David Pogue launches 'Take Back the Beep Campaign' to end mandatory voicemail messages

New York Times tech guru David Pogue is here to kick canned voicemail messages and chew bubblegum — and he's all outta gum.

So what has him all fired up? Every time you make a call and hear someone's voicemail, you're listening to a mandatory 15-20 second time waster that's bleeding away more of your precious minutes. Think about how many calls you make a month — or even just a week or a day — and all of a sudden you're looking at a lot of lost time. Time that you're paying for. Time that, when you look at the body of customers for each cellphone carrier, means hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen time — $620 million a year for Verizon, according to Pogue.

Pogue (pictured above kicking some ass) writes:

Suppose you call my cell to leave me a message. First you hear my own voice: "Hi, it's David Pogue. Leave a message, and I'll get back to you"-and THEN you hear a 15-second canned carrier message…

(You hear a similar message when you call in to hear your own messages. "You. Have. 15. Messages. To listen to your messages, press 1." WHY ELSE WOULD I BE CALLING?)

I, the voicemailbox owner, cannot turn off this additional greeting message. You, the caller, can bypass it, but only if you know the secret keypress-and it's different for each carrier. So you'd have to know which cellphone carrier I use, and that of every person you'll ever call; in other words, this trick is no solution.

If you're interested in helping people bypass your welcome message and go straight to the beep, you can tell them the code:

• * for Verizon
• 1 for Sprint
• # for AT&T
• # for T-Mobile

Pogue does point out that some carriers allow users to ditch the canned instructions. Apple, which has been taking some heat this week after booting Google Voice from the App Store, insisted that AT&T not include mandatory welcomes for iPhone users. Sprint also lets users turn it off, but the way to do it is needlessly complicated.

Here's what Pogue proposes:

We're going to descend, en masse, on our carriers. Send them a complaint, politely but firmly. Together, we'll send them a LOT of complaints.

If enough of us make our unhappiness known, I'll bet they'll change.

I've told each of the four major carriers that they'll be hearing from us. They've told us where to send the messages:

* 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

Three of the four carriers are just directing us to their general Web forums. Smells like a cop-out, I know. (As for AT&T: Props to the guy for letting me publish his e-mail address! Hope he knows what he's in for!)

Yet all four carriers promise that they'll read and consider our posts.

Read all about the campaign here. Also, be sure to check out Pogue's excellent coverage of the shady moves carriers pull here.

Viva la cellular revolución!

Via Pogue's Posts