Record Phone Calls With Regular Ol’ Telephone

Here’s a way to record your customer service calls without using fancy future-tech.

The Mini Recorder Control from Radio Shack for $17.99

We found a similar device at “Independent Living Aids” for $15.95.

Basically, you just plug in the telephone side to line extension port on your phone base and the headset part can go into your computer’s microphone jack.

After that, just hit record on you computer’s recording program. For Macs try Garageband (OSX) or SimpleSound (OS9) which came bundled, for PCs, download and use Audacity. Easy-peasy.


Edit Your Comment

  1. RumorsDaily says:

    If only I had a landline. Now, if you can find me one for my cell phone, then we’ll be in business.

  2. timmus says:

    Whoa for Windows users — if I’m not mistaken, Windows Sound Recorder (the built in one) cuts out after 60 seconds. Really, really lame implementation on Microsoft’s part. You may have to use something like the freeware Audacity.

  3. kerry says:

    Back when I was in the fast-paced world of high school journalism I used to record my calls with a device that used a suction cup and a magnet (I presume) to pick up sound from the outside of the handset. Made it easy to set up anywhere.
    Ah, found it on the Radio Shack site. Not sure it works with all phones, though.

  4. Ben Popken says:

    Oh yeah i forgot about the 60 second thing. I will change the post. That pickup device is sweet, especially because the device in this post may not work with cordless phones.

  5. Ben Thoma says:

    If you have a Mac made circa this century you’ll use GarageBand, which is bundled with new Macs using OS X. SimpleSound was bundled with OS 9.

  6. Did you hear that? That was the sound of CSR’s around the world collectively wetting their pants as everyone buys these things and downloads Audacity.

  7. Scott Kidder says:

    Uh, maybe it’s worth noting that in most situations, you need the other party’s permission to legally record the phone call…

  8. RumorsDaily says:

    No corporation is going to go after your for recording a phone call showing their poor performance. It would be PR suicide.

    Additionally, I’m unclear on the legal status of recording a phone call when the other party announces they are recording the phone call as well. It seems like at that point, both parties are aware that the call is being recorded, even though they don’t know that YOU are recording the call. Has anyone seen this issue come up in court?

    Realistically the only outcome of ilegally recording a phone call to a corporation for customer services purposes is that such phone calls will not be admissible in court.

    Boo hoo.

  9. RumorsDaily says:

    Hey, would that suction cup system work on a cell phone? Or does it need to be an old style phone? I can’t figure out how it would work and it says it may not work with some electronic phones.

    How does it even hear the incoming portion of the call?

  10. Ben Popken says:

    Scott, I love you but seriously stop trolling the comments with queries about the legality of recording phone calls. If the automated system says, “We may be recording this call” and then you ask yourself, “Scott, can I record this call?” and then you say, “Why, sure Scott!” Guess what? You’ve both consensted to recording the call.

  11. Ben Popken says:

    Ingen – I’m no physicist but I assume it picks up the vibrations of the speaker.

  12. timmus says:

    Some thoughts:
    1. Do both parties have to be in the U.S. for the recording laws to apply? Worth pondering since a lot of call centers are in India, Philippines, etc.
    2. Not all readers are in the U.S…. recording laws might be different in the UK and Canada, for instance.
    3. Recording laws might be a moot point since they’re unenforceable… I think the worst that could happen is the recording would be inadmissible in the [unlikely] event you brought suit against the corporation.
    IANAL — yes, I’m anal, and I’m not a lawyer.

  13. AcilletaM says:

    Legal stuff here:

  14. timmus says:

    Holy cow, Consumerist just lost a comment I wrote. I hit “Submit Comment” and it hasn’t appeared. It’s not a cache issue since it’s not showing on my other computers either.

    This thing says it can record calls for wireless phones, but I can’t see how from the picture.

  16. timmus says:

    Weird, NOW it appears. (rolling eyes) I guess this blog software is just flaky.

  17. Triteon says:

    Try #3
    I think Ben may be wrong on a point, so I ask for help. Any attorney’s wish to chime in (yet by no means offer legal advice.)
    Per the link the Illinois law states that a recording device may not be used without mutual consent of all parties. That would say to me the company calling (or that I called) has already given themselves permission to use such a device (duh). But is that implied acceptance of a reciprocal agreement that I may use a device to record the call as well? Or would I have to give them a line (better yet– their line) back …this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes…before speaking with them?
    Remember, we’re dealing with legalese and not logic. Just a thought.

  18. Ben Popken says:

    Many of the laws regarding wiretapping are to designed to prevent against third-party listening or govern the admissability of the tape in court, not prevent recording a company in the course of normal business.

  19. max andrews says:

    If they say the call may be recorded, they are saying three things, legally speaking. The first is that the call “could” be recorded. The second is that it “can” be recorded. The third is that in either case, they are consenting to recording the call. Therefore, all you have to do is agree with yourself, and both parties have agreed.

    I am not a lwayer, but I did take a class in journalism ethics last year, a large part of which was wire taps.

  20. kerry says:

    Triteon –
    That’s weird that you use Illinois as an example. My dad’s company here in IL has a VOIP phone system that automatically records all calls and saves them to a server, where you can fetch them later if you want. They don’t announce that your calls are being recorded, because the lawyer said that in Illinois you only need one party to know the call is being recorded. Since they’re effectively always using a recording device for every single phone call, did they run afoul of the law you stated? I would imagine their lawyer wouldn’t OK a system that was patently illegal.

  21. Christopher says:

    Ingen – I think that it is simply a microphone that suction cups to the phone for the best pickup. I’ve sold several of these at work to people who have cell phones, and haven’t had any returned. There are a couple downsides with using it on a cell phone. Some phones (i.e. my LG Fusic) won’t let it make a nice suction cup seal, and it’ll fall of, so you just have to try it on your phone. Also, some phones, especially CDMA phones, don’t have any sort of “loopback” sound, meaning, what you say won’t be heard through the speaker like on normal landline phones so you’ll also need a separate microphone to pick up your own voice.

  22. Triteon says:

    Ben & Kerry: I’m just reading this from the Illinois section of the website listed, wondering about the interpretation. To quote:

    720 Ill. Compiled Stat. Ann. 5/14-1, -2: An eavesdropping device cannot be used to record or overhear a conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation under criminal statutes. An eavesdropping device is anything used to hear or record a conversation, whether the conversation is in person or conducted by any means other than face-to-face conversation, such as a telephone conversation.

    This seems to cover both two-party and multi-party conversations. I’m also not a lawyer and am probably misinterpreting some aspect of the passage. Thus the curiosity.

  23. Havoc says:

    Suprised no one mentioned this. Use Skype(free voip, like vonage minus the cost)to call customer service while using the afformentioned audacity to record. Skype is Free Audacity is free. This is for all the cheapskates in the room!

  24. Jeff says:

    As long as you’re recommending apps for OS 9 users, would you mind telling me what software I should use on my Amiga?


    I’d skip the GarageBand route and download Audacity or Sound Studio for Mac (OS X, as if I really needed to clarify).

  25. AcilletaM says:

    Ben – Which means if your dispute with a company went to court for whatever reason (ex. insurance claims), you will want to make sure your calls will be admissable.

    Kerry & Triteon – This might explain it:

    Illinois is, by statute, a two-party state. However, case law from both the IL Supreme Court and various Illinois appellate courts have declared Illinois a one-party state in the case of private citizens (businesses and plain folks – NOT law enforcement). The reigning consensus is that one-party consensual recording is merely “enhanced note-taking” and since some folks have total recall without recording, how can the other party have any expectation of privacy to a conversation held with another person.

    Illinois requires prior consent of all participants to monitor or record a phone conversation. Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 38, Sec. 14-2. There is no specific business telephone exception, but in general courts have found extension telephones do not constitute eavesdropping devices. Criminal penalties for unlawful eavesdropping include up to three years’ imprisonment or $10,000 in fines and the civil remedy provides for recovery of actual and punitive damages.

    In the state of Illinois it is illegal to monitor cordless phones.

  26. AcilletaM says:

    This is the source from my previous post. I noticed after the fact that it sold phone recording stuff. Sorry.

  27. AcilletaM says:

    This is the source the website in my previous post used. I noticed after the fact that the website I linked in sold phone recording stuff. I do not endorse their products at all. Sorry.

    PS. See Edelman, this is full disclosure and not after people notice the problem.

  28. AcilletaM says:


    Fucking Gawker server hamsters

  29. factotum says:

    When the CSR picks up, simply say, “this call is being recorded.” If they don’t hang up, you’re golden. IANAL either.

  30. TedOnion says:

    Those inline recorders from radio shack suck. They produce some really bad audio! But here is a better solution: Build one yourself for way less! Thats what I did and you can hear the audio quality on my submission a few posts back.

    Here are some good plans for the circuit:

    Find some capicitors in old electronics, 50V anywhere from 2.2uf to 10uf are fine, and get the transformer from an old hardware modem or old telephone handset.

    Perhaps I will take some photos of the one that I built with an added LED ring indicator and on/off switch.

    Also, download audacity to record, its free, opensource, and rocks.