Why am I ignoring you? (Sorry, I didn’t know you’d called)

I just discovered something rather annoying: people have been leaving voicemail on my cell phone. Please don’t. I can almost guarantee that I’ll never receive the message.

Normally, this doesn’t happen: I have a recorded message explaining:

  • don’t leave a message – I won’t receive it. No, really. Don’t leave one “just in case”: you’re being self-delusional. I WILL NOT receive it. (It’s amazing how many people struggle with this concept :)).
  • if you need to contact me, you should already have my email address; if you don’t even have my email, then you shouldn’t have my phone number in the first place
  • if it’s urgent, you can try sending an SMS, but if I wasn’t answering the phone, it’s probably switched off or out of cell reception, so I might not see the SMS for a while either (but at least I’ll see the SMS as soon as I’m back in range / switched on)


Despite this, of course, I get large numbers of voicemails all the time. Mainly for two reasons:

  • Automated diallers that phone up and leave a spam message
  • Because my name begins with the first letter of the alphabet … I get 30-minute long recordings of the sound of people walking down the street, phone in pocket, having pressed the “default” button. Many cell phone designers over the years have been very stupid with this button (for instance, Sony Ericsson), and if you keep clicking the default button you make it go: on; dial; open addressbook; select first person; confirm: dial. Sometimes I get literally 50 or more calls a day from a single person because of this…

To put it into perspective, I am more likely to read a comment left on this blog (that has heavy spam protection) than I am to hear a voicemail message (sadly, the cell providers don’t do any spam filtering on voicemail).

Given the average number of voicemails I receive in the short periods where I have it switched on (anywhere from five to twenty a week), I’m sure a lot of messages have been left and lost. Hopefully, it’s not too bad: most friends know by now that I never ever use voicemail on a cell phone, and that they can get hold of me quickest by email.

For the few people that don’t understand why voicemail is so useless, here’s the contributing factors:

  • Google / Windows desktop search / etc cannot see my voicemail
  • My voicemail doesn’t archive to my laptop’s hard disk, nor to my backup hard disk
  • I have no private copy of correspondence via voicemail – I *cannot* have such a copy
  • I get charged a vast amount per minute to manage or listen to voicemail. This is a rip-off, and is grossly unfair, but it’s common practice amongst cell phone companies.
  • Most UK cell phone companies – and even landline companies too, now – delete voicemail aggressively. e.g. BT, the largest telco in the UK, at one point routinely deleted voicemails on the last day of the week or month, RATHER THAN based on how old they were. Yes, that’s right – you could leave a voicemail, and it would be deleted the same day. In the last couple of years I’ve had tariffs from O2 and Orange where voicemail would be deleted e.g. when it got to 8 mails, or e.g. when it was more than 3 days old. A long weekend in somewhere rural without cell phone reception would delete a bunch of voicemails before you’d even get the message telling you you had mail!
  • All cell phone companies are using bad user-interfaces for hearing and managing voicemail (although this is not entirely their fault – I used to work on telephony systems, and it’s tough to improve on the interface if you do it 100% through audio; the obvious answer, of course, is to manage voicemail via the phone screen – or, in fact, not to have voicemail! All these companies *could* plug in speech recognition, it’s a built-in feature of the systems they already have). Each additional voicemail in the inbox linearly increases the time it takes to perform operations on EACH of the other voicemails, so that overall it increases the time quadratically. A handful of messages that would take me 5 minutes to deal with on email can easily take half an hour to deal with if they’re on voicemail.
  • My inbox is a centralised place where all my communication happens; if it’s not in the inbox, it’s not part of my main todo list. Voicemail doesn’t appear in the inbox (although some cell phone companies now let you do this, which is cool – you can get them to email you each time you receive a voicemail).

Anyway, I’ve now manually disabled voicemail completely. This is unfortunate, because I know from experience that people will ring, and ring, and re-ring, and never think to send an SMS or email. But since O2’s systems are so crappy, and they clearly cannot be trusted just to “not screw around with it”, I can’t think of a great alternative.

3 thoughts on “Why am I ignoring you? (Sorry, I didn’t know you’d called)

  1. Carlos

    Really? – don’t leave a voice mail, ok. Are you the same employee, client, provider, co-worker or whoever , that picks and chooses when you will respond. Reply or respond to anything.

    The same who also ignores emails? yes, I suspect you are. Likely though after your client has already paid you a deposit or more. Or are you just sabotaging everyone else with your power of ignoring.

    How typical of our ‘new’ culture. Are you an IT guy?

  2. adam Post author

    @Carlos

    Give me your cell number. I promise I will only phone you every five minutes, 24/7, with inane ideas, and to read our to you the URL of random LOLCATZ images I just found and thought you’d like.

    When you’ve given up, and asked your cell provider to block my incoming calls, and I’ve changed to a different number so I can *still* spam you…

    …then we’ll come back to this conversation, and see if you still feel so strongly that everyone has a “right” to *force* other people to listen to them / read them whenever and however they (the spammer) wishes.

    Think about it. Your ideal is unworkable.

  3. Carlos

    Adam:

    Sounds like you’ve been abused by crazy people. I m talking in general about doing business. The idea of just ignoring a business voice message – and emails is all to prevalent.

    If what you are referring to about people sending inane images and spam, well then you have a legitimate complaint.

    So maybe we are talking about two different types of voice messages?

    My complaint is working with people — doing real business. Waiting for a reply to a specific assignment or request for a product that has been ordered, etc.

    For me, as product manager with full reliance on others to complete their time line assigned task. Such as waiting to know whether a certain supplier has a particular product in stock or has to be ordered. The waiting for a reply that often does not come is what causes delays and extra costs and frustration.

    Carlos

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