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Basalt council members say it’s time to

Aspen Times Staff Report

The Luddites are making a comeback in Basalt.

Two councilwomen spoke out against the town government’s voice-mail system and suggested that maybe Town Hall should return to having an actual person answer calls.

Jacque Whitsitt and Anne Freedman weren’t exactly as animated as the original Luddites, who smashed equipment in textile factories in England at the start of the Industrial Revolution. But the Basaltines did have some harsh words for the voice mail.

“It is definitely the most frustrating phone system I’ve dealt with,” said Freedman. “It takes longer.”

Whitsitt said that after a caller listens to the initial generic message, then presses an extension for a specific employee, it takes forever to get connected to that person’s voice mail. There is a “time warp” that annoys people, she said.

Voice mail, of course, is the bane of the modern telephone user. Insurance companies, governments, even some newspapers seem to use systems that make it extremely difficult for humans to talk directly to one another.

The kicker is it’s cheap.

But the Basalt officials said cheaper doesn’t necessarily outweigh the customer’s service advantage of having a person take calls. Mayor Rick Stevens noted that previous council members refused to even consider voice mail in the mid-1990s.

Councilman Leroy Duroux said the town finally gave in when call volume increased to a point where it was either add an employee or add voice mail.

Freedman and Whitsitt suggested Town Manager Tom Baker run an experiment. They want a person to answer calls and the voice mail to be used as a backup when the receptionist is busy.

The experiment would fail, they suggested, if that system doesn’t work with existing staff and the town would be forced to add an employee.

If that’s the case, Freedman begged for a new message on the initial voice mail greeting. “Please be patient. Our system is a little slow. It won’t cut you off,” she suggested.

Now if only someone could figure out how to change the message.


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