To continue reading this article on voicejail, press "1" now. If you know the extension of the wiseGEEK author you'd like to reach, say "yes." If you find yourself hopelessly mired in an endless loop of voicemail prompts, you are not alone. This is the world of voicejail, a dreaded side effect of many voice mail systems used today. After negotiating a staggering array of numerical and vocal prompts, many callers find themselves unable to connect with a human or break free of the system to begin the process over again.
Voicejail didn't start out to be the scourge of the telecommunications world, however. Voice mail was intended to provide a means for callers to leave direct message for specific parties, reducing or eliminating the need for a centralized telephone receptionist. As telecommunication needs grew, however, many companies discovered a need to streamline the processing of incoming calls. Voice mail prompts would allow callers to specify their particular needs and have their calls directed to a human specialist. Frequently asked questions could also be addressed by an electronic menu system, which would free human employees from answering routine queries.
As with a number of other systems designed to make our lives easier, voice mail systems soon turned into systems designed to make our blood pressure rise. Voice mail systems began using more numerical and vocal prompts, many of which resulted in misdirected calls or complete disconnections. Reaching a human operator could be a simple question of dialing "0," or it could mean completely exiting the system and starting over again. Thus the consumer slang term "voicejail" became very popular during the 1990s.
Breaking free of a voicejail situation is not always easy, but there are websites dedicated to posting codes, cheats and direct numbers which allow callers to bypass many of the basic prompts. Dialing "0" does work on many voicejail systems, but reaching a human operator does not always guarantee a connection to a human specialist. Some systems can be bypassed by entering certain numbers at each prompt, or using terms such as "agent" during vocal prompts. Deliberately punching in an invalid or non-existent account number could also allow callers to break out of a voicejail loop.
As long as companies continue to rely on sophisticated voice mail systems to process incoming calls, the dreaded spectre of voicejail will continue to be a concern for customers. Learning the direct extension of a human is usually an effective way to bypass voicejail, but a caller may still have to jump through a few prompts before having that option. Repeatedly pressing "0" after each prompt may also get the attention of a human eventually. If the frustration of voicejail becomes too much to bear, keep in mind that humans on the other end may also have to jump through an endless voicejail loop just to retrieve the message you leave. Sometimes telecommunications karma does work both ways.