Killing My Voice Mail

Well, I finally did what I should have done about four years ago, which is to change my cell phone voice mail message to this:

Hi, this is John Scalzi. I will never ever ever ever listen to the voice mail you’re about to leave, because voice mail is a pain in the ass. So if you actually want to reach me, you can either send me a text at this number, or send me e-mail at “john@scalzi.com.” Feel free to leave a voice message if you want, but remember, I will never ever listen to it. Have a nice day!

Why? Because fuck me, voice mail is annoying. Especially on cell phones, on which it seems designed by the furies to punish everyone, not just the people who mock the gods. And you know what? Life is too short to deal with a horrible user interface, especially when everyone under the age of 103 knows how to send a goddamned text. So that’s it, I’m done with voice mail, that hateful contrivance. And I feel good.

124 thoughts on “Killing My Voice Mail

  1. FWIW, I rather like visual voicemail — which is to say, I ported my old cell phone number over to Google Voice and now, whenever someone leaves me a message there, it (does its best to) transcribe the message into text. There are Voice apps on the various mobile platforms or you can set Voice up to send you an email with the message.

    The transcription isn’t the best, but it tends to catch names and numbers (and what more does one really need from a voicemail?)

  2. So we should encourage people to use your voicemail to confess their deepest darkest secrets knowing that they’ll never be heard??

  3. Bravo!! Oh, yes, this!! Though I still mostly use my landline (hey, useful to have in a power outage if you’ve got an older non-cordless phone around) (also, I’m mostly at home; this disability thing sucks rocks), I *hate* voicemail. And hate it even more when there are calls from numbers with blocked caller ID, that are from phone #s I don’t know.

    David Hoffman: I’m going to have to look into that Google Voice thing. Does it work with landline numbers, I wonder? I do *much* better with email than voice; some days I can’t deal with answering the phone at all, but email works.

  4. Visual Voicemail does make things marginally less painful, but everyone who knows me knows to either text or email. I’m more reliably reached that way. I don’t even take enough calls to make having voicemail worthwhile. Heck, I’m not sure I even have it set up properly for my job — and I haven’t felt particularly inspired to make sure it is.

  5. My voicemail still has my maiden name on it, and I’ve been married almost eight years. Within a year of my having the cell (post-9/11), I had ppl complaining to me that they were getting a message my voicemail was “full” so they couldn’t leave anything. I dunno what’s going on with that, but if I actually cared I’d have both fixed by now. I much prefer email or landline phone communication. People I care about know that, so I’m not that worried about my voicemail allegedly being “full”. Leave a message on my landline answering machine, shoot me an email, or nevermind.

  6. I rarely leave voice mail. I figure whoever I called has Caller ID. They therefore know I called, and if they’re interested in what I have to say, they’ll call back. But with the iPhone voice mail (which I always called visual voice mail, but suspect from this discussion that now refers to whatever Google does to voice mail), I don’t mind checking so much. I can skip the messages I don’t need to hear and go straight to the ones that might require attention.

    What continues to irritate me all to hell, is that annoying message that comes before you can leave someone else voicemail: “If you’d like to leave a message, press 1 or wait to leave your message. To leave a callback number, press 5. To send a fax …” To send a fax?! Really?

    Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This stuff is designed by the cell phone companies to eat up their customers’ minutes, but I’m on an unlimited plan so all it does is waste my time.

  7. Holy shit I love this. Yes yes yes yes yes. This. Yes.

    I’m stealing the verbiage and resetting my VM message as of today!

  8. amen, brother. I happen to feel the same thing about cell phones in general, except for emergencies (and no, I’m not a Luddite, obviously…..).

  9. Yes. Because this is what I do in practice, I have been telling myself to just go ahead and change the stinking message. Thank you for the reminder.

  10. I really, really, wish I could do that. Heck, in general, I wish I could stop having to use the phone for stuff. I really do not think my bank account is safer with a requirement that someone call them and sound sort of vaguely like they might be a person who has a name of the same guessed gender as mine, than it would be with some kind of reasonably robust electronic system.

  11. I hate voice mail and don’t know how to use it. Of course, I don’t know how to text, or tweet, and I’ve given up my FB account. Basically my “social media” skills are stuck in the 90s. Which is odd for someone like me who knows 4 programming languages well (java, C, C++, R), is a mathematician and scientist, and can hack into your computer and find and reconstruct files you thought were deleted.

    The point is: I’m not a luddite nor inept at technology. I just hate useless “pop” tech.

  12. It took my wife 3 months to get into her new phone’s voice mail (had to use the touchscreen numbers not the keyboard but it kept locking her out before she could finish). Once she finally got in she left the same kind of message. Call me, email me or text me but don’t leave a message. Too Funny.

  13. I got visual voicemail for free when I renewed my AT&T contract a couple weeks ago. MUCH nicer. P.S. This is the first time I have actually been GIVEN FOR FREE a service from AT&T – usually I end up paying more to have services taken away. I nearly died from shock.

  14. Haven’t actually ever had occasion to text, so it’s good I’m not likely to leave you cell phone messages.

  15. You have just added DECADES to my age. I’ve never texted in my life, but I’m reasonably certain I’m not anywhere near triple digits yet in age.

    (That said, I prefer e-mail and rarely listen to my messages.)

  16. You are awesome. You know, if I did this today, I could write it off as a birthday gift to myself and not even feel guilty about it! Definitely an idea. :)

  17. I use voice mail a lot, simple reason, I’m a teacher and calls from my doctors and others all go to my voicemail while I am in teaching because I do not take calls or text when I am doing my job and all those who call leave messages are not in a position to email or text. I check my messages after school and respond accordingly.
    As for setting up voicemail, on my iphone it was unbelievably easy, the easiest I have experienced. Tap record and done.

  18. My college put phones in every dorm room and gave the number out to our professors and other school officials, even if we asked not to use the line. So I set the message to “You’ve reached Annalee’s room. She’s unplugged the phone from this line and will not get your message. Please contact her via email.”

    I haven’t gone that far on my cell, but I can’t remember the last time I checked the voicemail. Voicemail messages contain exactly two pieces of useful info: The name of the caller and their callback number. And hey look, my phone already gives me both of those without me having to jump through the hoops of an audio menu.

  19. The password to my work voicemail was reset and I have no idea what it is. What’s more,the phone in my classroom appears to be generally malfunctioning, producing odd clicking noises and thrice ringing for no reason. I have no intention of rectifying either of these… problems.

  20. I feel that way about voicemail at the office … I can never remember the damn password, it’s always a mess. But nobody calls me there anyway: they call me on my iPhone, where voice mail is simply a set of audio recordings stored locally on the phone once retrieved from the phone company (automatically, I don’t eve have to do it myself). There it is pretty useful.

    But like you, John, I’d rather get a txt msg. Much easier to deal with.

    What I really hate with a passion is the voicemail gauntlet between me and a customer service organization. “Press 5 if you have an itch, Press 3 if you like to waste your time, Press 9 if you think you’ll ever get to a person …” etc. Crap and obfuscation.

  21. Can’t you just set your vmail to Outgoing Message Only, or Extended Absence Greeting, or something like that? That is, it doesn’t give them an opportunity to leave a message.

  22. Oh Wow! I didn’t know there were other’s like me, ignoring and deleting voice mail before listening to it. Unfortunately, my boss doesn’t agree (i’m still a poor working slob). On the plus side, our coporate lords and masters have installed a new phone system. The stereo instructions provided only make since when read drunk, upside down, through a haze of pot smoke (i’m one of the few people I know who has never smoked pot), in a mirror… And if this post doesn’t make since, my apologies; I am trying, diligently, to raise my blood alcohol content to a level sufficient to surrive another ridiculously long trip to the wonderful Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

  23. I had to kill my voicemail at one of my jobs because it wasn’t actually linked to a phone I had, so I could never tell if I had voicemail, and I was not going to bother checking for the once in a long while that someone might try and leave me a message. *that* was fun. For the past few years I’ve used Google Voice, and I loff it so, even though it refuses to give me notifications with the new phone. Yes, the transcriptions can be kinda hit or miss, but if it’s that important or that incomprehensible (seriously, it hates one of my friends and never ever transcribes her properly), I can hit the play button and get the original. But I never *have* to listen to the voicemail, which is just bliss. And like someone else said, I rarely *leave* voicemails either–if I’m calling a cellphone I can tell if they will have my number or not, so it’s basically just job hunting peoples that I go to the trouble of leaving messages for. Or I skip it and email them instead.

  24. So jealous! I wish I could, but job requires… About 20 years ago when pagers were common and responsibilities fewer I had a message like this: “Hi, this is Adam. Please leave a detailed message at the prompt and I will ignore it as soon as possible. If your message is urgent, please press #1 at the end of your message and I will be paged so that I can begin ignoring your message immediately. Thank you and have a good day.”

    Voice mail sucked twenty years ago and age has not improved it.

  25. I theoretically know how to text, but I don’t have a phone to do it with.

    On the other hand, I neither leave voicemails nor check them as a rule. On the gripping hand, not having a cellphone I can text from, if I do need to tell someone something and they don’t pick up and it’s reasonably urgent, voicemail is the only, shitty, option.

    People without text capacity are reasonably common, still.

  26. Ignoring your voice mail is now officially so banjo.

    My friends know not to leave voice mail on my cell phone except under extreme conditions (either an emergency, or at a con, make up your own joke). This is because they know I’m paying by the minute and it is therefore RUDE to do so. I am thus able to delete all vm unheard as it’s either a wrong number or a spam.

    Although Mary’s dramatic readings kinda make me want to get Google Voice.

  27. The only people who leave me voicemails anymore are telemarketers, recruiters from tech temp agencies, and my mother. If I’m gonna call you back, why leave a VM saying, “Hey, call me back.”

    For me, omitting voicemail’s an issue of the person valuing my time and convenience over their ingrained need to talk to my digital secretary. Telemarketers don’t value my time or convenience. Recruiters don’t value my time. My mom’s exempt.

    I can’t do this now, but maybe someday soon. Thanks for the idea!

  28. How long before you drop all voice telephony entirely, for the same reasons? (Only when someone calls me and I answer, there’s no button to fast forward or delete…)

  29. People know they can send their texts to someone’s email or Twitter, right?
    And Google Now and Siri can both transcribe for those with otherwise engaged thumbs?
    Personally, I still like the Ouija board, but the netherworld’s call-routing is atrocious.

    @ Greg

    And still those voices are calling from far away,
    Wake you up in the middle of the night
    Just to hear them say..

    @ Jon Lasser

    Only when someone calls me and I answer, there’s no button to fast forward or delete…

    Sure there is. It’s called the end button. Or for people you like, gotta go, talk to you later…where later is a rather larger time span than the paltry 13.9 billion years so far in our young universe.

  30. I am terrible sorry that you hate voice mail but thinking someone who calls you knows your personal communication preferences is to be such a 21st century navel gazer. several of my 30 something friends don’t do text, several of my friends refuse to answer e-mail, a few only want to hear from you via facebook and some will only use the phone as a voice calling device. Its too, too hard in this day of splintered communication choices to keep track of so many friends or just folks personal idiosyncratic communication preferences. I think that you were rude and somewhat assholeish to judge folks based on your personal way of doing things when they could just as easily felt that you were a dork for never just calling them back.

  31. My company replaced our phone system at work this week. Now when someone leaves a voicemail message, it sends an mp3 to our email. Sooo much better than the traditional horror show that is voicemail.

  32. Let’s just call this another vote for Google Voice voicemail.

    glwilson@8:57 Using Google Voice voicemail on an existing number depends on forwarding features available in most cellular services but not in landlines (or pre-pay T-Mobile, learned that one today) You can get a new free Google Voice number and have that forward to your landline. You’ll have to teach people a new number for you, but it gets you voicemail transcription and a web interface that’s pretty nice.

    Celia Marsh@11:05 I’m guessing you already tried disabling and re-enabling voicemail at the Google Voice web page, and switching your phone settings to carrier voicemail and then back to Google Voice? When I upgraded my Droid to a Droid 2, and again when I wiped the Droid 2 and restarted from scratch, I had to do that before I started receiving the notifications. If that doesn’t work, you should be able to tell Google Voice to send notifications by SMS (but if you switched carriers, you’ll have to disable and reenable that too).

  33. This is why i love my iPhone- voicemail is actually easy to use. Seruously a killer app for the phone, even if all you do is delete the messages w/o listening – at least your know who you;re not calling back:)

  34. the dork comment

    Methinks my attention is mine own to give or to withhold as I decide. If this makes me a dork, let us revel in my dorkishness.

  35. I don’t really understand this, why don’t you just turn voice mail off on your phone? It takes about the same amount of time as changing the message, and is generally much more pleasant as people can ring for the amount of time they feel appropriate.

  36. I hear what you’re saying, but some of us are still stuck in the past. Not only do I have a 5-year-old Samsung phone with no keyboard, I also don’t pay for texting, so I have a flat rate of 20 cents per text… then I started getting a lot of spam messages for cigarettes and having to pay 20 cents each for the privilege. So I finally had to block all texting. That said, I can still count the number of voice messages I received all of last year on one hand, so it’s not really much of an issue for me. E-mail is still easier all-around.

    But one of these days texting will be included with all cell phone plans, and it just won’t be a choice anymore. When that happens I’ll be with you 100%.

  37. Um..Hi. This is Kevin…In the general scheme of my life the, uh, messages I receive on voice mail rank pretty low. I mean they rank pretty low in terms of how they annoy me. My biggest problem is leaving messages…sometimes I have to just hang up, compose what I want to say in my head, and then call back. I’m just not good at talking in..um…one-sided conversations. This is why I get nervous around people who have trouble communicating back, liked people who have just come out of surgery and have tubes down their throats. I get flustered and I start to ramble… and I’m not sure that what I want to say comes across as complete…um…thoughts. So I usually endthemessageveryquicklyonceIrealizeI’moutofmydepth. Talktoyoulater. Bye.

  38. I did what may actually be one up on that. I talked to my cellphone provider and had them disable voicemail for my number. It does mean that if I don’t pick up, there will be more rings, but I don’t have to ever worry about someone leaving a message against the explicit instructions of the “greeting”.

  39. CHICAGO, Illinois | July 13, 2041 11:49pm CST
    (Reuters) Verizon reports that all wireless service is down for the entire midwest and parts of the northeast as a result of a massive, cascading server crash. The cause of the crash has been traced to a voice mailbox of a Mr. John Scalzi, author of the “101 Uses for a Spare” animal series of books. Audits of Mr. Scalzi’s accounts show he stopped listening to his voicemail over a decade ago. And the voicemails were never deleted by the server brain, which consists of approximately 50 gallons of sentient yogurt that Verizon cultured in 2014 to manage its data. When the voicemail reached its limit of an hour’s worth of messages, it was supposed to stop accepting new messages. Instead, Verizon says it appears the sentient yogurt continued to accept voicemails, amassing petabytes of recorded voice data, and then sometime about a month ago, the yogurt started deleting Verizon control software to make room for storing this voice data. Technicians are still unable to figure out why the yogurt made such a huge mistake.

    Calls to Mr Scalzi for comment have not been returned.

  40. Like Boris said, apart from the joy of leaving a snarky message (Which I do appreciate) – why not just turn off voicemail completely? Or is that something else your crazy-ass American mobile networks don’t let you do?

  41. Brilliant idea! Now somebody has to find a way to kill the importance of What’sApp to some people… Seriously, what happened to the good old e-mail? Probably too many words – and a train of thoughts is kind of necessary…

  42. My voicemail at work is pretty bad. Needing to push a button to start hearing the message is bad; the cryptic key combinations to delete things are the same. However, I have to use it as occasionally there are important messages on it.

  43. I’m another person who has cell voice mail forwarded to Google Voice. Yes (as the last post shows) the transcription isn’t ideal, but it usually catches enough key words for me to either get the point of the message, or at least know whether I need to listen (which I then do on my iPad or computer). And skipping messages that don’t matter is easy enough (much more so than on voice mail).

  44. I hate voicemail, too. I hardly even check it at work.

    The funny part about some of the messages is when someone, usually older, or drunk, calls and says “Hello? Farley? Are you there? Faaarleeey!”.

    Ha!

    I have visual voicemail, but the message is like that other telephone game where at the end of the circle the message is so garbled it doesn’t even begin to say what the caller said.

  45. Another vote for Google Voice converting voicemail into text. I have not called the voicemail number since.

    Even stronger vote for the idea that someone demanding my attention RIGHT NOW is not automatically entitled to it. My dad said to people 30 years ago “I have a phone for my convenience, not yours”; and his phone was wired to the wall at the time. It’s even more useful to live by that creed today.

  46. Well done, John. You are under no obligation to use a crappy UI if you have alternatives.

  47. To everyone who calls and doesn’t leave messages. I am NEVER going to call you back. If it’s important, you’s have left a message or will call back yourself.

    Now, get off my lawn!

  48. It is actually easier and more convenient for me to check my landline voicemail from my cellphone than my cellphone voicemail, thanks to a handy app offered by my service provider. it’s even easier than checking it using my actual landline phone. Thus, you will frequently find me in my house, using my cellphone to check the messages on my landline, while the unit blinks away over on the counter. I find this completely bizarre and highly amusing.

  49. Over here we can simply disable voicemail.
    Just keeps on ringing until either the caller or mobileprovider hangs up.

  50. Ha! You young whippersnappers are all alike! I’m old enough to remember (mid 50’s) when answering machines came into being. What an advancement in tehcnology it was. Now you could drop your dime in a pay phone and – even though the person you were calling wasn’t home – leave a message! Before that, my family’s phone was on a “party line”. Everyone on the “line” had their own special ring…..
    Yeah – voice mail might require a few extra button pushes, but isn’t it nice to HEAR a message as opposed to reading a 160 character, squished beyond recognition text?
    Kids these days………

  51. On my voicemail I get things like the doctor’s office responding to a question, or the hairdresser calling to remind me of an appointment. Yep they could be handled by text but it’s not any more complicated to listen to a voicemail than it is to read a text. I do delete things unlistened-to if I know it’s going to be useless.

  52. I have had a miserable time with Google Voice, but I use PhoneTag, which transcribes a good sight better (same deal – you get an email with the voicemail transcript). It’s a small fee per transcription, but I haven’t listened to an actual voice mail in about three years, and I get much better marks for returning calls. As a bonus, you get a file with the message in it, so I can save up my friends’ drunken voicemails for blackmail at their 50th birthday parties! So, one vote PhoneTag. :)

  53. This sounds like a nice idea, but would not work in my reality. Especially not at work. There are enough tech-challenged folk out there that aren’t gonna text you when they wanna talk, period.

    Mostly I’d just be happy if people only left me voice mails for crucial shit. NOT when Mom’s phone cuts off again and I try to call her back and can’t get through and then she leaves me voice mail to let me know she called. I already KNOW that, for fuck’s sake.

    Alas, my phone transcription service (Android) came out so garbled most of the time that I deemed it a waste for actually getting information–though it was good for a laugh, I suppose. Like autocorrect errors being read aloud.

  54. Voicemail is easy! If I want to listen to them on my phone all I have to do is hit the “messages” button, type in my password, hit “3”, then hit “1”, then wait to hear who the message is from, then hit “*” to skip to the next message. Obviously this system could never be made any more efficient.

  55. I despise telephones, full stop, and always have. Nor do I text. The only people I will speak with on the phone are my parents and my wife, and then only if there is no alternative. I am probably the only female in America who did not spend her teen years on the phone. My elder sister begged for her own phone by age 13, but when I flat out refused, a few years later, to even accept the offer, well, my parents began to worry. Now they are used to my aversion, as are my friends. Voice mail is just the evil spawn of the already quite demonic live phone call.

  56. See, I feel the same way about e-mail and text that you do about voice mailboxes – if you really need to reach me all that quickly, then pick up the phone and actually talk to me, don’t just send out an e-mail and hope that I eventually read it. I check my e-mail once per day around mid morning. I don’t require any more than that to do business, and my phone isn’t set to let me know when an e-mail has come in. I don’t have a text plan, even though I can’t turn off the text feature on my phone. On the other hand, what my phone still does is ring. Even if I can’t reach it right now, I’ll know someone tried to contact me, and I’ll get back.

    We have different needs and different habits, is all. I think most people like to limit their electronic communication from one source simply so they feel less crunched, but we’re each pretty sure that the one we eliminate is the one that should be struck form Western culture entirely. I mean, honestly, I wish text would die a fiery death, but my husband uses it constantly.

  57. “It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas Hope and Aspiration
    that all of us – the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the
    despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage – may eventually
    be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss –
    except the inventor of the telephone.”

    Mark Twain
    New York “World”, 1890

  58. Your phone company making you pay extra for Visual Voice Mail, that should be a crime.

    I never listen to the messages either (unless it’s a client), but I always know who called and left one!

  59. I may do this too. I hate voice mail. I especially hate voice mail that comprises something along the lines of “please give me a call, I have a question.”

    I always think … so … what is your QUESTION? Why should I call you back if you cannot even state your question in your message? Why should I get into what is invariably a session of phone tag, when you could just leave your QUESTION and I could leave you a message answering it?

  60. Guess I’m an even older aggie than I thought, since I’m evidently 104 !

    No texting – hope I never do – not unless someone forces me to. Does not seem “convenient” to me – seems more like an annoying interruption. (I actually like the adjective you used, John!)

    My work voicemail has been nicely broken for over a year – I prefer email there, to have a record of what was communicated.

    Voicemail on my cell is emergencies only and with that limitation, it’s manageable enough.

    At home, there’s an answering machine on my landline phone, not voicemail, and it works just fine. I enjoy hearing friends’ voices – especially their laughter re: my answering message. A local medical-type business has a similar number, so my message includes ” … Please do not leave patient SS numbers, insurance ID numbers, etc. at this number.” I still get 1-2 messages a month though – perhaps those folks feel the same about listening to answering messages as John feels about incoming voicemail. :-)

    I’m glad we live in a time / place where it’s so easy to stay in touch.

    And we should all feel free to use / not use tools and systems, however we want.

    That said, I also hope to (hand)write more notes and letters this year too; in today’s context, handwritten snailmail is increasingly remarkable.

  61. Heck yes. I love our Vonage system which sends us emails when we receive a VM at home. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this at work for EXACTLY this reason. I hate my VM – I can’t catalog it, file it, track it. AAAAAAAARRRRRGGGH.

    Good for you.

  62. John, I guess I can understand that. For one thing, its features aren’t very standard from system to system. My current voicemail system requires me to listen to the entire message before you can delete it, thus ensuring that my ears must be dedicated to the entirety of each robocall that gets through. Certain candidates for office lost my vote last fall at least partially because of that nonsense (plus they were terrible, but the voicemail didn’t help).

  63. If you need to get hold of me, you can either try calling my cell phone (good luck with that, since I consider it mainly for MY convenience) or leaving a message on my home phone answering machine. I don’t do voice mail, and may not see your text; I definitely won’t text you back on my cheap-ass phone. I have an antipathy towards texting ever since watching my SiL driving and texting at the same time in SF traffic. Glaaahhhh!

  64. @mintwitch – same here. I hate the phone and always have. The only people I speak to on the phone are my family, or my boss if he calls me.

    People know that if they need to reach me, the cell phone definitely is not the best method, and leaving a voicemail is a crap shoot as to whether they’ll hear back from me right away. Hell, at the moment, my husband’s been carrying it around, because his ran out of minutes and we haven’t had spare cash to buy more. People seem to assume that since *they* always scramble to answer their phone when it rings, something’s wrong with you if you don’t.

    When I was making lots of doctor appointments (cancer treatment, what a pain in the ass, so many doctors want a piece of the pie…) for whatever reason, even though I gave my home phone as my preferred method of contact, the schedulers would still call the damn cell. And leave voicemails, which I don’t get until after work hours anyway, because I’m not one of those people who takes personal calls all day when I’m supposed to be working.

  65. I ditched voicemail a while back, and very quickly I found that no matter what I said on the outgoing voicemail message, many (most?) callers simply would not listen to it. They’d leave a voicemail message anyway, then get peeved when I in turn did not listen to their recorded message.

    So, I just disabled voicemail altogether. Some callers are still annoyed by that, but at least now there are no misunderstandings. :)

  66. Since I work at home, I am mostly AT home, so I mostly use my land line. I was surprised recently, when interacting often with a lot of strangers this past year (realtors, mortgage people, grant officers, inspectors, etc., all involved in the epic saga of buying my first house), to learn that it’s apparently now considered practically RETRO to have a land line and almost ECCENTRIC to have one with an ANSWERING SYSTEM instead of using voice mail. But as John mentions somewhere above, to access my answering machine, I press ONE button. Why would I want a message system that involves doing more than that?

    Meanwhile, the voice mail message on my cell phone says something like, “Call my house, because I will never receive a message left on my cell voice mail.” Because the only time I use the cell regularly, or even have it turned ON, is when I’m traveling. The rest of the time, I keep the cell turned off when I’m at home, since I use the land line; and I seldom turn on the cell when I go out locally, either, since I only use it for emergencies (I’m lost, I’m late, I’ve got a flat tire, etc.). Therefore, it’s common for me to go 1-2-3 months without noticing that someone has left a voice mail message on my cell account.

  67. I predict that all this talk about landlines WILL be retro in a few years (that’s so banjo). Many of us in (Western) Europe got rid of our landlines some 15 years ago. We have never looked back.

  68. Is American voicemail really that complicated? I get up to 3 calls and a text to let me know I have a voicemail, then I dial 121, and connect straight to it. As rambling and annoying as my parents’ messages can be, neither can text and only dad can email. By no-one’s standards is email immediate, either. Email me to ask me to get a pint of milk and you won’t get it till the day after.

    If someone phones and I miss it, I WANT them to leave me a message so I know whether I need to call them back asap or if later will be ok. It pisses me off when I have missed calls and I don’t know what they wanted. I also have the option to turn off voicemail completely, if I don’t want it. Voicemail is possibly the least problematic thing in my life.

  69. My husband never listens to voicemail. I just call him and hang up so he sees the missed call. I am particularly annoyed by people who call me and leave a message that is basically, “Hey, call me back when you can.” My thought is, if you are going to leave a message, then don’t tell me something I can already deduce from the fact that I’ve missed your call, please leave some useful content.

  70. Ugh, voicemail. I read way faster than most people talk, so voicemail takes for-fucking-ever. And there’s no record of it, so if someone leaves a number/date/etc, I have to write the whole thing down separately instead of having a convenient record right there. Also, for non-conversational live calls, there’s the danger of getting someone who doesn’t grasp the “non-conversational” bit, or who just feels the need to give, or repeat, more detail than I am physically capable of giving a damn about.
    Hate. Just email. Unless you’re my mom.

  71. Other exceptions, since I can’t edit posts: letting me know you’re late/where you’ll be when we’re supposed to meet up and asking me to pick something up on my way to said meeting. I don’t have a smartphone, and texts do cost extra, so I’m cool with voicemail under those circumstances.

  72. @my.informed.opinion: the entire US is not actually blanketed in places that always get great cellphone reception, so yes, some of us have landlines for reasons other than being old-timey.

    @mintwich: actually I have a couple of those females in this house. They don’t understand why you would use a phone when there’s perfectly good Pesterchum.

  73. @mythago: @my.informed.opinion: the entire US is not actually blanketed in places that always get great cellphone reception, so yes, some of us have landlines for reasons other than being old-timey.

    I know this. That was the situation in (Western) Europe too. My friend lived in “the remotest corner” of France with poor cellphone reception. That was years (decades) ago. Now one just assumes good cellphone reception almost everywhere. I’m quite certain this will happen in the US too.

  74. Delurking to say: Like everybody else, I hate voice mail too.

    But… I work for a large hidebound bureacracy which shall here remain nameless (which suits it). Employees are not permitted to have personal cell phones at their desks– so no, I can’t just text. Outgoing phone numbers are blocked– so no, you can’t see that I called and call me back. Access to the outside internet is limited– so no, it’s not always easy to just send an email.

    Yes, in this year of grace 2013, such places still exist. So if people like doctors, and insurance companies, and home-repair people, and my kid’s teachers, instituted a voice-mail embargo, I’d be in trouble. For that matter, there are times I need to get in touch with spouse or kid, and their voice-mail is my only option.

  75. To My Informed Opinion:

    Maybe, or even probably, but it hasn’t happened yet. And even when it does, there will still be people in Amaryllis’ situation.

    C’mon, friends. We have a wide variety of communication methods and styles. Why insist that everyone else use whatever one is most convenient for you at all times, or miss out on your valuable company?

  76. Voicemail is sometimes annoying. I have friends who leave long messages that sometimes drone on and on. Overall though, voicemail isn’t a nuisance to my daily life.

    I kind of hate texting to be honest. I don’t have it on my phone right now because I don’t need it for work. When I did have text it cost extra just to get like a couple hundred texts (both incoming and outgoing ones). I have friends who are text-addicts that burned through my 200 texts per month limit in only a couple weeks. Then I’m left to pay for another round of 200 texts for 20 bucks extra that month. After this went on for a couple more months, and after telling people I had a limit on number of texts per month, yet them completely flaking on remembering that info or just plain not giving a crap and continuing to text away until their fingers cramped up in pain, I ended my texting option.

    Now, in theory, texts are a nice thing to have for quick little messages or if you have to get a hold of someone in say a noisy environment where they can’t talk to you if you were to call. Texts can be a nice intermediate form of communication, sort of a middle ground between email and regular calls. You can put a link in a text, say for directions on where to meet for a party or something. The problem is texts aren’t that great for when you need real honest to goodness audio or visual feedback like a proper call or talking in person provides. They aren’t IMO great for any type of truly thoughtful or detailed communication between people.

    “meet me @ the bar @ 8:00 instead of 7:30 — got tied up @ work @ last minute :)”

    Texting for quick messages like that? Fine.

    Trying to hold an actual conversation, which people seem to want to do with texting nowadays? That is not so great really. It drives me mad actually.

    I also find that the art of the text usually isn’t great in a professional environment. At least not until you have time to gauge or ask a boss or client if they prefer texting or email for professional correspondence. I realize texting for work differs from person to person, so just saying in my experience it isn’t something I’ve found to be a great tool for work.

    The other thing is people, celebrities and politicians and all kinds of people who should know better seem to get into all sorts of embarrassing situations via texting. Maybe texting taps into some primitive root of our minds and causes us to act very silly?

  77. Mr. Scalzi…check out Google Voice, maybe port your number to it. It’s free, and I think you’ll love the extra control it gives you.

    I’m actually kinda boggled by all the Voice Mail Hate, but maybe it’s because I’ve been using Google Voice for years. While Google Voice shares the whole “Leave a message” thing with cellphone voice mail, and lets you use it for texting (even from the computer), it works differently, and BETTER.

    So, my take on it, as a person that WANTS you to leave a message:

    1) I screen my calls. Very simply if you don’t leave a SHORT message that gives me a reason to call you back, I won’t. I’m to busy to waste time being “curious”.
    2) Speak clearly, you’re dictating a message that I will probably read, not listen to.
    3) Unless you’re family. Google Voice stores messages forever, and let’s me save them as MP3 files. I save the happy sounding ones because even Mom won’t live forever, and I want more than pictures.
    4) Unless your a lunatic. Google Voice let’s me post a link to that HILARIOUS/SCARY message you left on the web. For EVERYONE to listen to! :)

    Google Voice has a learning curve, but that said, if you have the app installed (IOS or Android) and turn off all the text message forwarding stuff meant for older crappy phones, it’s fantastic. It’s also a godsend if you need a free “work line” in addition to a personal one or your someone that needs to be reachable at work, home, and on a cell. (It’s insane when people give out multiple numbers and expect you to work down a list.) Heck, I just switched cell phone companies, and didn’t bother porting my cell phone number. No one’s seen it in years anyway.

    Google Voice lets you route incoming calls based on the caller ID. For example, you can set calls from anyone other than family to go directly to voicemail after 6pm, calls from Exes get a “number not in service”, calls from telemarketers go nowhere, Google filters them out for you, calls from Mom around Christmas get a holiday voice mail, while work calls still get a professional sounding one.

    Check your voice mail and messages from wherever is easy too. Computer, tablet, phone, your other phone, the computer at work. Send texts from anywhere you can type, make calls from any computer or phone or tablet with speakers and a mic, or have Google call any phone that has a direct dial number (no extensions) and then call the person your calling.

    Heck, I’d pay for it if they asked (but expect better customer service at that point) For free, it’s just amazing. Check out the Obi if you want a free “office” line. Great for folks that are self employed.

    In other words…. Google Voice makes VoiceMail work a lot like EMail :)

  78. This is such a good idea that I stole it, although I regret not stealing it word-for-word down to the Scalzi.

  79. Yeah, voice mail sucks. To be honest, talking on the phone is a close second. Much prefer the space allowed with text or email. Phone convo’s are best in short increment that are widely spaced. Why? I blame the effects of technology upon my psyche, but realize internal chemical cocktail configuration contributes too. Neural network linkage as well, but thems the breaks.

  80. @Jane B. (and others): To My Informed Opinion:

    > Maybe, or even probably, but it hasn’t happened yet. And even when it does, there will still be people in Amaryllis’ situation.

    > C’mon, friends. We have a wide variety of communication methods and styles. Why insist that everyone else use whatever one is most convenient for you at all times, or miss out on your valuable company?

    I don’t have a(n evil) hidden agenda here. I’m just pointing out where this is all going since I have seen it all before.

    And BTW, hello, an adult person here. You don’t need to point out self-evident things to me. Just assume I’m an adult person who knows there are a wide variety of communication methods and styles out there etc..

    I just remember the mid-90’s when X-files was really popular. They talked a lot in cell phones in that series. I thought it weird. We in (Western) Europe had had cell phones and texting for a while then. It was nothing new. People in the US were at that time saying that cell phones were “just a fad” and would go away soon. I just thought: Yeah, sure. At that time we had people defending landlines like crazy like it was a freedom of speech thing. Now fast forward to today. Landlines are gone, man, gone. And people seeing some value on them are thought of as weirdoes or indeed are quite old Altzheimer patients. Nitpicking about some marginal cases doesn’t change the situation one iota.

  81. I have to show this post to my wife. She insists on leaving voice mails on our daughter’s cell phone but daughter rarely listens to it. Mom then gets annoyed because daughter doesn’t call her back! She does however always read texts! That brings up another problem. My wife has a cell that is about 10 years old with no texting capabilities. I tell her I am getting a new one and she says “Why? I can make calls with this one just fine”? A techie she isn’t lol
    By the way, I will respect your wishes and only text ;-)

  82. Please don’t use Alzheimer’s as part of an insult. That disease brings a long, slow death that leaves the body needing care long after the person is gone.

  83. Steph said, “Google Voice transcribes my voicemails. Truly, it is a blessing.”

    Google Voice often transcribes/translates my voicemails into surrealist/Dadaist poetry. I wouldn’t call it a bessing, but it is often very entertaining.

  84. Google Voice is the best implementation of voicemail there is, and the nice part is that only voicemail goes there–I still use my regular AT&T phone number for pretty much EVERYTHING. It’s only the missed calls that get kicked over to Google Voice, where the voicemail takes over. I love the setup, and it makes voicemail absolutely painless. (Besides, it’s hard to get my doctor/pharmacy etc to e-mail/text instead.)

  85. Let me rephrase/clarify. People call my cellphone all the time, but occasionally I’m somewhere and my phone isn’t (like the kitchen vs home office), and you can totally set up AT&T so that the voicemail function is taken over by Google Voice. (GV gives you instructions on how to do so.)

    Even better, Google Voice can text me or e-mail me when voicemail arrives. E-mail usually includes the sound clip, which I can play within Gmail. Transcription is still pretty bad (especially when your name is “Ai”; the software goes through interesting contortions trying to grammatically fit “I” into the sentences), but from the transcript I usually catch the key things like “doctor” or “auto care”, and I listen to the message as necessary.

  86. @questioningauthority: You are under no obligation to use a crappy UI if you have alternatives.

    Yes! This phrasing totally encapsulated what I had been thinking as I read the post and thread. I’m one of those who often doesn’t have alternatives (medical stuff from multiple doctors; disabled sister; communicating with people who can’t afford texting), doesn’t object to voicemails in principle…and hates the crappy UI. I’m glad our gracious host found a way to deal with that situation that works for him – he and a lot of folks have alternatives. For me, I’d love to know if I could apply pressure to the appropriate parties to get them to step up the UI quality. Will have to look into that…

  87. (sorry if this has already been covered)

    Dan: “What continues to irritate me all to hell, is that annoying message that comes before you can leave someone else voicemail: “If you’d like to leave a message, press 1 or wait to leave your message. To leave a callback number, press 5. To send a fax …” To send a fax?! Really?”

    I’ve heard that the standard messages set up by cell phone companies are deliberately inflated over what people need, because it pushes the minimum time for leaving a voice mail by a minute, and therefore automatically adds a minute of usage for everybody’s account, for each call.

    And that adds up over hundreds of millions of calls.

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