You place a call and the person you are calling does not answer. You know what you need to do, which is leave a message. However, before you can do that you hear, “To page this person, press 5 now. At the tone, please record your message. When you are finished recording you may hang up or press 1 for more options.” [12 seconds]

I don’t know about you, but I have a better way to spend 12 seconds of my life. Cell phones have been around for a long time and voicemail systems and answering machines have been around for close to 30 years. We know how these things work. Have you ever used the “more options” feature? And more strange than the more options feature is the “paging” option. When is the last time you paged someone? I’d guess the last time I paged someone was 1997. We are passed this. Let me just hear the recipient’s voice and then hear the beep. I can take it from there.

I have an iPhone and played around with it to see if I could remove the AT&T voice after my greeting, but did not have any luck. I called AT&T to see if they could simply disable this for me. It took a few phone calls and I received a few different answers. Answers ranged from “We have no way to turn it off.” to “The AT&T voice prompt is different based on the voicemail system you are using.” Hmm. Ages ago I was involved in implementing a new phone system for my employer. I remember there being a simple check box to ENABLE the automated attendant or DISABLE automated attendant. That was about eight years ago. There is no way this is not an option on current voicemail systems (wireless or corporate systems).

After three or four phone calls (and a small threat to “look for another carrier for all of our corporate accounts”) you will no longer need to listen to the 12 seconds of Miss AT&T after my voice to leave me a message. Rather, you can just start recording after my last words and the immediate beep. It is worth mentioning, in my current role I have no authority over which cell phone carrier we use, but after getting nowhere on an issue that I knew could be solved, I decided the exaggeration was necessary.

How much time is wasted? It depends on your carrier and apparently the voicemail server you are utilizing. Depending on the source you use, there are about 270 million cell phone subscribers in the United States (Verizon has more than 80 million subscribers, AT&T is just short of 80 million subscribers, Sprint has roughly 50 million subscribers and T-Mobile 30+ million subscribers). If one phone call was made to every cell phone in the U.S., and that call is not answered, a total of 37,500 days / 900,000 hours / 54,000,000 minutes / 3,240,000,000 seconds are wasted every day on these “auto attendants.”
Do everyone a favor and call your cell phone company and demand they remove their auto attendant message so we can all add time back to our lives. Threaten the fact that you will move your entire corporation, consisting of 4,000 – 5,000 users to a new carrier if you must, to get them to make the change. You don’t even have to say where you work.

For AT&T call: 1-800-331-0500

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