Cell phone users of the world unite!

Mar 23, 2010


I am a busy and impatient person. Friends who walk slow invariably get wherever we're going 20 feet behind me. People who drive 5 miles an hour under the speed limit are subject to a stream of invective that would turn any 10-year-old licensed to charge for naughty language into a vertible Scrooge McDuck at a quarter per word. But few things drive me as absolutely, frustratingly, high-blood-pressurey, bat-poop crazy as a long out-going voicemail message.

Recently, some tribesman wandered out of the deepest Amazonian jungle. Apparently, we knew they were there, but they didn't know about us, and in an uncharacteristic fit of leaving well enough alone, we didn't make our presence known. But that was the last group of people who didn't know what to do after the beep.

So my out-going message is always a study in minimalism. I identify myself so that people know they haven't misdialed, I try to avoid curtness, and ... that's it! What else is necessary?

But the cell phone corporations have decided that no matter how fulsome I am in my brevity, they must advise people of how to use voicemail AND how you can leave a numeric page.

A numeric page!!! What insanity. They might as well give me a number for the telegraph office while they're at it. Has anyone used this service... well, ever? It didn't even make sense as a service when people still had pagers. Because it is already on a cell phone. What kind of sociopath leaves a numeric page on a fully featured phone?

Unsurprisingly, the phone companies do this just to force you to stay on the phone an extra 15 seconds. Several cell phone company executives have admitted as much to David Pogue, The New York TImes personal technology writer.

Because he feels as I do he has organized a campaign, in his most recent email column, to put an end to this despicable practice. He published a list of the appropriate contacts at each company and he (and I) request that you contact your respective provider and ask them to see discretion as the better part of valor and cut it the heck out.

I reproduce the list here because the email column was not yet posted on his site at the time of writing:

* Verizon: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/FJncH.
* AT&T: Send e-mail to Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations: MS8460@att.com.
* Sprint: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/9CmrZ
* T-Mobile: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/2rKy0u

In any case, please, do me a favor and strike a blow for the childishly impatient everywhere.

NB Pogue points out in the meantime that each provider lets listeners skip the message by pressing a special, unpublicized key. It's different for each provider, but for AT&T (my provider) you can hit any key to skip the lame numeric page message.