Ditch your voicemail. Get an answering machine.

Apropos of nothing, here’s a money-saving tip: Get rid of your voicemail.

A few years ago I cancelled our call waiting and voicemail, and disabled call waiting on my mobile. Call waiting is really rude. When you answer call waiting, what you’re saying is this: I have no idea who is calling me, but I think there’s a decent chance that I’d rather be talking to that person. Every time my call waiting would beep, I’d think gee, I wish there were some way of indicating to the person calling that I’m talking right now. It eventually dawned on me that there is such a system, and it’s the busy signal.

Answering MachineBut it’s the voicemail that I’m really happy with. We were paying Centel Sprint Embarq CenturyTel CenturyLink something like $8/month for voicemail. That doesn’t seem like much, but I’m sure I can put $96/year to better use. So, instead, we bought an answering machine. They’re cheap. Ours was something like $25. (Here’s one for $16.88.) We can check messages remotely, and it doubles as a method of calling the house during bad weather to find out if we have electricity. That puppy paid for itself in three months.

Ditch call waiting because it’s rude. Ditch voicemail because it’s expensive.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

9 replies on “Ditch your voicemail. Get an answering machine.”

  1. Good points all but people still have land lines?

    268 million people in the U.S. :) Four out of five American households have a landline. I never had one in my life until I moved out here to live with my wife—there’s no mobile phone service here. At our new house site, there’s moderate service, but not reliably. But that’s really moot—the only way to get internet service is via DSL, and our telco doesn’t provide naked DSL. So we’ve got to have a landline.

  2. I switched to VM because it was more reliable than the answering machines. I could never find a machine that would actually work when I called to see if there were any messages.

  3. I agree about the voicemail, I used an answering machine up until 2003 when I left Charlottesville and got a mobile. I do like call waiting on mobiles, however. Because of its pairing with caller ID, when I’m waiting for an important call I can still take others without having to worry about keeping the line free. Obviously this still requires some courtesy, mainly me explaining to the (less important) caller that we may be interrupted, but so long as that’s done I think it’s fine.

    Also, a big advantage of voicemail when you have call waiting is that if someone calls while I’m already on the line and I choose not to answer it (as happens 95% of the time), they can still leave a message that I’ll get when I hang up. If I have an answering machine, however, they have to keep trying to call me back.

    I think the problem with call waiting is, like many technological problems, a human one. If proper etiquette is followed, there is no problem.

  4. I agree with you completely on Call-Waiting.

    I agree with the principals you’ve stated on Voice Mail, and in your situation, the answering machine or Google Voice or Youmail probably compete for the right set of features and costs (both Google Voice and Youmail are free voice mail services).

    We are fortunate that we have Comcast cable (I hate Comcast only a little less than I hate Verizon) and we can get just broad band from them and we’ve added Vonage because it is cheaper than Verizon land line service. Vonage comes with voice mail bundled in.

    I really think that the FCC needs to do something about “the only way to get internet service is via DSL, and our telco doesn’t provide naked DSL” – that strikes me as a heavy handed monopoly tactic to force customers into buying services they don’t really need. One complaint will probably do nothing, but if many in this situation complains the insulting and expensive practice might get challenged in the court of public opinion if not anti-trust laws.

  5. my phone does not seem to have the ability to turn off call waiting, which is incredibly frustrating. even if i hit “ignore,” the phone keeps beeping and buzzing (letting me know “this person just left you a message!”) and it ends up interrupting the conversation anyway.

    my phone also deletes whatever text message i’m in the middle of typing, if anyone calls or texts me while i’m doing it. for someone who is a relatively slow text-messager, this is invariably infuriating.

  6. I recently got rid of voicemail for my landline and I’ve really enjoyed my answering machine. Buttons! To be pushed! Also, a digital blue number to remind me of how few people actually call me on my home phone.

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