Verizon Testing Longer, Inescapable Voicemail Greeting

Verizon’s latest attempt to needle customers comes as a longer, inescapable greeting that subscribers must endure each time they check their voicemail. Reader Ben, one of Verizon’s unwilling test subjects, writes in to share the ‘new and improved’ script.

“You have one message whose retention time is about to expire. You have two new voice messages. You have nine saved voice messages. First voice message.”

That’s almost three times longer than the current greeting. If you try to escape to your messages by pressing “1,” you’re rewarded with a one second pause… and the greeting continues.

This is a good 25 seconds wasted every time I call to get voicemail. A year ago, you could just hit “1” as soon as you called and it would play. But not any more. And of course, multiply that 25 seconds times millions of customers and they are simply stealing. It was an intentional feature being disabled to increase profit. It’s just wrong.

Recordings of the new message, and Ben’s correspondence with Verizon, after the jump…

The new greeting:

powered by ODEO

Verizon’s Pavlovian attempt to stop you from pressing “1”:

powered by ODEO

Ben’s correspondence with Verizon:

To Whom This May Concern,

I am deeply disappointed with your recent switch to a new voice mail system on the Verizon wireless network. Specifically, I am shocked that you went so far as to disable the ability of your customers to skip the opening information and listen to voice mail messages immediately after calling in. Verizon charges its customers for airtime to listen to our messages, which is fine, but then you FORCE us to listen to how many messages we have, how many have retention time that is about to expire, etc. etc. etc. Notice that in the recent change, you made the intro message longer (by changing ‘saved messages’ to ‘messages who’s retention time is about to expire…’) and you removed our ability to skip it. If you try and hit a button to even attempt to skip this introductory message, she simply pauses and takes longer as if to taunt you and say, hold on, I am not finished charging you extra money to hear useless information. I would not be surprised if you soon have her say the alphabet in slow motion before listening to our messages, all the while charging us with out any control . While customer service representatives assure me that it only takes 10 sec, I realize the potential profits you realize by adding 10 sec. to each voicemail call of your millions of customers.

I can only assume that this change was done intentionally to increase your bottom line on the backs of your customers and I am saddened by this. While I have had several accounts with Verizon in the past, and I have until now constantly recommended Verizon to friends and family in the NYC area, I can no longer do that with a good conscience, as any company that takes this ability away from its customers is no company for my friends. Rest assured, I will be switching companies as soon as my contract expires, and so will many of my business acquaintances.

Thank you for your time,

Dear Benjamin,

Thank you for contacting Verizon Wireless through our website. My name is LaTricia, and I am happy to assist you regarding your voicemail charges concerns.

Verizon Wireless is always looking for ways to enhance voicemail to better meet the needs of our customers. Your comments have been forwarded to our IT Development department for review and consideration. Your feedback provides us with the perfect opportunity to hear exactly what you think, and often leads to improvements you will see in the future. If additional information is needed, a member of our IT Development department will be in contact with you.

Voice Mail is a free feature on your account, however calling to check your voice mailbox from your wireless phone is like making an outgoing call. Your airtime will be deducted.

You may check your Voice Mail without incurring airtime charges by simply following the instructions I provided below:

1. Call your wireless number from a landline phone.

2. When your greeting comes on, Interrupt it by pressing the pound (#) key. The automated system will then ask you to enter your password.

3. Follow the prompts to listen to your messages.

When calling Voice Mail from your wireless phone there may be occasions when *86 is not available. In such instances, please dial your ten-digit wireless number.

You can view detailed instructions for using your Voice Mail by clicking on the following link, which will direct you to the “Calling Feature” page of our website. Then click on “Program and Use Your Voice Mail.”
In review of your account, our records indicate that you may benefit from a free software upgrade. As Verizon Wireless continues to expand our network, it is important to update your software to receive optimal coverage when traveling.

To update your phone, please follow the simple instructions below while on the Verizon Wireless network and receiving a digital signal:

1. Power on your Verizon Wireless phone.
2. Dial *228 followed by the “Send” key.
3. When prompted, press option “2” to update your roaming capabilities.

Within two minutes, a voice recording will advise you that programming is complete. Remain on the line, as the call will disconnect automatically. I recommend you perform this update monthly or before leaving for a trip, as this will give you the ability to pick up newly acquired service areas while roaming.

If you experience any difficulty with the free software upgrade, please call us at 800-922-0204 from a landline phone, and have your wireless phone charged and available when calling.

I am delighted to inform you that you are qualified to participate in our Equipment Upgrade Program for wireless number ***-***-****.

When participating in our Equipment Upgrade Program, the purchase of your upgraded equipment at a discounted rate is contingent upon an additional one or two-year active customer agreement. If you accept the discount and cancel service for any reason before fulfilling your agreement, you will be billed a $175.00 early termination fee, per line.

You may view available equipment by clicking on the following link, which will direct you to the “Products” page of our website. The prices on our website reflect a discount for a two-year Customer Agreement, and do not include applicable sales tax and/or shipping cost.

Once you have decided on a wireless phone, you have several options to process your Equipment Upgrade.

1. Log into “My Account” and select “Upgrade Phone” from the “My Phone” drop down menu. Once at the “Upgrade Phone” screen, please follow the five easy steps below:

Choose the wireless telephone number to upgrade.

Choose the new handset.

Choose accessories (if applicable).

Preview the order.

Checkout (enter shipping and payment information). You may be unable to receive the New Every Two discount when upgrading your equipment online, because eligibility for this program needs to be manually reviewed by a representative.

2. You may also complete the upgrade process by visiting a local Verizon Wireless store. We have noted your account stating your eligibility. To obtain a list of stores in your area, please click on the following link, which will direct you to the “Store Locator” page of our website.

3. We also offer the option of processing the upgrade for you. Regular delivery time is five to seven business days. Please reply to this e-mail making sure that you include the information listed below.

Selected wireless phone model

Any additional accessories you would like to purchase

Whether you would like a one or two-year customer agreement

Whether or not you would like to add Wireless Phone Protection

Confirmation of the physical shipping address and contact number

In addition, Wireless Phone Protection is offered at $5.99 per month. Your wireless phone will be protected in case of loss, theft or damage with a deductible of $50.00 per claim. You will have 15 days from the date of purchase to add a warranty or insurance feature. For more information, please refer to our website at or call our Customer Service Department at 800-922-0204, or airtime free from your wireless phone (*611).

As an added convenience, I have also included a list of frequently used self-serve options for making your payment easier, and simplifying the management of your wireless account. Please note that the numbers listed below are all toll and airtime free.

#768 – #PMT is used to make payments with our automated system
#646 – #MIN provides estimate of the local minutes used
#225 – #BAL allows you to check bill balance/recent payment history
*611 – Customer Service and Technical Support
#3282 – #DATA allows you to check Data Usage

We appreciate your interest in Verizon Wireless products and services. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail.


Verizon Wireless
Customer Service

Dear LaTricia,

Thank you for your response. Unfortunately, as is typical to these
types of complaints, none of the information you provided was related in
any way to my complaint about the Verizon voice mail system.

I am aware, as you point out, that you can get your voicemail for free
from a land line. I am also aware of all the other fun voice mail
trivia that you have attached in this email. But, unfortunately, none of
the items in the laundry list below addresses the fact that Verizon’s
recent voice mail upgrades make it a slower process to check voicemail,
and thus more costly, when being done from my mobile phone. And they
have disabled the feature which allowed customers to skip informational

While Verizon is technically not doing anything wrong, and thus I am
prevented from complaining to the FCC, I feel it is still a dishonest
and immoral practice. It is truly a shame.

Lastly, you comment that you have forwarded my complaint to “IT
development”. I feel that this may be the wrong choice of department as
they clearly are aware of the issue since it was implemented only
recently. Is it the IT department’s responsibility to make policy
decisions, or do they just follow the policy given to them? This seems
like more of a policy issue then an IT issue. Unfortunately, I do not
fully understand your corporate structure, so I can not say for sure,
but I am just double checking to make sure this complaint makes it to
the right place.


Dear Benjamin,

Thank you for contacting Verizon Wireless through our website. My name is Chris, and I am eager to assist you regarding our new voice mail service.

Benjamin, your concerns were sent to the correct department by the previous representative. I have also sent your concerns to our “Voice of the Customer” Department so that your concerns can be addressed in detail. Again, I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.

We appreciate your business. Thank you for using Verizon Wireless products and services. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail.


Verizon Wireless
Customer Service

Verizon has a weird Mrs. Robinson vibe. Benjamin sums it up best: “Humbug.” — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER
(Photo: NYCgal)


Edit Your Comment

  1. crackblind says:

    If anyone can verify this, it may be a workaround. I remember hearing this a while ago.

    To avoid eating up airtime minutes, instead of calling voicemail using the 1 key, dial yourself (ie call you cel phone number from your cel phone) then follow the landline instructions. This should count as a Verizon to Verizon call which on most contracts is part of unlimited airtime.

  2. erockO says:

    Test subject? New greeting? I get that NOW. Maybe it’s just my area (908 northern NJ) that has it but I can’t friggin STAND this garbage. I know I have a new voicemail and chances are I don’t care about the old one. I can’t even imagine the poor business workers that get like 10 new ones an hour. Ouch! Time for a GUI that tells you who left a VM and when that is accessible from your phone.

  3. danneskjold says:

    Can’t wait for visual voice mail with iPhone.

  4. Goatweed says:

    Normally, I just hit the 1 key quickly twice in a row and it brings me right to my new messages – I’ve been doing this for years, and I tested it just before posting this reply.

  5. mad_oak says:

    I guess Verizon sucks even worse than Sprint in this instance. Very happy that Sprint doesn’t charge to check voicemail with PCS to PCS calling. Of course, I think they are charging for that now too. Greedy f’ing bastards…

  6. zentec says:

    Verizon’s voicemail has always been set up to eat as much airtime as possible. The fact that they charge you for airtime to check your voicemail from your phone is onerous. Each month I rack-up hundreds of minutes talking to other Verizon customers absolutely airtime free, which uses more capacity than just checking voicemail. Furthermore, you can just call your cell phone (provided it’s a local call) and get your voicemail airtime free that way. It doesn’t make any sense other than Verizon wants to whittle away your airtime as much as possible.

    In my area, Verizon’s coverage is just top dog, no one comes close. But it’s always been expensive, and I’m getting tired of the increasing milkings. At some point, my intolerance for Verizon will meet my tolerance for an occasional dropped call and spotty coverage.

  7. Coder4Life says:

    More than the air time minutes concern, IT WOULD BE VERY ANNOYING TO HEAR THAT EACH TIME.

    I am sorry their voice mail already suxs… You have to listen to the whole new message or just skip it. You can’t just delete it. BULL SHIT

    Then when the message is about to EXPIRE, they fuck you again. You can just delete it, but they make you listen to those before your NEW messages that you really came to listen.




  8. Coder4Life says:

    Sprint may not charge to check voicemails, but they do screw your bill over randomly. And their customer service is one of the worst.

    Yea there’s almost no hold time, but then the reps pretty much act like they are dumb. Oh bill? Whats a bill. I dont understand. Let me check, ***HOLDD 20 MINS ***…. Oh you are still here. Its going to be a little longer while I do research on this so called “Bill” you get every month.

  9. Try using Callwave for your voicemail. I’m using it with Cingular right now, but it’s free and works with any US carrier. You just sign up and dial a code in your phone, and from then on you are using their voicemail system instead. You can still check your voicemail directly from your phone, plus each message goes to your email as a sound file.
    Best of all, you’ll never have to deal with Verizon’s new “service.”

  10. The Bigger Unit says:

    @Jaideepg: “Retard” version eh? That’s classy.

  11. unsunder says:

    I use a voicemail system from They’re beta testing it so it’s free at the moment. It’s a complete new voicemail system for your phone. When people call me it just says leave a message beeeeep. Whens the last time we heard that? Not to leave a voice message blah blah blah. You can even record personal greetings for a specific number or block a number from leaving a message.
    It does forward the call so it does eat up your airtime there. However it forwards the voicemail in an attachment to your email. So I check messages that way to save some minutes.
    Oh and I’m pretty sure it’s compatible with Verizon.

  12. acambras says:

    I love how when LaTricia wrote back to “help” Benjamin, she blew off his complaint. THEN she told him he could check his voicemail from a landline (something he already knew, and nothing particularly helpful). THEN she took the opportunity to pitch both the upgrade program (complete with fine print – wonder if she downsized the font for those parts) AND phone insurance.

    I’m glad Ben nailed her for not being on-topic or helpful in his reply.

  13. pvtchristaylor says:

    Awful. Just awful.

  14. CallWave is stunning, as Permissionmag stated. I’ve used it for two months, and I love it. You can get your voicemail messages e-mailed to you or have them pop up in a Widget (or, I suppose, a Gadget). I’ll never use Cingular’s voicemail service again!


  15. hang says:

    @acambras: It’s Verizon, they’re masters at avoiding the topic at hand and pitching some plan at the same time.

  16. solmssen says:

    I just signed up for the free SpinVox trial mentioned in David Pogue’s NY Times article. It works quite well – callers leave a VM which is converted to text by their machines and e-mailed or SMSed to you.


  17. wugie says:

    I love the way Verizon’s ads say, “It’s the network” [insert the word “stupid” at the end] shamelessly admitting it’s absolutely positively nothing else. Their wireless monopoly has us all nailed to the wall. Next ad should show a bunch of business-suited executives giving us the finger.

  18. AndyMan1 says:

    I’m stuck with this shitty voicemail thing as well.

    What’s extremely annoying is if you don’t “deal” with the message by sitting through the “press 1 to…press 2 to … ” or have the list memorized and press a number after hearing the message, it will keep the thing as new, and 5 minutes later buzz your phone saying you have a new message. It used to be you could just hang up and the message would be marked as old. Now if you just want to hear a message and hang up, you have to sit through it again.

  19. Get an iPhone. Visual voice mail.

    Too bad Verizon would rather screw people by wasting their time.And before you ask – yes, convenience and good design is worth $500.00 to some of us.

  20. br549 says:

    And another way you’re taking it in the rump…

    That *228 stuff will indeed add new networks to your roaming list so you can access them. Well, it would if Verizon were adding any new networks. Instead, they’ve been deleting networks for the last 4 years.

    By updating, you’re shrinking the list of networks you can roam to for free and thus reducing your coverage.

  21. Antediluvian says:

    @br549: You know, some of us like anal sex and might consider a date w/ Verizon if it bought us dinner first.

    This “deleting networks” sounds a little suspicious. Do you have any verifying info to share? I’m curious about whehter it’s true and would like to find out.
    To skip the Verizon user’s outgoing message and just leave a “voice message”, press * (star) any time during the outgoing message and get right to the beep.

  22. jimigsu says:

    There is a work around. While listening just hit 33 to FAST FORWARD or 77 quickly to DELETE the message immediately without listening to it. Stupid voicemail. I call once a month to ask when they will get rid of the password entry but they keep telling me it will not happen.

  23. Rahnee says:

    (a little off topic) I recently went to Verizon where I have had service for “forever” and tried to buy a phone AT FULL RETAIL to give as a gift. Sounds easy right? Walk in, select the phone you want, pay FULL price so your friend can get service without a contract. Verizon says NOPE! We don’t sale phones. You have to activate any phone you buy before it leaves the store even if you pay full retail. I called the home office to verify that and they said that was the correct policy. Just another way to hinder customers.

  24. Rahnee says:

    @Rahnee: sale, sell, cell, sail. My spelling is so bad sometimes!

  25. Coronagold says:

    Just wait for the day when Pepsi & Geico ads begin playing when you dial your phone before connecting.

  26. br549 says:

    Go to Howard Forums. ( At times, people post the contents of the updated PRL (priority roaming list, the item that you are updating with *228). The list has consistently gotten shorter for a couple years now (at least last I checked).

  27. ibelli says:

    If you call your own number from a friend’s phone and then check your voicemail using that same call, will it charge you airtime?

  28. mad_oak says:

    @Jaideepg: See, I wish I could feel your pain. Been a sprint customer for like 8-10 years or some such shit. That plus my employer has one of the sweetest (read largest percentage) discount deals with Sprint. I call the business customer line and they kiss my ass. Dunno what to tell ya.

  29. @erockO: “I can’t friggin STAND this garbage.”

    I know it; I seriously consider cancelling Verizon every time they “upgrade” the system. They just waste SO FUCKING MUCH of my time with the unskippable voicemail promps. Screw the airtime usage — I want my 25 seconds back. As I use a cell as my primary business phone, those 25 seconds seriously add up over the course of a week.

    Maybe I should bill Verizon for my time.

  30. aparsons says:

    I’m make sure to tell callers how to escape the annoying “To leave a message, press 1 or just wait for the tone.” I just say in my recording “To leave a message, press star now.” Pretty soon they’ll be disabling this feature, too. I’m actually contemplating porting my number to vonage and using the vonage softphone. Cell phones, and cell phone companies, are starting to get REAL annoying.

  31. benwellington says:

    Where are you located? The change seems to be regional. You are one of the lucky ones still on the old system.