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Times Takes Aim At 15-Second Voicemail Cash Cow
We're using up your airtime, press 5 for more options...
by Karl Bode 01:02PM Monday Aug 03 2009
David Pogue of the New York Times last week raised a simple but interesting point about the short messages carriers tack on to the end of your voicemail greeting. In most instances, after your pre-recorded greeting, the alerts tell a caller to your voicemail inane things like "at the tone, please record your message" (Verizon) or "when you are finished, you may hang up" (AT&T). Pogue notes these aren't just there for convenience, but --and this may surprise you about the wireless industry -- to milk consumers out of money:
quote:
These little 15-second waits add up–bigtime. If Verizon’s 70 million customers leave or check messages twice a weekday, Verizon rakes in about $620 million a year...In 2007, I spoke at an international cellular conference in Italy. The big buzzword was ARPU–Average Revenue Per User. The seminars all had titles like, “Maximizing ARPU In a Digital Age.” And yes, several attendees (cell executives) admitted to me, point-blank, that the voicemail instructions exist primarily to make you use up airtime, thereby maximizing ARPU.
While there are keys to bypass these useless messages, they're usually different for each carrier. Interestingly, Pogue notes that Apple made AT&T pull the greeting for iPhone users. He also notes that Sprint does allow users to remove the added carrier greeting if they're willing to navigate through a few layers of voicemail settings. For those carriers who continue to use the little scheme, Pogue links to their various complaint forms in his blog entry.

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exocet_cm
Free at last, free at last
Premium
join:2003-03-23
New Orleans, LA
kudos:3

AT&T Customers

Dial a number, goes to voicemail, press "0" (zero, not O) instead of listening to the "At the tone, please leave a message, or after leaving your message, press ___ for additional options.... [beep]" message.

Pressing "0" will bypass the introductory message and after leaving a voicemail, just hang up.
--
"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons..." - T.S Eliot
"I have often regretted my speech, never my silence." - Publilius Syrus
Ma blog: »www.johndball.com
iansltx

join:2007-02-19
Austin, TX
kudos:2

Re: AT&T Customers

Sometimes it's * though.

Lark3po
Premium
join:2003-08-05
Madison, AL

1 edit

Re: AT&T Customers

And other times pressing "1" will bypass... Hell, it might be pressing any key will bypass the the message.

cypherstream
Premium,MVM
join:2004-12-02
Reading, PA
kudos:3

Re: AT&T Customers

1 # * should do it. If you hit those keys in that order it should take care of all of them.

I hate the stupid waste of time. It's 2009, I think we all know how to leave a message now!
foxyshadis

join:2004-05-16
Modesto, CA

Re: AT&T Customers

Don't hit the wrong key, or it'll ask you for your password instead. Then you've wasted time and an extra call! Skip seems to be * for verizon, # for AT&T and T-Mobile, 1 for sprint. (This is in California... it may be different elsewhere!)

wifi4milez
Big Russ, 1918 to 2008. Rest in Peace

join:2004-08-07
New York, NY

Get Youmail

For those that dont have the option to change their carrier supplied VM, I suggest trying Youmail. Its a free service, and it provides a lot of cool features like customized voicemails for individual callers, call transcriptions, and voicemail to mp3 conversions. It also completely removes the annoying "voicemail instructions" being discussed here. If you do decide to use it, please be aware that Sprint (and only Sprint) charges $0.20 per minute for voicemails left.
--
Obama = Jimmy Carter part 2
"Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move"
-Sun Tzu-
CMoore2004
Premium
join:2003-02-06
Jonesville, MI

Re: Get Youmail

What exactly does Sprint charge for? I'm a bit unclear how that works, and how they can charge.
CMoore2004
Premium
join:2003-02-06
Jonesville, MI

Re: Get Youmail

Nevermind... looks like they get ya by the call forward function.

wifi4milez
Big Russ, 1918 to 2008. Rest in Peace

join:2004-08-07
New York, NY

Re: Get Youmail

said by CMoore2004:

Nevermind... looks like they get ya by the call forward function.
Indeed they do.

wifi4milez
Big Russ, 1918 to 2008. Rest in Peace

join:2004-08-07
New York, NY
said by CMoore2004:

What exactly does Sprint charge for? I'm a bit unclear how that works, and how they can charge.
Your voicemail is (obviously) reached by dialing your phone number. Sprint allows you to change the destination of this phone number, but when you do they charge you $0.20 per minute for 'call forwarding'. This means that I get charged $0.20 for every minute of voicemail I receive. This ends up costing me an extra $10 per month, but its worth it.
--
Obama = Jimmy Carter part 2
"Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move"
-Sun Tzu-
fjr3020

join:2008-07-22
Miami, FL
Sprint does not charge anything you just have the option of removing that option

wifi4milez
Big Russ, 1918 to 2008. Rest in Peace

join:2004-08-07
New York, NY

Re: Get Youmail

said by fjr3020:

Sprint does not charge anything you just have the option of removing that option
That is incorrect. Sprint charges $0.20 per minute for call forward.

Noah Vail
Son made my Avatar
Premium
join:2004-12-10
Lorton, VA
kudos:3
Reviews:
·Bright House

Re: Get Youmail

said by wifi4milez:

That is incorrect. Sprint charges $0.20 per minute for call forward.
You used to be able to skirt by the charges if you had a Sprint Rep initiate...

No Answer Call Forwarding
Busy Call Forwarding
Unreachable Call Forwarding

...instead of Unconditional Call Forwarding (which is default).

I don't think that trick works any more. I suppose I could grab one of the Sprint bills from the comptroller, then I'd know for sure.

NV

wifi4milez
Big Russ, 1918 to 2008. Rest in Peace

join:2004-08-07
New York, NY

Re: Get Youmail

said by Noah Vail:

said by wifi4milez:

That is incorrect. Sprint charges $0.20 per minute for call forward.
You used to be able to skirt by the charges if you had a Sprint Rep initiate...

No Answer Call Forwarding
Busy Call Forwarding
Unreachable Call Forwarding

...instead of Unconditional Call Forwarding (which is default).

I don't think that trick works any more. I suppose I could grab one of the Sprint bills from the comptroller, then I'd know for sure.

NV
What you describe is actually what I did, and unfortunately the trick doesnt seem to work anymore. If you get a chance please do check an invoice and see if the charges are showing up. If not, I will give Sprint a buzz and see if I can trick them into re-activating it!
--
Obama = Jimmy Carter part 2
"Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move"
-Sun Tzu-
chemaupr

join:2005-06-06
Alexandria, VA
I've been using this for two months now on my Storm. Is the best FREE voicemail app that I've seen. Not only saves me the $2.99 visual voicemail charge from VZ but it has so many more useful features...

I love how it greats my contacts by name or I can have different voicemail playbacks depending on the contact or group...

wifi4milez
Big Russ, 1918 to 2008. Rest in Peace

join:2004-08-07
New York, NY

Re: Get Youmail

said by chemaupr:

I've been using this for two months now on my Storm. Is the best FREE voicemail app that I've seen. Not only saves me the $2.99 visual voicemail charge from VZ but it has so many more useful features...

I love how it greats my contacts by name or I can have different voicemail playbacks depending on the contact or group...
Yep, the visual voicemail is pretty sweet. I am also a huge fan of the fact that I get an email (with attached mp3) of all the voicemails I get. If its an important message I can forward it along to someone else, and do other things with it. Youmail is definitely a great service.
--
Obama = Jimmy Carter part 2
"Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move"
-Sun Tzu-
ke4pym
Premium
join:2004-07-24
Charlotte, NC

How to fix

Engadget had a post last week on how to modify the greeting for AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

Pretty easy.

Phil
Rojo Sol
Premium
join:2001-06-11
Downers Grove, IL
kudos:2

Re: How to fix

Link?

vircotto

join:2002-06-04
searching...

1 recommendation

Re: How to fix

I think this is it:

»www.engadget.com/2009/07/31/take···-on-spr/

Phil
Rojo Sol
Premium
join:2001-06-11
Downers Grove, IL
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: How to fix

Thanks!
Seaboogers

join:2004-11-01
Sarasota, FL

Old AOL tactic

I remember back in the day of the 10 hours/month AOL days.

They had a class action suit filed for bilking customers out minutes wasted for the slow log in and disconnect screens.

The Beer
I Love It When A Plan Comes Together
Premium
join:2001-07-24
Atlantic, IA

US Cellular

Interesting you say that...

I have been trying to get US Cellular to drop reading me the Caller ID of every caller for years!

All my users complain about waiting for it when they already had that information!

Dagda1175

join:2001-06-17
Goleta, CA

What kind of person is hurt by this?

I guess I think it's silly because I never come close to going over my minutes quota included in my plan. If I did that with any sort of regularity I'd upgrade to the next package level....
mlundin

join:2001-03-27
Lawrence, KS

Re: What kind of person is hurt by this?

Unfortunately, the type of person who doesn't read these forums and is likely to get blindsided by going over their minute allotment.

en102
Canadian, eh?

join:2001-01-26
Valencia, CA

Re: What kind of person is hurt by this?

Exactly. Those on 'prepaid' would notice it the most.
If carriers posted a 'cost/minute' of what people use in their plan, they would find out that prepaid (for many) or even a lower plan might be cheaper.
--
Canada = Hollywood North
voip_user

join:2006-06-14
Middletown, CT

T-Mobile

If you have the t-mobile to t-mobile free calling package then calls to check your VM are considered calls to other t-mobile and are free

cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT

Retarded statistics

If VZW customers leave 2 messages a day chances are only one is out of network and it doesn't cost a penny until you go into overages. Another waste of electrons.

jester121
Premium
join:2003-08-09
Lake Zurich, IL

1 recommendation

Sigh

This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Every voicemail system I've ever used (home, business, etc.) has these types of greetings.

Talk about much ado, is this really the most serious injustice in the world?
Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
·Embarq Now Centu..
·Comcast
·CenturyLink

1 edit

If you think the 15-Second Voice Mail Cash Cow is abusive.

If you think the 15 Second Voice Mail Cash Cow is abusive think again. When I was working for a Bell Operating Company in the early 1980's, the company sold Wide Area Telecommunications Lines (WATS).

One of the way we hawked our wares was to point out to subscribers that WATS lines were billed in Six Second Increments. Bell Labs worked out a formula that proved that billing in Six Second increments saved the customer 20% on their Toll Charges per month versus One Minute Billing.

I used the second hand method to prove my point. With Six Second Billing in the worse case if the call lasted One Second into the next increment the subscriber would be billed for only Six Seconds of usage thereby overpaying for Five Seconds of usage. On the other hand if the call lasted One Second into the next increment with One Minute Billing the subscriber would be charged for a full minute of usage thereby overpaying for 59 Seconds of usage. I do not see the wireless or land line companies adopting six second billing. Another way to rip off the subscriber.

*********************************************************************************************************************

Edit 8/4/09 8:00 AM

I failed to mention that the reason consumers will save on the average of 20% on their bill with 6 Second Billing is rounding error. With 1 Minute Billing customers would be over charged for 59 Seconds of usage if they went 1 Second into the next Minute. On the other hand with 6 Second Billing the most a customer would be overcharged was for 5 Seconds of usage. I do not recall of any carrier offering 1 Second Billing.
bt

join:2009-02-26
canada
kudos:1

Re: If you think the 15-Second Voice Mail Cash Cow is abusive.

Never heard of per-second billing? It's become pretty common for wireless airtime and wired or wireless long distance billing. Not universal of course, but not exactly rare either.
JDLSU0

join:2007-10-07
Denham Springs, LA
I think i remember old Alltel ads that advertised them billing by the exact second, no interval at all. The ad had clocks counting time above the callers heads and when one hung up the clock kept running but when the Alltel customer hung up the clock stopped on that second. Of course that was years ago and there is no Alltel anymore...
sonicmerlin

join:2009-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:1

Re: If you think the 15-Second Voice Mail Cash Cow is abusive.

said by JDLSU0:

I think i remember old Alltel ads that advertised them billing by the exact second, no interval at all. The ad had clocks counting time above the callers heads and when one hung up the clock kept running but when the Alltel customer hung up the clock stopped on that second. Of course that was years ago and there is no Alltel anymore...
I remember those! Lol as soon as I read this article that exactly commercial played in my head.
hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH
There IS alltel. Who do you think they are? Many areas are still under Alltel's mgt until VZW takes them all under. And all those areas that Alltel had to spin off---those are ALL still Alltel.

Also I can still sign up for Alltel service. If there wasn't any Alltel I wouldn't be able to sign up.

kyler13
Is your fiber grounded?

join:2006-12-12
Arnold, MD
In fairness to landline, most everything these days is unlimited, long distance included. But even if you go with metered long distance, there are a number of choices among third party long distance providers that bill by the 6-second interval and they've been doing this for years. Before I switched to VoIP, I had some New England outfit that did this. Much more economical, but I also found some companies would scam you by charging you a higher per minute rate for 0.1 minute billing versus whole minute billing within their own selection of plans.

pokesph
It Is Almost Fast
Premium
join:2001-06-25
Sacramento, CA
kudos:1

15-Second Voicemail Cash Cow

hmm.. haven't noticed any 'extra' charges for accessing my voicemail (or for callers to leave one).. it's always been and still is free with Nextel.
NLiveris

join:2001-11-25
Chicago, IL

FINALLY, SOMEONE ELSE HATES THIS!

Yes! Finally, someone other than me finds this incredibly annoying!

I wrote to Verizon in 2005, to complain about this and they responded by saying "we are in the process of updating our voicemail software, you can expect an improvement soon." So 4 years later, they obviously lied and it's appalling these companies openly admit this is done only to increase ARPU.

What a horribly greedy and wasteful world we live in. We use our own technology to degrade services to blatantly rip off customers.

hmm.

sivran
Opera ex-pat
Premium
join:2003-09-15
Irving, TX
kudos:1

Charging to check voicemail

That checking voicemail is not always free is why I rarely check my voicemail from my cell. Well, that and the airtime on my prepaid sidekick is a whopping 15c/min. I generally just let the VM wait until I get to a landline to check it from.
--
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon profitable cause...
cyclone_z

join:2006-06-19
Ames, IA

What about wasting our time?

My biggest issue with it is that it's a waste of time. I just figured out how to skip this a couple of weeks ago. Every time I leave someone a voicemail, it takes 30 seconds to listen to the greeting and the instructions - I timed it last night. Most people are a-holes these days when it comes to using their cell phones. They're trying to multitask and save themselves time while wasting everyone else's time or worse yet, talking on one while driving and causing wrecks. I decided I'm not going to be one of those a-holes, and so those 30 seconds waiting to leave a voicemail are a big annoyance to me and I was really glad to find out I could skip it.

As far as revenue, I don't think most people understand the business decisions behind the voicemail systems. Cell phone plans are set up to severely punish customers who don't buy extras of minutes or messages or whatever. 50¢ per minute for going over? Really? 20¢ for receiving 160 bytes of data??? The idea is to heard the sheep towards a more expensive plan. the carriers would rather have an extra $20 a month for 2 years than have two months with $40 overages over that same 2 year period. You do the math.

According to my rough calculations, if just 1% of VZW customers moved to a higher plan because of extra minutes used leaving AND LISTENING TO voicemail, and the next plan up costs an extra $20, that's $18 million a month or $216 M a year.

Another thing, VZW doesn't consider voicemail to be "in-network". If the VZW voicemail system isn't on VZW's network, then whose network is it on?

morbo
Complete Your Transaction

join:2002-01-22
00000

Re: What about wasting our time?

said by cyclone_z:

My biggest issue with it is that it's a waste of time.
agreed.

mr_slick

join:2003-05-22
Lynnwood, WA

Re: What about wasting our time?

said by morbo:

said by cyclone_z:

My biggest issue with it is that it's a waste of time.
agreed.
+1
xrobertcmx
Premium
join:2001-06-18
Sterling, VA

odd

So long as I call from my cell phone all three of the last three carriers I have used include it in the mobile to mobile unlimited minutes.
--
Retaking our country one election at a time.

CylonRed
Premium,MVM
join:2000-07-06
Bloom County

Does not cost me a thing...

then agian - I never use all of our minutes either.
djweis

join:2006-04-02
West Des Moines, IA

Turn it off yourself

I've turned that announcement off on my Verizon phone five+ years ago. It's in the menus -- you can change it yourself.
tmc8080

join:2004-04-24
Brooklyn, NY
Reviews:
·ooma
·Optimum Online
·Verizon FiOS

Yes, add 2 more seconds...

While your at it, add 2 more seconds on how to bypass this altogether and press the correct number to just leave a message.. so they only grab you once... Still, this is the fault of the schmo who's voicemail it is if they have an option to diable that end of recorded message instruction.

This cuts both ways, if the caller has UNLIMITED cellular plan (usually prepaid), than it hurts the company by wasting an extra 15 seconds of call air time on the cell site.
forefun

join:2004-04-21
Austin, TX

RE: Times Takes Aim At 15-Second Voicemail Cash Cow

Sprint is the worst about this!
I always know when I am calling a Sprint customer because after I hear their VM greeting, the system tells me how to leave a message, not once but twice. It has been a peeve of mine for years.
hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH

Skip

Anyone ever hear of just pressing 1 on the phone and skipping the greetings?