Answering Machines & Voice Mail Services

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Voice Mail Services

October 2002

Hello, I wonder if anyone can recommend a voice mail service besides Pacific Bell's? I had theirs for a few years but it didn't deliver my messages reliably--after I cancelled it and got an answering machine, my calls increased by about 30%! I missed friends passing through town or calling to say not to pick them up at the airport till tomorrow. Argh. Problem with answering machine, though, is that people get a busy signal when I'm on the phone--it annoys people who aren't used to calling back. Are there companies or services anyone knows that could help reliably? Thanks.

If you are missing calls while using the phone, then you might consider getting call waiting. I have had a number of offers from MCI, PacBell and others that will bundle two ''free'' options with regular phone service. Choose call waiting as one of your options. With call waiting you should hear a beep occasionally if someone is calling you while you are using the phone. Quickly press and release the button that is normally depressed when hanging-up the phone, and you will be connnected to the new caller. Quickly pressing and releasing the button again will transfer you back to the first party. David

CostCo members have a great deal: Plain voice mail is $4.99/month or have a local phone number forwarded to your home, mobile, voice mail or fax inbox for $13.99. Superior to anything PacBell offers.

For a local provider (San Rafael), try Bay-link: $12/month or $79/year:

Silent Answering Machines


With a baby on the way, we are looking for an answering machine that can take calls silently. (On our current phone/answering machine, the volume can be turned down but not off.) Most convenient would be a combined cordless phone + answering machine, but we are also open to separate units. We're considering using PacBell voice mail, but it's pretty expensive--after just one year, it's added up to more than most answering machines cost. Nomi

Are you looking to provide a silent sleep environment for your new baby? If so, it shouldn't be necessary. Babies are not accustomed to a silent environment (consider your womb and the constant beating of your heart, gurgling of your digestion, etc.). I think you will find that your precious baby will sleep through many noises which you consider quite loud. At times, you may need to provide noise from a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner to help him or her sleep. Providing a silent sleeping environment may cause you and your child distress because that kind of environment is not attainable at all times. Jack

We have a digital answering machine made by AT, that not only can you turn the volume all the way down to silence, but there is no whiring and clicking either. I work nights sometimes, so this has been great for me. These machines have no tapes to replace. Paula

Pacbell has Message Center, which is a service rather than a machine. We use it and like it. We got it because it takes a message when you are using the phone instead of just giving a busy signal. It is quiet, the tape never runs out, it doesn't go off when there's a power outage, and it's easy to use. I think it is about $5 a month. Ginger