I don’t do Voicemail

I have never liked voicemail.

I’m not keen on phones in general (there is a great Medium post, Why I don’t answer most phone calls, which explains why the telephone is my least-preferred means of communication).

But voicemail, ick. Unlike phone calls, voicemail has no redeeming features.

Here are the reasons why voicemail is evil and needs to be burned with fire:

  1. It takes so long to retrieve a message. First you must dial your voicemail service; then listen to the tedious robotic introduction; and after that, before each voice message, endure the painfully slow preface “message received. From. Oh. Seven. One. Two. Three. [pause] Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.” no, no, no, no, no. Message. Now. Please.
  2. 50% of messages come from accidental pocket-calls: several long minutes of scrunches, footsteps, distant conversation… beautiful, in the the way that a John Cage composition is beautiful, but not in this context.
  3. The other 50% are from recruitment consultants, of which more later.
  4. …and oh so many of them are from number withheld. If you are going to withhold your number, don’t bother ringing me.
    Sidenote: I once got a voicemail from a number-withheld British Telecom engineer which, because I couldn’t return it, meant that I had to go without Internet in my home for an entire month. If you are a telecoms company which advertises its services by having your employees deliberately hiding their phone number from me then you deserve nuclear annihilation, or ideally something far worse.
  5. Oftentimes, it costs me money to collect your voicemails. You want me to pay for the privilege of hearing your important message? Fuck off! (This goes double if you are pocket-calling me, and quadruple if you are a recruitment consultant.)
  6. Even though I didn’t answer your call, I probably heard it. Maybe my mobile was hidden in a bag, somewhere on the other side of the room. You just made me interrupt whatever important task I was doing (with all of the costs that that implies). And then you rubbed my nose in it by forcing me to call my voicemail service.
  7. Nine times out of ten, you called me from the place with the worst mobile reception on earth. You think I got your message. What I actually got was “Dan, can you meet me in [crackle crackle crackle], near the [crackel], at [crackle] o’clock? Cheers, I’ll see you there!”
  8. Even when I got the entire message, it’s in such an information-poor form that it’s well nigh useless: how do you spell that address? If you want me to meet you at Towcester, and not Toaster, then send me a fucking email!
  9. I just listened to your three-minute message, and I didn’t catch the last digit of the phone number you mumbled right at the end. So I’ll just listen to the whole three-minutes again, and hope that I manage to write it all down this time around.

For all of those reasons and more, I have always hated voicemail.

And yet, I kept it on. I think I had this idea in the back of my mind that it would be terribly unprofessional if some Very Important Person were to ring me and not get the chance to leave a message.

Sure, they already have my mobile number: they could send me a text. They probably also have my (easily Googleable) email address, my twitter handle, my LinkedIn… but somehow it always felt as though not leaving the important person the option of leaving their important voicemail would be professional suicide.

About six months ago, that all changed. I was talking to a Very Professional Person, and mentioned my hatred of voicemail. And he replied “oh, I turned mine off, can’t stand it”.

And I thought “well, if he can, so can I”.

And I did.

In the six months I’ve been without voicemail, my life has been so much simpler. I have no regrets. Once or twice, clients have said “I couldn’t leave you a voicemail” and I’ve replied “no, that’s right, but I got your email”, and everything’s been fine.

Oddly enough, now, on the rare occasions now when I end up landing on someone else’s voicemail, I can’t help thinking “how unprofessional“.

A footnote: recruiters; I promised I would come back to them. As everyone who works in the IT industry knows, recruiters are the absolute scum-of-the-earth. Not all recruiters, granted: the ones who are good are very very good; twice now my life has been changed for the better by very very good recruiters. But the other 99.9%? Scum of the earth.

I once made the mistake of uploading my CV to a jobsite along with my mobile number. And for years afterwards, I would be interrupted by recruiters, calling on the offchance that I’d fall for their schtick.

And when I didn’t pick up their calls (which was most of the time, as they almost invariably called from withheld numbers) they would leave long, rambling messages demanding I returned their calls. Then they would leave the same message again later on in the day. And the next day. And the next.

After a couple of years of this, I changed my phone number, and thankfully the number of voicemails I received dropped by over 50%, (and the number of slimy recruiters I had to speak to dropped to almost zero).

It took several years before I turned voicemail off altogether. I will never turn it on again.


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