Time wasting tactics of phone companies

(Pearls Before Swine)

Another annoying item that could be added to the above list is asking you to press 5 to leave a callback number. I have never, ever felt the need to do that. What is the point if you can leave a message anyway?

Is there anyone who does not know by now that you start your message at the tone and hang up when you are finished? Furthermore, people now tend to send text messages rather than leave a voicemail anyway. And those who do receive a voicemail message often call or text the number of the sender rather than listen to the message.

I read some time ago that this utterly redundant message was created simply to use up your minutes so that phone companies could squeeze out more money from you. I do not know if that is true and could not find a confirmation, nor could I confirm that some cell phone service providers still do not allow you to disable these messages.


  1. says

    What I hate is that all the providers more or less suck and none of them allow you to talk to a human without a minimum of an hour’s struggle. So the threat to change to another service is just met with laughter “They suck worse! Try them and see!” Meanwhile by the time you make a complete loop it’s “we have an ‘executive plan’ but oops it sucks too LOL thanks for playing!”

  2. says

    If I believed in such things, I’d say telephone companies are “of the devil”. Only social media companies have proven themselves to be worse.

    Telecoms are tone deaf to customer wants or needs. When text messaging came along, people with hearing disabilities wanted text only phone plans and no voice service because (for obvious reasons) they only needed text. Companies refused to do this. I can’t make phone calls anymore, and my cell company won’t sell me a text only package (but it’s “pay as you go” and that applies to both, so it’s no loss). And texting is now thirty years old, it started in 1992.

    All hail Mr. Carter, a British Telecom customer from at least 15 years ago. Our hero.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Also, why do they still make you wait for FIVE goddamn rings before switching to voicemail?
    I work for a bookstore. If we do not have a particular title in stock, we will offer to order it and contact the customer when we get it. This feature is a part of our computer system, so as long as we get an email address the customer is contacted automatically and it is no big deal. However, if the clerk taking the order is a lazy git (as they often are) and doesn’t ask for the email address, or if the customer is an old person who thinks email is too newfangled to learn how to use or still only has a landline phone (as they often are), it is up to the clerk assigned to a particular checkout counter (often me) to call them on the phone, in between handling actual customers who want to check out. The books are often not received, processed, and delivered to me until 5pm and it is not uncommon that I have a dozen calls to make between then and 9pm when we close. So I wait for a time when no one is waiting to check out and no one looks like they want to check out, then I hurriedly dial a number. It takes so fucking long for me to leave my little 3 second voicemail that I often have two customers waiting in line by the time I finish one stupid call.

  4. Holms says

    I read some time ago that this utterly redundant message was created simply to use up your minutes so that phone companies could squeeze out more money from you.

    No, the central idea with such systems is money -- a one-off payment to set the system up, in order to spend less in the long run by reducing the staff positions needed for customer service. So more of a nice side-benefit.

    #2 I spent a short stint working in a call centre, and I can guarantee that recording got passed around not as a sober reminder that customer time is very important, but as comic relief from a generally very boring job.

  5. Mano Singham says

    Holms @#5,

    Perhaps I should have been clearer that I was referring to the voicemail message systems of private individuals, not the Byzantine phone trees of big companies.

  6. Dunc says

    I read some time ago that this utterly redundant message was created simply to use up your minutes so that phone companies could squeeze out more money from you.

    People still pay for voice minutes? Here in the UK, almost every tariff includes unlimited voice minutes, the handful of exceptions being the very cheapest PAYG tariffs -- and even there they’re usually either very, very cheap, or they include a pretty hefty amount.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    @Dunc, 8: it’s the US. Their telecoms setup is at a similar “why-would -- anyone -- go -- there -- much -- less -- live -- there” level as their health care. #shithole

  8. seachange says

    No sorry as someone who has done telephone customer service, there absolutely are users who do not understand waiting for the beep or how to leave a message. These customers don’t need to be capital P Problems. But they often are. It’s more common than you might think. The rest of you have to suffer because of this.

    The dial 5 thing is for those who need need need to be told exactly what to do more than once, because of those who do leave messages, they don’t leave their phone number or change their phone number often and you have to look it up. Needless to say, they didn’t write down their correct phone number to start with….

  9. anat says

    Dunc@8 in my plan I pay for voice minutes and for receiving/sending text messages. As a person who barely uses the phone it is cheaper that way. Most plans don’t have that, but charge you more altogether.

  10. Dunc says

    anat, @11: Sure, that’s the usage pattern that the handful of very cheap PAYG tariffs I mentioned are aimed at… But you’re very much in the minority. (By “very cheap”, I mean around 1p / minute.)

  11. says

    I’d just like the phone companies to stop allowing anyone to make anonymous calls. It’s the telephonical equivalent of dressing head-to-toe in black and jumping on someone from behind.

    If you know my number, I have a right to know yours.

    And yes, I know how to configure Asterisk to present anonymous callers with a voice menu asking them whether they are a child molester, a terrorist or a drug dealer, or play them a sample of Kevin Bloody Wilson; but in 2022, I should not have to.

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