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David Pogue Launches “Take Back the Beep” Campaign for Wasted Cell Minutes

David Pogue has launched a campaign he is calling "Take Back the Beep," an effort to bring public pressure on the major American cell phone carriers to make optional the time-wasting messages you have to listen to before you can leave someone a message on their mobile phone.

The time-wasting messages he is referring to are likely familiar to you if you know anyone with a mobile phone:

  • Sprint: "[Phone number] is not available right now. Please leave a detailed message after the tone. When you have finished recording, you may hang up, or press pound for more options."
  • Verizon: "At the tone, please record your message. When you have finished recording, you may hang up, or press 1 for more options. To leave a callback number, press 5. (Beep)"
  • AT&T: "To page this person, press five now. At the tone, please record your message. When you are finished, you may hang up, or press one for more options."
  • T-Mobile: "Record your message after the tone. To send a numeric page, press five. When you are finished recording, hang up, or for delivery options, press pound."

According to Mr. Pogue, cell phone executives have admitted to him that these messages are there to deliberately waste time, consuming cell phone minutes in the process in an effort to increase what the industry calls Average Revenue Per User (ARPU).

Some of those messages are as long as 15 seconds, and, he wrote, "If Verizon's 70 million customers leave or check messages twice a weekday, Verizon rakes in about $620 million a year. That's your money. And your time: three hours of your time a year, just sitting there listening to the same message over and over again every year."

Mr. Pogue also noted that Apple demanded from AT&T that iPhone owners not have those messages attached to their iPhone accounts, for which we can thank Apple.

Thanks, Apple.

For the rest of AT&T's customers, and for the other carriers, Mr. Pogue's idea is that we, the mobile-phone using public, demand that time back, and do so via a public-pressure campaign with the carriers themselves. He contacted them to get contact information for this campaign, and provided the following links:

If you want to Take Back the Beep, do your part.

8 comments from the community.

You can post your own below.

mhikl said:

For once David Pogue gets something right.


ChoMomma said:

I second that, if you disagree press # now.


Lee Dronick said:

“Insert cash or select payment type”


Larry Rice said:

With most carriers you can skip ro the beep by simply pressing 1. I know this works for AT&T and Sprint.


Dave Hamilton said:

Kinda sucks that Mark Siegel at AT&T is on vacation today and tomorrow (or so his auto-responder says!)


I hate it too, but it's not on my phone... said:

I leave a new detailed message everyday with the current date. I just called my phone. All I get is the message that I recorded, and the beep. I have an iPhone with ATT.


Agee said:

Thank you David!
It’s something I’ve requested of Verizon numerous times but was always told that they can’t remove that, even though I prefer having my own personal short greeting, which now makes it even longer.


vasic said:

“I hate it too, but it’s not on my phone
I just called my phone. All I get is the message that I recorded, and the beep. I have an iPhone with ATT.

And that is because you have an iPhone. If you read the article, you would have seen that in paragraph 5. People calling iPhone users don’t get AT&T’s message. People who have an iPhone don’t have AT&T logos on their device; they don’t have menu systems designed by AT&T, with prominent placement of revenue-generating applications and services (AT&T GPS, AT&T Music, AT&T entertainment, MediaNET…). In other words, people who have an iPhone have an Apple phone with a generic mobile carrier, so their whole experience can be customised to their own taste (including the outgoing voicemail greeting). The might of Apple and the iPhone is nothing short of amazing!


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