Death by a thousand cuts: Verizon and AT&T

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“To page this person press 5 now. At the tone please record your message. When you have finished recording hang up or press 1 for more options”

– 10 seconds. AT&T voicemail greeting message

“You have one message whose retention time is about to expire. [pause] You have two new voice messages. [pause] You have nine saved voice messages. [pause] First voice message.”

– 18 seconds. Verizon voicemail account

Perhaps once a week the F-Train screeches to a halt in the middle of the 6th Avenue line. “Folks, apologies for the delay. We will be moving shortly.” These delays usually last about 30 seconds, but you wouldn’t know from the groans on the trains. People do not deal well with those delays and really hold the MTA to the fire for them. “I can’t believe the amount of my time the MTA wastes” stammered one person on my train.

Forget the MTA — they are doing their best. Why do we let Verizon and AT&T needle their customers by wasting much more of their time? Clearly these overly-narrated voicemail menus are an attempt to run up airtime (checking voicemail isn’t free). The question isn’t why they do it. The question is how they get away with it.

Quick calculation: If you listen to 5 messages a day

18 seconds x 5 = 1 minute 30 seconds

And leave 5 more

10 seconds x 5 = 50 seconds

More than two minutes of your day are given over to telcos in a futile “time” surcharge. Let’s call it 12 hours a year. That’s a lazy vacation day folks! Verizon– stop wasting my time, bill me a little more and we’ll both be better off.

It’s death by a thousand cuts. It’s truly a friction on our country’s productivity. It is really shameful. If you need a clearer example of consumers losing out to unnatural overly-regulated oligopolies, I don’t have it.

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