'Take Back the Beep' Campaign

JULY 31, 2009, 3:27 PM

Take Back The Beep, Part II

Wow, what a ride.

On Thursday, on this blog, in my e-mail column and on Twitter, I launched "Take Back the Beep," a national campaign to restore your time and money from the country's cellular carriers. I'm referring, of course, to the obnoxious, drawn-out, 15-second instructions that Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile tack on to your own voice mail greeting. You know: "To page this person, press 5. When you have finished recording, you may hang up. To leave a callback number, press 1," etc.

The response has been amazing. Gizmodo, Engadget, Consumerist, Technologizer and other blogs joined me in the cause. Radio stations called for interviews. And above all, readers responded, flooding the carriers with such a volume of complaints, three out of the four wound up setting up special channels to accommodate it all.

Here are the latest links where you can complain:

  • Verizon: Post a complaint here:
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  • AT&T: Send e-mail to: snipped-for-privacy@attnews.us.

  • Sprint: Post a complaint here:
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  • T-Mobile: Post a complaint here:
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    Along the way, a few interesting developments.


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Reply to
Monty Solomon
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For Virgin Mobile, the magic keypress is either the Octothorpe or the number '1'. Since Virgin Mobile uses the Spring network, I recommend using '1' to keep it simple.

I've modified my voice-mail announcement to speed up the process, and I ran into a _very_ interesting twist. Mr. Pogue's second blog entry mentions this as a Sprint option, but FYI, you can also disable the instructional announcements on Virgin Mobile voice mail.

There was also an option to suppress the playback of the number-called-from and time-of-message announcements that used to precede every message during playback: some people want these, so it's not just a profit pack for the carriers, but they're much more likely to stretch your cellular bill, since I think most people call for messages from their cell phone, not from their office or home. I disabled the feature, since I can call up the information on a per-message basis anyway.

I propose Horne's corollary to Pogue's campaign: I suggest that all cell phone users make it a habit to check their messages from home or work (landline) phones, so that we're not burning up minutes listening to messages. This is a good idea because:

  1. At home or work, you have access to your computer or a pad of paper, and you can write down the important stuff before deleting the message, thus saving time both by not having to listen to it again, and also by being able to delegate tasks right away.
  2. The cellular carriers will notice a drop in their income, and investigate, and figure out that they've been angering their customers for a long time.


Bill Horne

Reply to
Bill Horne


What I really, really wish is that (cell phone) messages could be, say, emailed as an audio attachment for several reasons:

  1. storage for any number of future purposes, and

  1. ability to enhance an inaudible or whatever message using tools on one's computer.

Item (2) was easy to do with asterisk VoIP and I've had to process garbled and/or inaudible messages for intended recipients more than once.

asterisk stores voice mail as both *.WAV and *.GSM files along with a

*.TXT file containing the caller's CID, date/time and duration.

There are times when a caller also using a cell phone may be in a noisy or even windy location and post-processing is needed to clarify the voice information.

Thinking back over the years, I've only encountered 3 good voice mail systems: PacBell's Centrex, Nortel's NorStar BCM, and asterisk, though my Bogen "Friday" was a very decent and featureful answering machine.

AT&T Mobility's voice mail system is the worst I've ever had the displeasure of using, and it's my only gripe with their service.

Reply to
Thad Floryan

I stopped using my cellphone providers voicemail and instead have unanswered calls roll over to Google Voice. It gives the added benefit of voicemail transcription which can be highly amusing to read when the voice recognition mangles it.

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