Thursday, July 18, 2013

(Bleep!)ified Messaging™

When I replaced our phones a few months ago, I decided I could do what Stella was already doing about voicemail: rely on AT&T Unified Messaging™ (or as I call it, (Bleep!)ified Messaging™ or BM™ for short). That is proving to be a disastrous decision for several reasons:
  • The software/firmware is highly phone- and CO-version- and hardware-dependent. For example, Stella's much older version of BM™ uses hardware in the phone (our phones are identical, and we have separate accounts, drops and phone numbers) to indicate the presence of messages, both visually and aurally when the handset goes offhook for some period of time. Mine doesn't. Indeed, it does nothing of the sort: to learn whether I have messages, I have to dial the code to receive messages. As I get very few messages, this is a major PITA. It might have been acceptable in 1975, but not more than three decades later.
  • Messages are often delivered to me one or even two days after they are left by a caller. Yes, I know; it's "only" a home phone, but a lot of us depend on timely delivery of our messages. For me, an hour late would be marginal, and overnight would be unacceptable. As it is, I'm getting messages as late as 2 or 3 days after they are recorded.
  • The default BM™ ring pattern delays 5½ rings before answering. This figure can be adjusted only by phoning a live human at AT&T. No word on whether there is an extra charge for anything other than the default ring count. Why is this a problem? Because some automated systems, e.g., Target Pharmacy automated prescription notification, begin talking after a fixed time; I seldom receive more than one syllable of my prescription notification.
  • My phone, an earlier model Panasonic that is still manufactured and sold through Amazon, is theoretically equipped to deal correctly with AT&T's voicemail, but in fact about all one can really do is buy a Panasonic answer machine (yes, there is still such a thing manufactured) for about the same price as two of the phones. I haven't quite talked myself into doing that yet.
So... what's the lesson here? don't buy Panasonic phones? then what else should I use instead? don't use AT&T phone service? same problem: what else should I use? buy high-end equipment presumably better suited to responding to different kinds of central office equipment? ouch, what a reason to spend extra money... buy an old-fashioned answering machine? etc. There appear to be no good solutions to an exceedingly common problem, and yes, I blame AT&T.

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