'd rather eat a bug.

Needless to say, when I was a young lawyer this trait neither improved my efficiency, nor endeared me to my boss. I'm probably the only lawyer in creation who ever got yelled at for faxing a request I "should" have handled by phone.

Later in my career I noticed that my stress level would spike every time I saw the little indicator on my desk phone telling me that I had messages. That was actually one of the clues that led me to find a different line of work. (By then, I was working for myself; phone calls were often from new clients, and meant money. But they also meant: calling a stranger.)

Now, I do all my business by email, I don't have a land line at all, and my (personal) cell phone doesn't have voice mail turned on. I never "got around" to setting up the mailbox. The only people who have my number are people I want to hear from, and if I miss their call, my phone helpfully tells me who called and when. That's enough to let me decide whether I need to call them back.

#77 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2009, 08:55 AM:

I loathe voicemail. Yet Bell send me paper mail every other week explaining how I could add it to my package for only a little extra. The alternate weeks they send me mail trying to get me to buy their high speed internet that costs twice what the one I have costs. They haven't called me to try to get me to buy voicemail or high speed internet since the time they called me when I was eating and I told them that if they ever called me again and it wasn't about a bill or a problem with the line I'd cope without a phone at all.

There are times you need to use the phone for immediacy of response. (Not very many, actually, since they invented Gmail chat.) And there are times you need to use the phone because the other person is 83 and has failing eyesight. And there are times you need it so you can hear the other person giggle. Oh, and I believe some people use phone rather than textual communication to have a conversation "off the record".

#78 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2009, 09:16 AM:

One thing I've noticed, and not just from voicemail and other auto-voice contraptions, is that people behave as if you have perfect hearing, and are always ready to note down a telephone number.

1: The meaningless social noise give the telephone line, and the listener's ears, a chance to settle down after the switches operate. I often lose the first couple of syllables somebody says. "Good morning", "Hello", and similar, give you a margin. Same for leaving a message.

2: While my circumstances have changed, and I'm not likely to be standing in the middle of a field when I answer my cellphone, I don't always have a pencil and paper to hand when you gabble your phone number.

3: This is England. I'm used to strange accents. If you think that Indian call centre is bad, wait until you get hit with a call from Glasgow or Newcastle. But some of that stuff is using a digital long-distance circuit with extreme compression. I feel like I ought to connect a ring modulator to my microphone.

4: "Dead Ringers". But it's no fun doing that with robots.

#79 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2009, 01:39 PM:

My voice mail rules:

1: State my name clearly. If they don't know me, I spell my surname.

2: State my phone number clearly.

3: Leave brief message

4: Restate my name and phone number

At my company, there are people who refuse to answer their phones, and only want to communicate via email. They tend to be the hardest people to work with because a simple 2 minute phone call often turns into hours of typing.

FWIW, often if I can't reach someone by phone, I leave send an email instead of leaving a voice mail, but that's not always an option. Generally, I reserve voice mail for friends and family.

#80 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2009, 02:28 PM:

The galumphing telecom marketing drones (stacked seventeen deep in hell, they are) keep trying to tie me down to a discount bundle, the linchpin of which is a land line, which I have not needed for many years, and which balloons back to full price after six months. They all offer discounts, therefore, they all are fundamentally overpriced.

#81 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2009, 04:59 PM:

I was a telephone tech support person for several years, and learned how to Do Phone, incoming and outgoing. I sound a lot more friendly and sociable on the phone than I am in real life.

What I hate about calling a company is talking to someone who doesn't know a damn thing, but is instead a buffer or screener or, worst of all, a script-reader. Script readers are supposed to get you the answer you need, but is just, well, reading from a script. I often need highly technical information, like whether the clear QAM digital television channels will still be accessible by my television once the DTA the cable company wants to send me is in place.

Incoming: The worst sort of call is the telemarketing outfit that depends on your not being at home. They hang up if a human answers. If they get your answering machine, you get a "Gosh, I'm sorry I reached you when you were out. I can only offer you this low mortgage rate for two more days . . ." sort of message. The crisp authoritative MBA go-getter-type that voiced once such call . . . if I ever meet the guy, I'd probably be tempted to punch him.

#82 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2009, 06:54 PM:

Now that would be a killer app: voicemail that is smart enough to know when to hang up on somebody.

#83 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 04:14 AM:

Since I often am in a situation during work so that I can't answer the phone, and some folks I deal with are in that situation as well, voicemail is essential to me. Many of us are so likely to be dirty that we'd never consider carrying a laptop, and even texting would be a problem with muddy hands. I've used Grand Central/Google Voice for nearly four years, and they just get niftier and niftier, especially since they started doing transcription. The number is a Dallas area code, which is easy for Dallas area callers and cell phone users. (My home and business base are actually 45 miles northwest, in another area code.) However, last year I started another business that advertises locally only, and for that I use my local cell number, so I'm using its voicemail lots more.

I won't put up with voicemail retrieval systems that aren't efficient for long. I've broken several cell phone contracts, and was known to get so mad at frustrating answering machines I'd destroy them. I had such a bad experience with Sprint (2001-02) that I'll never do business with them or any subsidiary. Nothing about their service was even acceptable. It seems like the cell providers are becoming pretty consistent, though. I had NexTel until they merged with Sprint, then changed to Verizon, and a year ago changed to T-Mobile. Each of their systems used the same basic codes--7 to delete and 9 to save or archive. I had Verizon service for my land line (home phone only) for several years, and they had a different system, even while I had both land and cell service with them. And it was a chore. The only gripe I have with T-Mobile's voicemail service is that when I delete a number, it asks me if I want to un-delete it before it'll play the next message.

Since I'm in Texas, where most people talk slowly, I don't have too much trouble with unintelligible messages, although occasionally there's one from someone who's service is cutting in and out. Caller ID usually helps me there. I haven't answered a non-IDed call for years, period, although that caused a few problems while I was dealing with probate court in Colorado, where all gubmit numbers are blocked. But despite all that, I still feel awkward and speak haltingly when I have to leave a message for a stranger or someone I barely know, and often just hang up and hope "missed calls" or caller ID does its thing. For some reason, I speak a whole lot slower than I think, and when discomfort exacerbates that problem, it seems excruciating even to me to hear all that, so I avoid it.

#84 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 11:37 AM:


VOICEMAIL: Hello, this is the answering service for Buck Rogers. He's off on another interplanetary adventure just now, and can't come to the phone. I see that your caller ID is blocked; please answer the following questions slowly and clearly and you will be connected with the voicemail recorder and can leave a message for Buck. Si desea hablar conmigo en español, pulse 1. If you would like to text your answers using the keypad of your telephone, press 2. If you want me to repeat these instructions, press 5. *Pause* Now, let's begin. First, please state your name.

TELEMARKETER: I'm sorry I didn't reach you—

VOICEMAIL: I'm sorry, I didn't get your name. Please try again.

TELEMARKETER: Ravish & Pillage, Attorneys. We will repres—

VOICEMAIL: Thanks, Ravish, now please give me your phone number, with area code.

TELEMARKETER: Do you need the services of a good—

VOICEMAIL: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear a number. Please try again, speaking slowly and clearly. If you want me to repeat the instructions, push "1". When you get tired of hearing me, hangup.

#85 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 12:13 PM:

Bruce @84:
I hope you don't mind that I cleaned up your HTML a little. For future reference, — is &mdash;, not &emdash;.

#86 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 12:30 PM:

Jo Walton @ 77: You mentioned that some people use the phone to be "off the record".

In one's private life, I believe phone calls are off the record unless law enforcement or the like is taking an interest in you. At work, both your voice mails and your calls may be recorded. The technology to efficiently search voice recordings has gotten remarkably good.

#87 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 12:46 PM:

janetl @ 86: The matter of recording phone messages and other communication-by-sound depends on local law. Under Canadian law, it is illegal to intercept / record private voice communications except with the consent of at least one person who's an intended recipient of the communications. It is, therefore, legal for someone to record his/her own telephone conversations here. This can lead to interesting situations where, for example, someone promises some compensation in a telephone conversation, then tries to claim that no such promises were made.

#88 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 02:27 PM:

In my work life, people who use phone calls to be "off the record" will find themselves the recipient of a "just to confirm our conversation" email from me, with copies to my boss and (depending on how much I distrust them) theirs. Then they can either respond in email saying I didn't get it right, or have my interpretation be the version-of-record.

I hate having to have non scriptum, non est as my motto, but some people will deny having said anything that becomes inconvenient later. It's not a coincidence that those are the same people who prefer phone calls to email.

#89 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 02:41 PM:

some people will deny having said anything that becomes inconvenient later

Oooh, yes. Was a time when we recorded executive meetings of the local SF society, so our secretary could produce a set of minutes that could be verified to be complete and accurate. The two people who were most given to trying to retroactively rewrite their comments, and to claiming that they'd never been told to perform certain tasks, were the ones who objected to the process.

#90 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 05:33 PM:

Voicemail has its place. I don't like to use it because of performance anxiety when having to leave a voicemail message, but if I'm not at my desk, leaving a voice message is the best option. Not all of us have Blackberrys/iPhones.

#91 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 06:07 PM:

I got an answering machine when Jim's crazy grandmother started calling people at 2am, telling them she's dying, only to find her serving tea and cakes to the half dozen or so people who rushed over to tend to her. [Insert a number of stories having to do with the first message being in a thin, thready voice; the second being an outraged old lady screaming how dare we hang up on her. AM had a 30-second message allowance.]

My cell-I don't answer if I don't recognize the number. If you don't leave a message, I know it's not important enough for me to call back.

Home-any non-IDed call gets filtered by the system. Any call with an unrecognized number gets the ON button pushed, followed immediately by the OFF button. My guess is that the computer at the other end records the disconnect as a "dead" number. At least that's my hope. Since the number of robocalls has dropped, there may be some truth to the theory. If it really is a human, the human assumes a glitch in the connection and calls back. Thus, a second call almost immediately from the same number gets answered. I think I've had one of those in the last month.

I recently had a rather amusing texting conversation. It went something like this:
received: hey. Followed several minutes later by a repeated "hey."
I sent: you've sent hey to my fone twice. I don't know you, so you should check the number or introduce yourself.
rec'd: haha. how's the beach?
sent: Ok, I'll start. my name is lin. what's yours?
rec'd: very funny nick
sent: I'm not nick. my name is lin
rec'd: haha, your name is nicholas (I don't remember)
The guy didn't get it. so I called and left a voice message in my very obviously female voice: "Hi, Nick's friend. This really is Lin. You might want to check the fone number you're texting. Or, if you want to call, feel free. I'm game."
Never heard another peep.

That little interaction pointed out a non-functional bit: I couldn't call the fone number used to send the text message. I had to save it to contacts first. Say what?

I personally don't like to answer the fone. I feel the fone is an intrusion, demanding that I deal with it RIGHT NOW. I'm busy right now. What I'm doing is often more important than stopping to talk to you. Leave a message. The very few people who's calls I want/need to take get special ring tones. Email and IM I can answer when I can answer. I love the idea of either a transcript or emailing a sound file. (originally typoed as sound vile; how appropriate)

On leaving messages, I expect to get VM, and compose a message before I call. On those occasions when I get a real human, my response is often "OH! You're there!" and a garbled message, because I'm startled.

I just got bitten by the "agreed to in talking on the fone, conveniently forgetting when problem arose." Bah. Now to follow up all fone calls with email. *sigh*

#92 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 06:15 PM:

TELEMARKETER: Hello, I'm calling from Loanshark Inc! Am I speaking to Mr Harrowell?
HARROWELL: I'm sorry, no. I'm a burglar!
*muted giggles*
click, brr...

TELEMARKETER: Congratulations! You have been pre-selected to win a hydrogen jukebox with online chocolate fireguard if you borrow nine million Ukrainian hyvrnia and answer these two simple questions...
HARROWELL: Excuse me; I am a Security Service officer monitoring this line in the interests of national security. Good day.

click, brr...

#93 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2009, 08:24 PM:

Alex @ #92, if you hope to find an erudite telemarketer, change this:

HARROWELL: I'm sorry, no. I'm a burglar!


HARROWELL: I'm sorry, no. I'm Bernie Rhodenbarr!

#94 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 09:03 AM:

Joining the club: I -loath- leaving calls on voicemail/answerphone. Generally I have to put the 'phone down, compose the message, then call back again and read out the message - or send an e-mail instead, if that's an option (assuming I called rather than e-mailed originally because it was one of those faster-by-conversation things).

As for calling someone I don't know to ask for something - it can take me an hour or more to work up to it.

I'd never be able to work telesales!

#95 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 10:40 AM:

KeithS @20: I thoroughly hate and despise talking to a machine. Those modern telephone menu thingies that want you to speak to it rather than just push buttons are loathsome.

Agreed, yea, with a vengeance. I'm in the midst of a long train trip right now, and I hate being where I've no internet but want to check on train status. "Hi, I'm Julie! Please say the number of the train you want to check on..." Thankfully, Julie appears to understand my pushing 6. But I don't think I can type in the arrival city. "I'm sorry, I didn't understand that. Please say your destination city." But on my way up to Viable Paradise in 2006, I was paranoid I'd miss my bus to the ferry, and the Lakeshore Limited was quite late. You try calling Julie from a noisy train. You just try it.

(Why do most cell phones seem to transmit the noises around them at almost the same level as the person you're actually on the phone with?)

People who've been around me for any length of time know that I occasionally emit involuntary squeaks. It's a sort of burp function, I think. It's weird. Sometimes it's damn inconvenient. I mean, I can't reliably sneak up on anyone! My plans to take over the world must take this into account!

Anyway, on one occasion, I'm calling my cell phone company, whose menu at least gives you both options.

"Please speak or say 1 if XXX-XXX-XXXX is the number you are calling about today."

Nope, I'm calling from the land line but I'm calling about my cell phone. I press 2.

"Please speak or say the number you are calling about."

Before I can reach for the dial pad, Eeep!

"I'm sorry. That is not a recognized response. Please speak or say the number..."

Ah well. At least the "say" part does serve a useful function for those unable to push buttons. At least some companies know to allow the button-pushing at the same time. But holding my breath to keep from confusing them just isn't on, you know?

#96 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 01:15 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ 95:

Cell phone microphones are very sensitive, because they're not guaranteed to be right next to your mouth, especially with the rush to miniaturization. The people who use them in restrooms do not understand this. I make sure I flush.

And that system has a human name it wants to be called? Ick.

The USPS's awful menu system only tells you about the spoken options the first time around, but if you wait it'll admit that you can press buttons too. It's still designed to never actually let you talk to a real human. I wound up having to find the local post office's phone number instead.

#97 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 01:23 PM:

Nicole: I've found the best thing is a headset, with a boom-mike. I like this for a number of reasons, not least is I can walk and talk/putter about the house (which is handy for my LDR), and when I am walking and talking the boom-mike makes it pretty obvious I am not speaking to myself/random people.

I also find them more comfortable than the "ear-clip" styles of mike. Those styles also suffer from the over-sensitivity problems of cell-phones, for the same reasons.

#98 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 02:37 PM:

Effective July 1, talking/texting/dialing while driving is illegal in Honolulu. Bluetooth and its competitors have seen sales jump.

I expect to hear even more conversations than I used to, because people won't remove the things from their ears once they leave their cars.

#99 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 02:49 PM:

Linkmeister (98): All talking on phones, or just hand-held phones? Here in NY, it's just hand-held (not that it stops people...).

#100 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 04:56 PM:

Hand-held, Mary Aileen. Visor phones are OK.

Enforceability is going to be a joke, but if even one idiot doesn't hit me because he/she thinks about the law, maybe it's a good thing. (I let my phone ring if I'm driving; always have.)

#101 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 06:24 PM:

Enforcement, what enforcement? :(

(The most egregious I've seen may have been the woman who was talking on a hand-held phone as she backed out of a parking space. Excuse me, you're already parked. You don't even have to pull over. Finish the conversation, *then* drive, you idiot!)

#102 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 06:26 PM:

I yell "Hang up and drive!" at people who do stupid things driving with phone in hand. It's illegal in New Jersey, but that makes no difference to some of these bozos.

#103 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 07:25 PM:

Alex @92: I am reminded of this story, in which telling the truth had the same effect:

Answerer: Hello, this is the Lastname residence, may I help you?

Telemarketer: Hello! Is this Mrs. Lastname?

Answerer: No, she's not here at the moment. Can I take a message?

Telemarketer: Is Mr. Lastname home?

Answerer: No, he's not. How can I help you?

Telemarketer: Are you his daughter?

Answerer: No, I'm not. Would you like to leave a message?

Telemarketer: Are you the housekeeper?

Answerer: No, I'm not.

Telemarketer: Well, who the heck are you?

Answerer: I'm Mr. Lastname's mistress. May I take a message for you?

Telemarketer: *stunned silence* *click*

#104 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 07:35 PM:

I have this fantasy* of "instant tickets": When a driver does something egregiously illegal and dangerous--talk on the phone, cross the double yellow line to pass so they can speed, whatever--another driver (e.g., me) could just point and ZAP! instant ticket. So satisfying.

*Even if the technology existed, it would be legally and sociologically impossible. But I can dream.

#105 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 07:56 PM:

I once dealt with a particularly dense bill collector:

BC> Is Mr. Lastname there?

Me> No, he's not, may I take a message?

BC> Are you his wife?

Me> No, I'm his girlfriend. May I take a message?

BC> Is MRS. Lastname there?

Me> Wait, wait, there's a Mrs. Lastname? Ooooooh, kinky!

#106 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 08:15 PM:

I think this may have been posted on Making Light before, but not recently. The Telemarketer counter-script, or flow chart. It's quite wonderful, but doesn't print out well, so it's a bit tricky to keep handy by the phone.

#107 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2009, 09:07 PM:

lightning, #15: The "hi, call me back" people are probably assuming that you'll see their name and number on your caller ID, because their voicemail system does that. It's a failure of the ability to recognize that the personal is not necessarily the universal.

Thena, #32: I figured I don't have a duty to be available at all times to anyone who asked.

Yes, exactly. But a lot of people especially in my age-group and up (middle-aged to elderly) do seem to believe that you have a duty to answer a ringing phone; this appears to be less true for younger people. One of the things I loved about my first answering machine was that it made the phone work more for MY convenience than for that of any random person who wanted to call me.

Mary, #47: I've been known to call back important-sounding wrong numbers as well. I think of it as a deposit in the karma bank -- I'd certainly want someone to do that for me if I left a message at the wrong number! Though I don't think I'd be likely to do that (because I do listen to the outgoing message), there's always that minuscule chance that I'll be too distracted or upset to notice...

debcha, #51: Might it help to have a male friend record your message for you, using your name? Or would that cause drama in various quarters?

Lin, #91: On those occasions when I get a real human, my response is often "OH! You're there!" and a garbled message, because I'm startled.

That's happened to me a few times too. If I'm expecting to leave a message, I have it composed in my head, and getting a Real Human causes a system interrupt.

KeithS, #96: You are evil. I like that in a person.

Linkmeister, #98: Ever notice how much they look like Borg implants?

Xopher, #102: We have several bumper stickers along those lines:
- Are you making an appointment with St. Peter on that cellphone?
- On the road or on the phone: PICK ONE.

I used to have a really good answering-machine message, which unfortunately can't be used now that we run a home-based business. It went:

"The number you have reached, NNN-MMMM, is imaginary. Please rotate your phone 90 degrees and try your call again. If you feel that you have reached this message in error, please leave your name and number at the sound of the tone."

in my most professional voice, and with the sort of emphasis on the numbers that the real phone-company message used. It amused my friends no end, and most telemarketers would be fooled and hang up.

#108 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 01:59 AM:

Lee @ #107, Borg implants, heck. They look (forgive me, O Fluorosphere) like Periplaneta americana, which is grotesque to contemplate.

#109 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 09:33 AM:

Lee @ 107: "The number you have reached, NNN-MMMM, is imaginary...."

I love this. I must persuade my partner to allow a similar message on our machine.

#110 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 09:55 AM:

I don't like voice mail and have teherfore convinced my mobile provider to shut it off (previous experimentation shows that left voicemail disappear after 50-150 days, even if you don't listen to it).

I also do not have an answering machine on my landline, since I loathe to inflict the horrors of such a contraption on others. But, when I did have one, I took some pride in having surreal "you are talking to a machine" messages (including, but not limited to, adverts for "Igor & Igor second-hand brains" and what purported to be my fridge taking the message).

#111 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 12:00 PM:


I don't know. The message sounds too complex to me.

#112 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 12:58 PM:

I've had several instances of having to convince the person on the other end that one of the subscribers to the number, while listed in the phone book, was totally imaginary. For reasons too obscure to go into, and in fact no longer entirely remembered, my husband's listing in the phone book has for many years been HisMiddleName MyLastName. This has produced awkward situtations in which bill collectors wishing to, say, ding someone actually bearing the name of this construct for tuition loans in states which no one in the household has ever even visited, refuse to believe in its non-existence.

#113 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 01:16 PM:

Lee @ 107: The number you have reached, NNN-MMMM, is imaginary....

Oooh... I may steal that!

I'm not wild about the phone or voicemail, mostly due to my hearing loss. (My hearing aids don't play nice with my current phone, either. :-( )

That said, sometimes you do need a voice message, and I'm not always tethered to my E-mail, either.

#114 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 05:37 PM:

Some years ago, my then-boyfriend and I ordered a second phone line for the computer. We didn't want to put it in his name or mine, so we used one of the pets' names.

I wasn't home when the installer came, but according to my ex, she got everything set up and then asked, "I was wondering, is Mr. Bird around? Montgomery T. Bird, the person whose name is on this line?"

"Uh, yeah," said my ex, "she's right there in the cage — the yellow one with the peach-colored feathers around her eyes and beak."

"Oh!" she said and started laughing. "I was wondering because my grandfather's name was Montgomery Bird, and I thought maybe this was a relative. Guess not."

#115 ::: Lisa ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 05:47 PM:

Linkmeister@98: The advent of widespread hands-free kits make it difficult to gauge whether the person gesticulating and talking loudly to empty air is crazy or on the phone, which can be a significant impediment to the urban lifestyle.

#116 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 06:19 PM:

#115: I was thinking just the other week that advocates for the homeless mentally ill should be handing out old / broken / toy Bluetooth earpieces, so that their beneficiaries' odd behavior would just be written off as a by-product of phone usage.

#117 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 06:45 PM:

#115/116: To quote myself: "It used to be that people who walked down the street talking to someone who isn't there were crazy. Now they're just on the phone."

#118 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 07:08 PM:

Lisa @ 115 and Mary Aileen @ 117:

Why use an exclusive or in the construction of "crazy or on the phone"? I'm quite happy seeing that as an inclusive or.

#119 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 08:21 PM:

KeithS (118): True, they could be both. My oft-repeated quote is simply remarking on the fact that "walk[ing] down the street talking to someone who isn't there" is no longer *necessarily* a sign of a crazy person.

#120 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2009, 09:32 PM:

There was a description on NPR a few months back of a 'hearing voices' support group. One of the members suggested to the group that carrying a cellphone was useful. When the pressure to respond to the voices became too much, talking on a prop cellphone at least made it look like you were carrying on a phone conversation.

#121 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 02:38 AM:

Mary Aileen @117, "It used to be that people who walked down the street talking to someone who isn't there were crazy. Now they're just on the phone."

There's a friend of my family who occassionally uses this as one example for how society is in decline and and everything is getting just crazy and the world is going to hell and those kids today and so on.

The funny thing, IMO, is that politically he's, at least theoretically, a died in the wool leftist of the Fight-The-Man variety, and he was very offended at the couple of times when I more or less told him that I found some of his attitudes kind of reactionary.

#122 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 01:29 PM:

My home voicemail tells people to email me. Last I looked, there were 5 messages on that machine. I suppose I should play some of them some day, or maybe just erase them.

I've got a Google voice account that I'm sitting on because it won't work with my technology. This is a pity, because the big feature Google added (when they bought Grand Central) was transcribing voicemail and sending it as email. That would solve some of my voicemail problems, if the people spoke clearly enough for the transcription to work.

(The problems are: I can't reliably unlock the keypad of my cell phone fast enough to respond to the query if I want to receive a Google Voice call; without the query, messages end up at my cell phone voicemail instead of in Google Voice. The lock on the phone is needed to protect credit card and bank information that I want there. My home phone number requires an extension be dialed to get through to me, and last I asked Grand Central doesn't support pause codes in their dialing strings.)

#123 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 01:58 PM:

Thena@32: You do realize that you and another person following that policy can never reach each other, right?

I remember this in some old classic management book, possibly Up The Organization; suggesting a CEO never be reachable by phone, but always take a number and call back at his own convenience. And immediately thought the same thing, two CEOs could never talk by those rules (and it would of course become a dick-size contest).

#124 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 02:28 PM:

Lee @ 107: "The number you have reached, NNN-MMMM, is imaginary...."

If I call someone from my phone at the university, the number that appears on caller ID really is an imaginary number. It's not attached to a phone, much less *my* phone, and if you call it back you'll always get a busy signal. Vague and inadequate explanations for this involve furtively muttering "the trunk line", by which I think they mean an electro-mechanical trunk line from the far distant past that may still be in operation. When faced with a situation where I must give my phone number but I really don't want a call back, this is the number I give. After all, it's the number they'll see if I call them...

#125 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 03:13 PM:

The "your car's warranty is about to expire!" scammers are in seriously deep scat.

I would LOVE it if a show like "Leverage" would feature phone scammers. The people who run those things are genuinely evil greedhead scum.

#126 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 03:29 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 125:

I got a couple of those last year. They're scum.

I was annoyed enough to actually answer one. After waiting on hold for a moment, the guy on the other end started off by immediately asking for my car's VIN. No company name, no introduction, nothing. I asked him who he worked for, phone number, explained that robodialling a cell phone is illegal, and told him to take me off their list. He got angry because I was asking all these intrusive questions, and, besides, if I wasn't interested, I didn't have to answer the phone. What chutzpah.

Reported to the FTC. The FTC's complaint website has a category purely for those car warranty calls.

#127 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 03:31 PM:

I think one of my least favorite phone domination tactics is when I receive a call, answer it, and immediately am put on hold, as if the company calling me was deluded into thinking that their time was more important than mine.

#128 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 03:38 PM:

Raphael @121, So your friend is a Ngaio Marsh fan?

#129 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 03:39 PM:

Earl Cooley III (127): If someone does that to me, I immediately hang up on them. Then I don't pick up the phone if it rings again.

That second part is a major concession on my part. I am constitutionally unable to ignore a ringing phone. (Someone upthread mentioned an age divide on that. I'm in my 40's.)

#130 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 03:45 PM:

I answer the car warranty calls and tell them I have 1972 Yugo.

#131 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 04:01 PM:

Stefan @ #130, Ha! I raise! I tell 'em I've got a Trabant.

#132 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 04:44 PM:

I'm particularly amused by the robo-calls I get at work asking me to stay on the line to hear more about "government grants" to help my business. When I have the time, I do stay on the line, and tell the person who comes on that the university is a state agency, and they really need to call the governor's office about this exciting offer. I actually got a telemarketer to laugh once.

#133 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 04:59 PM:

Uncharacteristically emboldened by this discussion and by a spate of debt-collection calls (for a previous holder of my number) left on the machine, I answered the phone this morning, got one, proceeded to give him holy hell, and had the distinct pleasure of hearing the chap at the other end be at such a loss for words that all he could do was go "uh, er". Made my morning.

#134 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 05:05 PM:

KeithS: When those (and think the one from Mississippi today may have been one; I didn't take the call) get too annoying I call them/answer.

Then I ask the company name, sound as pleasant as I can and request a manager. I get his/her name, and then ask why they are making illegal calls to cellphones. They usually tell me they made a mistake, and will take me off the list.

That's what I want them to do, because they never do, and my second complaint to the FCC (with the numbers they used, handily saved by my phone) will refer to the first one, which explains they promised to take me from their list.

I have the FCC site on my bookmarks.

Earl: Put me on hold like that and I hang up. If the phone rings again from the same number I ignore it, then call back and say, "Hold Please" and push mute.

Mary Aileen: I can ignore the cell, not the landline. (42 next month)

#135 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 05:31 PM:

My cell phone has an "ignore" feature so I can stop it from ringing without answering it. I turned off the ringer on my land line a couple of years ago; it exists only to eat phone spam (well, if I've misplaced my cell phone sometimes I call it from the landline to audiolocate it).

#136 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 06:35 PM:

Xopher, #135: That reminds me, I need to explore the manual for my (relatively) new cellphone. My old one had a way for me to dump an incoming call to voicemail rather than answer it, and when I took that option, it offered me the further option of "Deny" which meant that the scamsters couldn't reach my voicemail either. I haven't yet figured out how to do this with the new phone, and I should.

#137 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 07:05 PM:

Lee @ 136:

On my current phone (and, I think, on my last one), if you push the hang up button when it's ringing, the call goes straight to voicemail. Maybe that'll work on yours.

#138 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 07:31 PM:

David Dyer-Bennett @ #122: You can use your GoogleVoice number with your cell phone. The GV system doesn't put the call through to your cell unless you push 1 to accept the call after it's announced, so if your voicemail answers, the call stays in the GV system, and the caller is asked to leave a message. It's been that way since the early days of Grand Central. I've also found that GV gives me longer to answer than most voicemail systems do. You might want to check with your cell provider to see if they or you can program your voicemail to let it ring longer, to give you time to unlock and answer. I've set my T-Mobile phone to ring seven times before VM kicks in.

#139 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 07:51 PM:

Terry Karney (134): I don't ignore my cell phone, but it's emergency only except when travelling. It's only on when I'm actually making a call, or by prior arrangement with friends/family during a trip, so if it rings, it's almost certainly a call I want/need to take. (If it's not going to be convenient for me to take calls right then, I turn the phone back off.) Only a handful of people actually have the number, and my outgoing voicemail message says (approximately): "Hi! If we've arranged for you to call this number, leave a message; otherwise, call my home phone." And no, I don't give that number; anyone who would legitimately call my cell phone has my home number.

#140 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 07:59 PM:

David @ 123: Yes, that was in Up the Organization. I doubt Townsend intended it to lead into dick-size contests, as his firm bragged about not being the biggest ("Avis. We're number two; we try harder.").

#141 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2009, 09:12 PM:

KeithS, #137: The new cellphone is a flip-top, and it answers when opened. I suspect that there may not be a way to dump a call on it, but that's what I need to check.

#142 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 02:05 AM:

I once remarked during a discussion of future consumer user interfaces that people using bluetooth headsets today aren't easily distinguished from schizophrenics talking to their hallucinations; and that as soon as we add gesture interfaces to palmtop mobile computer/phones the users won't be easily distinguished from physically violent schizophrenics.

#143 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 03:18 AM:

Mary Aileen @ 129 constitutionally unable to ignore a ringing phone Me too (41) but I thought it was growing up in a household with two doctors - a call could always be urgent therefore must never be ignored. My husband (42) has no problem ignoring a ringing 'phone.

Xopher @ 135 if I've misplaced my cell phone sometimes I call it from the landline to audiolocate it which works fine unless I've left it on Silent.

Telemarketers: here in the UK we have "Telephone Preference Service" which you can register your number for to not get marketing calls. Usually if you do then get called it's possible to simply say "This number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service. Please check your records." Some of them actually apologise. This does not work unfortunately for the American-voice robocalls.

#144 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 08:28 AM:

janetl@106: Thank you for the link. I just used the French version moments ago on a hapless telemarketer who had no idea what hit her.
The hardest part was not dissolving into giggles during the brief conversation (and stalling long enough to load the counterscript page on my laptop so I could read from it.)

The PDF version fits on a single page, if you want a printout.

#145 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 10:13 AM:

I can ignore the phone when I'm not on call; otherwise I answer everything as "Hello, this is Doctor Tansey". Sometimes, at that point, the telemarketers apologize for bothering me.

For a while we had some telemarketers calling for my son. I got rid of each one by answering and then asking why they were calling for an underaged child. Most apologized and hung up; one started explaining how she couldn't know, to which I replied, "Now you do", and hung up.

#146 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 10:41 AM:

Ginger @ 145... We screen calls with our answering machine and pick up only after the person starts leaving a message, provided we want to talk to her/him. Usually. When my wife picks up prematurely and the caller asks for Mrs. ****** - where ****** is my family name - she gleefully and truthfully responds there is no such person at this number. Then she hangs up.

#147 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 11:39 AM:

Lee 141: The new cellphone is a flip-top, and it answers when opened.

So is mine. On mine (a Samsung Alias, with the two-way flip), you can set it to answer when opened or not. It also has buttons that can be accessed when the flip is closed; a touch of the scroll button (the only rocker of the three) is an Ignore for an incoming call. Check your manual's index under Ignore.

dcb 143: which works fine unless I've left it on Silent.

Ah. That's harder. My own strategy is "never leave it on Silent except on the charger." I know just where the charger is, you see. I assume that by "Silent" you don't mean "vibrate," because most phones would reveal themselves by vibrating, most places you'd be likely to leave them (if you leave them buried in a pile of towels in the clothes hamper, you deserve what you get!). If your phone lights up when a call comes in, try darkening the rooms where it might be before calling it.

But I have to say I live in a very small apartment, so this is easier for me than for people with more spacious digs.

#148 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 02:27 PM:

Ginger: A slightly gruff, "Staff Sergeant Karney" usually non-plusses people. Useful when I decide to answer an unknown number.

#149 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Ginger #145: I answer my office phone just plain "Ledgister". I'd feel funny answering an unknown caller on my mobile phone "This is Dr Ledgister."

#150 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 03:31 PM:

My golden solution these days is to fail to understand callers' Dutch. Works a treat.

#151 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 03:35 PM:

abi @150, do you do the same in reverse when callers speak English?

#152 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 03:42 PM:

Raphael @151:

I haven't, but I did pretend a few times that I only spoke Spanish when I was being hassled on the street in France while traveling alone. Amazing how few of the silver-tongued charmers have Spanish in their arsenals of flattery, but they all speak English.

#153 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 03:44 PM:

Serge, #146: Heh. I kept my phone listing in my birth name after I married. This proved extremely useful for screening telemarketers; when I got someone asking for "Mrs. V---", I could legitimately answer, "You're looking for my mother, and she doesn't live here," and hang up. After her death I switched to, "That was my mother, and she's deceased."

#154 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 03:58 PM:

Abi @ 152... Amazing how few of the silver-tongued charmers have Spanish in their arsenals of flattery

So that is what was missing from my arsenal.
Foiled again.

#155 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 04:00 PM:

Lee @ 153... If someone asks for me, and if I don't feel kind to the caller, and if he/she mangles my family name, we can (again truthfully) say there is nobody by that name living here.

#156 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 04:55 PM:

abi: re language substitutions. A fellow at my work once decided to screw with me by pretending to only speak Spanish (I was the new guy). I asked him (he was in charge of materials) for some 6061 sheet, and he looked at me blankly and rattled off some Spanish.

I looked at him, and then repeated the question; in Russian. He looked at Jim (a third guy) and in shock said, "what the hell was that?"

To which Jim said, "I don't, might have been Russian," and the attempts to screw with the new guy stopped.

#157 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 06:15 PM:


Apparently though, what you're really supposed to do to change the pronunciation of your family name so that it is more "natural".

At least if you follow Mark Krikorian's reasoning over at the National Review's website...

#158 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 06:24 PM:

Oh, I agree with him. He should say Crackwhoreian so everyone can remember how to pronounce it.

#159 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 09:03 PM:

We have a Democratic primary for governor in a couple of weeks and I'm getting at least 10 calls a day for the candidates. I'm still going to vote, but I don't know for whom. Not McAuliffe, that's for sure.

I know I should gather their info so I can report them to the Do Not Call place for calling a cellphone with political stuff, but it'd take more time.

#160 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2009, 10:26 PM:

[..] do you do the same in reverse when callers speak English?

I had a friend who has spend some time in Holland and had picked up some of the language. Late one night when he was approached by a person whose intentions he was suspicious of, he answered in Dutch. The response was a wary raising of the hands, cautious backing away, while repeating in a low calm voice: "That's all right man... that's all right".

#161 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2009, 12:49 AM:

Quick summary of longer reply:

Phone-phobic: Yes, outgoing calls only. Incoming calls okay.
Machine/Voicemail phobic: Yes.
Mobile phone: Yes, but calls tend to go to voicemail because I ignore the silly thing.
Able to ignore ringing phone: No
Age: 38

Telemarketer strategy: If they ask for Mrs Himself, explain she lives elsewhere. When they start their spiel, explain politely that we don't buy things sold over the phone and hang up.

#162 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2009, 04:20 AM:

I use no landline, and haven't used one in almost four years. The flat I share does have a landline - the only callers are my flatmate's mother and telemarketers.

#163 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2009, 10:32 AM:

Common* telemarketer interaction in my home:

Caller: May I speak to Ms. B---?
Me: Who's calling, please?
Caller: Are you Ms. B---?
Me: Who's calling, please?
Caller: This is Firstname, from Company You've Never Done Business With
Me: Put me on your do-not-call list *click*

If they don't identify themselves the second time, I hang up without saying anything else. If they can't tell me who they are, I want nothing to do with them.

*Much more uncommon now that I'm on the national do-not-call list

#164 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2009, 05:00 PM:

Re #163: I do business with a number of companies that claim they are not allowed to tell me who they are unless I identify myself first. Mostly the callers do tell me when I ask, but I'm unable to convince them that I don't give a damn who knows I have a mortgage. They claim it's for privacy, as if the only reason my mortgage company could possibly be calling me was to tell me I owed them money. I don't get it, but at least they'll say who they are when asked.

There was one company that kept calling my house asking for my boyfriend; they refused to tell us who they were. This went on for about eight months. Finally we told them that the next time they called we were going to get a trace on the line to sue them for harassment; we never heard from them again. And we didn't get any letters either, so we think they were phishing.

#165 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2009, 05:09 PM:

Carrie S.: If they say they can't tell who they are, they are lying. They are probably lying if they tell you they can't tell you for whom they work.

The only times I know it to be illegal to identify the company is when it's actually a dunning issue.

So, when they tell me that, I do what you did.

They do what they did.

#166 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2009, 06:59 PM:

Carrie S. (164): After they identify themselves as Company I Do Business With, my next question (if they haven't said) is, "And what's this about?" Very occasionally, they will say they can't tell me until I confirm my identity. At that point, I usually will. But if we get that far, and I'm still on the phone (unlikely), I am now officially Pissed Off, and unwilling to cut them any slack in the rest of the transaction. This does not help their case if they want to persuade me of something. And if what they want is in any way monetary, my reply is, "Please mail me the information. I don't make financial decisions based on phone calls." Basically, if a business calls me, it had better be because there's a (at least potential) problem with my account.

#167 ::: scruloose ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 09:17 PM:

Many voicemail systems actually have a feature that's ideally suited to this situation. I believe it's usually called "vacation mode". It allows you to record a "greeting" message in the usual way, but doesn't allow callers to leave you a message after the greeting--it just hangs up on 'em at the end.

#168 ::: fidelio sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 08:51 AM:

Idumea, honey, I think you have a problem.

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