The answering machine said, "I can't come to the phone right now. Please leave a brief, detailed message, and I will call you back."
How does one leave such a message? It's impossible. How can a message be both brief and detailed? Do people think before they record the messages we hear? Not likely.
Some of the godawful answering machine messages we are subjected to are so long and complicated that by the time we have listened to all the options -- sometimes as many as a dozen -- we have forgotten what the earlier options were.
Maybe, too, we have forgotten why we called that number in the first place.
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Is leaving a message at a business likely to be returned? Hardly. When it is, treasure it like a Fabergé egg. It is rare indeed.
If the basis of human understanding is human communication, then machines that give back the blank, black zero of nothing are a waste of time and effort.
And who was the brilliant person who thought up the recorded message that, when one calls customer service, suggests one try to reach the company on the Internet? Did anyone think about the dichotomy of that? Hardly.
There is another thing about the ubiquitous answering machine that causes me to wonder. If a business does not have an interest in speaking to prospective customers and lets a machine that anyone can buy at Radio Shack for less that $20 do the talking, why spend any further time dealing with a business that didn't want to talk to you in the first place?
"Your call is important to us."