David Pogue's got a fascinating new campaign underway: Under the rallying call of "Take Back the Beep!" he's trying to force cell-phone networks to stop ripping us all off with those annoying 15-second voicemail intro messages.
You know them—the message that comes after someone's personal greeting. The message you pretty much have to listen to before you can leave your important voicemail in someone's cell-phone inbox, telling you how to leave your message after the beep and then to hang up. Telling you slowly. Telling you something you already know. And eating up your cash and call minutes as it does so, as it simultaneously feeds money to the network—Pogue calculates that Verizon's 70 million clients could be putting the equivalent of $620 million per annum into the company's pockets thanks to these supposedly helpful little sound bytes. Think about how much it costs when you're abroad, calling someone's cell when they're overseas too—a typical business traveler situation.
You can skip these audio prompts, if you know the right key to press and in the U.S., Sprint does let you turn them off if you dig through the voicemail settings. Apple, with its eye ever-roving over the details of its user experience, has already insisted AT&T turn them off for iPhone users.
But Pogue thinks that's not enough, and it's time for them to go, completely. I'd have to agree with him—cell-phone networks already reap enough money from us all by nefarious means and these little messages are pretty blatant. Every time I hear one, I'm reminded of Steve Martin's ironic mickey-take phone call answering message from L.A. Story: "Hello, this is Harris. Please start talking after the beep. Beep."
If you want to lend your support, over at Pogue's blog there are links for filing complaints with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. And while you're at it, why not complain about SMS charging too? Remember—it pretty much costs the networks zero to send them to you.