Monthly Archives: May 2012

Voicemail: just stop it you sad old farts

When I was a kid my dad used to run a record wholesale business from our house. As a modern business in the 1970’s it really needed some way to ensure valuable orders weren’t lost simply because we were out at the time. So we became the lucky users of a piece of futuristic technology that we could show off to anyone and everyone that visited: a telephone answering machine.
It was a huge brown console full of moving parts, big clunky knobs that really did “clunk” when you moved them, a GPO logo, and a “display” consisting of a little window which revealed a section of a spinning disc underneath while a recording was taking place; just like the glassy blue barbers’ pole in OS-X…sort of. It obediently recorded callers messages whilst applying bizarre audio effects supplied by the perpetually degrading, non-replaceable tape mechanism. It didn’t take long before everyone had one in their house.


Voicemail is the modern-day equivalent, but it too is already an anachronism, existing solely for those people who need to cling on to the past.

Here is a generic voicemail message that captures the essence of 99.9% of voicemail messages you’re likely to receive:

“Oh…hi…it’s X here. It’s…er…Tuesday…no, wait…Wednesday…no Tuesday at around…er…7…7:20…7:25. I was just calling to…er…see if you were up to anything over the weekend. So give me a call back when you get this…or actually I may try to call you again later. See you.”

Back in the olden days, this tedious message still held some potentially valuable information for the recipient:

  • X called.
  • The call was placed at 7:25 on Tuesday.

The rest of the message is pretty much free from information and can be inferred from the existence of the call: “call me back, or I’ll try again”.

But today all of the valuable information there is automatically handled by your phone! You know you got a call and you know when the call was placed! Yet people still leave these tedious messages on voicemail systems. Please stop doing that! It’s costing you time and money for absolutely no reward. And it’s costing me irritation that I have to check my voicemail (even though I already know you called) just to get rid of that bloody little tape-spool icon.

If you want to tell the callee something of consequence then why not use an SMS message (ie a “text message”), an email, or something similar like Facebook? That way the recipient can read and digest your message at a time convenient for *them*, rather than a time convenient for you.