At the Sound of the Tone…

I remember the first answering machine I ever saw.  My uncle bought it for my grandma one Christmas in the early 80s.  It was the kind that was huge, had a plastic “wood grain” finish, and housed two cassette tapes — one for the outgoing message and one for the incoming messages.

Nowadays, of course, most phones have digital voicemail.  Even the answering machines that are left are digital now.  The few that aren’t have only one tape, and it’s one of those micro-cassettes, and those are generally only found at thrift stores and yard sales.  My point is that the widespread use of machines to take telephone messages has been around for decades.

That being said, my pet peeve today is when people refuse to utilize them when they call me.  Everyone who knows me well, knows my position on this.  I refuse to be a slave to caller ID and spend time scrolling through the phone every time I come home only to guess who each number might belong to and what they want.  The entire reason I have an answering machine is to save me from having to do that.

Another reason I have an answering machine is that I work from home.  My machine has the option to push lines one through four, depending if a person wants to leave a message for my business or for one of the occupants of my house.  I run a photography studio, so there’s a good chance that I’m either with a client or I’m busy Photoshopping and can’t be bothered.  When I’m not doing either of these things, I can almost always be found writing or editing something I’ve written.

Yet, despite my complaints, my friends and family frequently ignore my request, and they call and hang up, then call again, because they assume I’ll eventually answer the phone that way.  Not gonna happen, people!  Yes, it is a huge pet peeve of mine when people refuse to leave a message when they call.  And an even larger pet peeve when they call back repeatedly, expecting me to be available if only the phone rings longer when they never even left one message in the first place.

Call once.  Leave a message.  Do not be vague.  Be detailed with the message.  Whether you think so or not, I have a busy schedule, and there’s rarely a time that I leave my home that I don’t have messages to sort through.  Sometimes business clients call, and I have to call them back.  Sometimes bill collectors call, and I have to deal with them.  Sometimes photography vendors call, and I might want to respond to them.  So after all that, hearing a dozen hang-ups that leave a loud and annoying buzzing sound on my answering machine, and a few “It’s me; call me back” messages with no further explanation, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t sound important, so I’ll probably not call you back.  When you do that, it just makes me think you must want something from me.  If you’re calling just to check in and see how I’m doing, then say so.  Not only will it make me feel good, but it’ll also make me think a lot more highly of you.

And while I’m on the subject, I also can’t stand when I call someone and leave a detailed message, then they call me back and ask what I wanted.  I tell them I left everything on their voicemail, and they respond by telling me that they didn’t listen to it, but only checked their caller ID and noticed I called.

Okay, if that’s the case, there’s almost always an option to turn your voicemail off.  Better yet, say so on your outgoing message, and tell me not to bother wasting my time, but that your phone has most certainly captured my telephone number and you’ll call me later to discuss whatever it was I called you about.

I guess what all this boils down to, is that I consider my time valuable, and I don’t want to waste it either by guessing who called me and why, or by calling other people and doing as their voicemail instructs and taking the time to leave them a message that they never listen to.

Okay, I’m done with my rant.  At the sound of the tone, please leave me a message.  BEEP!

So do hang up calls annoy you as much as they do me?  Or are you one of the people who boycott leaving messages?  Are you one of those people who never actually listen to their messages and rely solely on caller ID?  Do you remember the answering machines with the dual cassette tapes and fake wood grain finish? 

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49 thoughts on “At the Sound of the Tone…

  1. Frankly, I don’t like to talk on the phone. Not leaving a message is just one good reason to not have to return the call. We only have our cell phones with limited minutes. I don’t really have a lot of motivation to return a call to a person who doesn’t leave a message because I just assume it was a butt dial.

    I remember the old answering machine. We got one in 2006 so we didn’t accidentally pick up a call from a debt collector.

    I also get annoyed if I call someone and leave a message and they never call back. Especially if it is family.

  2. I would string the caller along on my old machine: “Hello . . . Hey! . . . How’s it going . . . I’m unable to answer the phone now. Please leave a message.” I sold another story Friday. I hope the don’t edit it to death this time.

  3. I’m a big believer in voice mail. I hate the ones who talk for five minutes and fail to leave a phone number. (Many block their phone numbers) Equally annoying are the ones that leave a number, but speak so fast you can’t write it down. This requires listening to the entire five minute drivel over and over so you can get the entire number.

  4. I on the other hand, mostly run on caller ID, and if you’re not in my address book, you’re unlikely to talk to me. I do check voicemail, occasionally, so if you leave a great message, I might call back.

    But I completely refuse to run my life by your schedule, so unless you’re important to me, it’s unlikely that I’ll pick up.

    Got you beat on the answering machine though. First one I saw (and used) had a 45 rpm record for the outgoing message and a wire recorder for the incoming. It was leased from the telephone company for about $50 a month if iI recall, correctly, in the 1950s. Very little new under the sun. 🙂

  5. Easy Rachel. If it’s important they’ll leave a message or else call again. No need to chase up the non-messages (in my view).
    I remember a crowd of us watching an early fax machine sending a document across the Atlantic. It took about ten minutes and the receiving machine needed to be compatible. We were amazed to think that others were seeing the same document simultaneously. Now fax machines are becoming museum pieces 😦

  6. For our family, the use of the answering machine had to do with safety. We didn’t want our vulnerable autistic kids to answer the phone and have some stranger ask them ti open the front door. So it was the rule in our house that no one (including mom and dad) answered the phone. We always wait until the caller identifies themselves. The kids were only allowed to pick up the phone from certain people (aunts, uncles, grabdparents, teacher).

  7. My mum never leaves a message but always talks in the background “oh she mustn’t be home that machine just came on” then silence for way too long and eventually she hangs up.

  8. I’m on your team with this issue, Rachel. Leave a message. Listen to your messages. Respect my time. Respect your time. We’re civilized, people! The only time I slip up myself is when I just miss somebody on my cell and call back less than a minute later and they say hey I just left you a message. Oops. No, I didn’t listen, I just hit reply back. My bad.

    Great rant, Rachel.

  9. I agree! I hate it when people don’t leave voicemail messages for me almost as much as I hate hearing this message: “Call me.” Come on, tell me what you’re calling about so I’ll know how long or involved the conversation might be and can pick the best time to call back! If you don’t, I’ll probably just ignore the call altogether…

  10. Before we had caller ID, we only answered the phone if someone we knew (or wanted to talk to) began to talk on the answering machine (yes, we used to have the cassette tapes), so it’s never really been an issue with family and friends. We often get calls from either scammers or someone who called us by mistake, and they don’t leave messages, but sometimes the call registers on the answering machine. We call these calls “Mr. Nobody.” The phone rings and you look at the Caller ID, “Oh, it’s just Mr. Nobody.” 🙂

  11. I know! Sometimes I screen my calls by listening to the messages people record… I’m sort of introverted and have shyness issues, and I don’t want to end up answering the phone if it’s just an automated message, and embarrass myself by trying to talk to it.
    Almost as annoying are the people who text you rather than calling you back. (I can’t text at all.)

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