AT&T’s Voicemail

Well. I’ve finally gotten a break in which to catch up with long neglected tasks, including this journal. But, just after I’d posted, and before I could get an e-mail out informing my usual clientele, my phone line got switched with someone else’s. That was Friday. I was on the verge of sending yet another of my gloomy “The World is about to end” missives and then AT&T actually does. What’s with that?

How am I supposed to get out my warnings of the most dire of consequences for all the planet to hear if one of the largest, most profitable, companies in America can’t even keep my phone number connected to my phone? And why do these other people get so many more calls than I??

I was alerted to the problem by someone calling the other guy’s number. He expressed surprise at my telling him he had reached mine, an almost totally dissimilar integer, saying his phone indicated he’d dialed the right number. Not wishing to concede easily to a dispute with a machine, I dialed my own number after hanging up. I didn’t get the expected busy, however. Instead a twelve year old answered. It wasn’t entirely easy to explain to him, so I had him call me by dialing his own number. He thought me kind of weird, but his eventual success seemed to clarify it for him.

Since then, I’ve been giving all callers my number to dial to reach the intended party, Roger, and am hoping he’s returning the favor. If he is, depressingly few people have been trying to reach me, as the only call I’ve gotten, outside of the estranged wife (who’s calls I truly do appreciate), has been from a pharmacy preparing to mail my prescription. Jesus, that is depressing!

I called 611 for service. Automated. Automated. Automated. And like the f-wording Energizer Bunny. Hopefully, the letter I wrote to the AT&T guy today will amuse you and might even get some play elsewhere on the internet. Feel free to cut, paste, and forward to anyone you know with a gripe against the company or voicemail systems in general. At the very least, it’s not more of my doom and gloom about the far too near-term future. More like hair and tear for here and now.

“Dear AT&T repair person:

If I am not readily summoned to the door, hopefully this note will convey the problem and result in correction. In any case, please deliver it to your supervisor with a request that it be passed up the chain of command to the president of the company, if that is what is necessary to correct a much deeper flaw in the system, which I will speak to after outlining my specific problem.

My specific problem:

[here I explain the problem] . . .The larger problem I’d like to have someone with the company address: The automated repair request system your company uses (611) is probably the worst of any I’ve ever encountered, and they are uniformly bad as a class. Any system which allows some option to speak to an actual person–Indian, Korean, Indonesian, convict, or certifiably insane, incoherent, stupid, or unintelligible–even if after a long and irritating delay, is far superior.How ironic it should be a function of a phone company.It is insulting to begin such a “service” with a protestation that the customer’s time is known to be valuable and then to end with an option to arrange an “appointment” which involves a built in space for the customer to wait in the “waiting room,” even if it is his own house, for eight (or if the customer is lucky, “only” four) hours.

If the United States of America is becoming dysfunctional, which I believe it seems to be, this type of perversion of basic societal values is playing a substantial role. It may well be that the only hope Americans have of regaining their once dominant position in the world is through attempts to counter such erosional forces on the part of every one of us. I’m soliciting just that kind of effort from everyone who reads this letter.Thank you,George Drake”


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9 Responses to AT&T’s Voicemail

  1. Dallas says:

    George, Just a quick note to say that, while I don’t agree with everything you might say, I do enjoy everything you say, probably because your blog is close enough to my sentiments, and I never seem to get around to expressing myself verbally, much less in a regular blog. So keep on blogging, and myself and countless others will continue to enjoy, even if we don’t reply/comment every time.

  2. george says:


    Thanks for going to the blog and making an official comment. Feel free to use this method to do the occasional publishing, whether in agreement or in opposition.

  3. Erin Ferguson says:

    Hey George! You struck a chord with me on the automated phone menu topic. I happened to remember a man I heard interviewed on NPR once, who had compiled a list of different companies, and which buttons you push to get around their menu automation. The man being interviewed was Paul English, and the list he compiled is at the link below:

    or if your at all interested in hearing the interview on NPR (it’s only about 5minutes long) the link is below:

    Of course this doesn’t really solve any of the “larger scope” problems about our society, that you’ve suggested, but it might make a person feel a little better if they only have a little bit of time to deal with a phone problem (for example).

    By the way, AT&T was on the list.

    Love Ya, Erin

  4. Hank says:

    Have you read Bill Gates book “The Road Ahead”? He proposes things will be perfect for business when all calls can be handled by computers and real people never have to talk to anyone who calls.

  5. Diana says:

    You have a nice sence of humor, even about dire topics. I wish I were a faster reader &/or had more time to read. Keep it coming!

  6. Erin Ferguson says:

    Hey George. I too, have had it with many automated phone menus. I remember listening to a man, named Paul English, being interviewed on NPR. He started complilng a list of companies, and which buttons you could push to bypass the automation. It has since grown to include several hundred companies (including AT&T 😉 and can be found at the link below:

    Or if anyone is interested in hearing the interview (it is only about 5 minutes long) you can find it at the link below:

    I realize this does nothing to solve the greater problem you are concerned with, but it may save a little time….


  7. janice says:

    Hi George:

    I agree with your frustration. It seems that service is conspicuously, and increasingly, missing from the concept of “customer service”. Press one, press two, press three…it seems we have a pressing problem that is not going away anytime soon. My latest favorite is the “press 0 to be transferred to an operator” which, when chosen, leads the caller back to the pre-recorded voice mail menu which gets them nowhere. I, too, find the assurance that “your call is very important to us” insulting and don’t get me started about the muzac! While I’m on the subject, I am increasingly annoyed at cell phone voice mails that give me way too many choices, to the point that I forget what number to press to simply convey my message! Then, this condescending automated woman asks me, “are you still there?” On a related note, I called the automated time service yesterday (767-8900) to hear the time lady (who I always thought had a very pleasant voice) tell me the time service has been discontinued. I guess I should be grateful that they didn’t lead me along a path of “press one for pacific time, press two for mountain time, press three for….” What is the world coming to when we can’t even get the correct time? OK. I’m done venting. Felt good. Thanks George.


  8. Peter says:

    Hey! Nice blog posting about s Voicemail. I would have to agree with you on this one. I am going to look more into at&t. This Monday I have time.

  9. Peter says:

    Hello, Nice blog posting about s Voicemail. I would have to agree with you on this one. I am going to look more into at&t. This Wednesday I have time.

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