Thursday, April 9, 2009

The TrapCall Bait and Switch

On April 8, 2009, TrapCall, a free service that allows you to unmask a blocked Caller ID, sent out an email detailing "important changes coming to TrapCall." Normally I just shrug these off and read them whenever, but I decided to read this one about 23 hours later. Boy, am I glad I did.

You see, TrapCall made the decision to change the way it does business. TrapCall has decided that its free account will now be ad-supported. But how do you do that? Not everyone has text messaging plans, so that's out. Ah, let's see... how about changing the way you check your voicemail? Yes, that's it.

Now, you've got to change your voicemail number to some other number, which, when I tested it three times, I was twice unable to get through. (My first attempt was greeted with an "all circuits are busy" message, the second attempt went through, and the third attempt was met with a fast busy signal.)

Once you've changed the number and successfully dialed in, you'll be greeted with a "short advertisement." Though how short, I don't know because it's been a while since I keyed in my voicemail password. Why, you ask? Well for one thing, when I set my voicemail up, I entered my password exactly one time and haven't used it since. Reason number two: I'm an iPhone user.

I don't know if you've heard of the iPhone or not, but it's this slightly revolutionary internet connected device that a few people think is pretty cool. One of the selling points on the iPhone was/is its Visual Voicemail feature. For those who don't know, Visual Voicemail is great because you can sort through your voicemails just like email. It provides a visual interface to your messages so you can easily play the ones you want, delete the ones you want, call a person back after listening, and many other great things. It's as easy as reading and deleting email.

Now, after getting so very used to this great way of interacting with voicemail, imagine a world where this valuable feature is gone. That's right, gone. So I've gone from Visual Voicemail bliss to back to the stone age and having to dial in to retrieve my voicemail. On top of that, I have to sit through an ad. Ugh. Way to ruin a great free service.

"But wait," they say, "Visual Voicemail will continue to work flawlessly with the Bug Trap plan! It's only $2.95 a month. Cheaper than Starbucks ;)" Hurray! It can be argued that $2.95 is a fair price to pay for such a great service, but that's beside the point. The point is this: without warning, they told their users, "ohai, btw, you'll need to create a new voicemail account, like, yesterday. and you'll get to listen to an ad b4 u listen 2 yer voicemailz. kthxbai!"

So basically what this means is they've crippled your Visual Voicemail feature without advanced warning, and are basically saying, "You don't like it? Step up to the $2.95 service plan." Classic bait and switch. Don't believe me? here's the tweet straight from the horse's mouth to prove it. And another. And another.

Here's something else that chaps my hide: as of this writing, TrapCall is in BETA. Here, let me show you:

That's the logo from its website at 9:38 PM on April 9, 2009, one day after they sent out their letter, wherein they mysteriously removed the BETA tag. So aside from the obvious, that's also what's rubbing people the wrong way. You don't pay for a BETA service. BETA means that the service or product is in TESTING MODE. So not only is this service in BETA, but they're crippling your visual voicemail, and throwing an ad in there that may or may not be relevant to your interests. Unless, of course, you pay.

Not only that, but TrapCall gave its users very short notice before they made the switchover. The email was sent at 8:56 PM and said "Important Changes Coming to TrapCall Tonight". AKA Zero Notice. They claim to not have switched over iPhone users yet, but some users are reporting on Twitter that they have been unable to access voicemail. Here's a conversation that happened on Twitter about this:

Talk about a way to ruin a great thing. Forcing people to sit through advertising sucks. Bait and swich tactics suck. But the service is useful! *Grumble* However, I'm not going to pay $2.95/mo for it. Perhaps $0.50, or even $0.99, but nothing over a dollar for something that kills a perfectly good feature of my phone for no reason other than advertising.

So, below is the email in its entirety, excluding personal information. It contains nothing about them moving out of BETA, other than the BETA tag being removed from their email's logo.I guess the question is, did they suddenly come out of beta and not announce the switch?

Also, pay careful attention to the "When do I have to make my decision?" section: they say that if you don't wish to upgrade, no further action is needed--but you still have to change your voicemail number to access your voicemail. Say what?

One more thing: we have two phones in our household that were using TrapCall's free service. I canceled my iPhone account with TrapCall immediately, but tested out the other phone to see what would happen when we rejected a blocked call.

First, the blocked call was sent to TrapCall, unblocked, and routed back to our phone. Then we rejected the call and sent it to voicemail, which sent the call back over to TrapCall's servers. But because we had not yet changed the voicemail number to the new number, TrapCall routed the call *back* to our cell phone, where we had to reject it a third time. At this point, the call was routed to AT&T's voicemail system, and we were able to play it without listening to an advertisement.

I don't know how TrapCall's voicemail system works (whether it's a 3rd party voicemail system or whether it just plays an ad before routing you to your cell company's voicemail system), but I do know that once you reprogram your voicemail number to the new one you will be forced to listen to advertisements before your voicemail is played to you.

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Wednesday April 8th, 2009

Important Changes Coming to TrapCall Tonight

Dear Michael (Mobile Number 2138675309),

We're writing to notify you of some important changes coming to TrapCall's service rolling out over the next week, starting Wednesday evening April 8th, 2009. TrapCall is committed to offering our basic Fly Trap package free of charge, however, we will be making some changes in the way the free package works.

You will now need to dial a TrapCall access number to retrieve your voicemails. The TrapCall voicemail number is: 509-554-5555. We strongly recommend that you store this number in your phonebook under the name "Voicemail".

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How will my service be affected?

If you are a FREE Fly Trap account user, the only feature that will be affected is your voicemail, everything else will remain the same:

  1. You must dial 509-554-5555 to retrieve your voicemail.
  2. If you are a Free "Fly Trap" user, you will hear a short advertisement before your voicemail is played to you.
  3. Unfortunatley, if you currently have visual voicemail as a feature on your phone, it will no loger work with the Free Fly Trap package.

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How can I avoid these changes to my TrapCall service?

To avoid having to hear ads or to continue to use your visual voicemail, you can simply upgrade to TrapCall's Bug Trap plan for just $2.95 a month. That's just 10 cents a day or about the price of one cafe latte from your favorite coffee house!

To upgrade to TrapCall's Bug Trap plan, simply visit:

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When do I have to make my decision?

If you do not wish to upgrade, no further action is needed!

You can upgrade to a premium plan which will give you an ad-free voicemail experience at any time by visiting

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How do I completely cancel my account?

We would hate to see you go, but if you wish to completely cancel your account and restore your phone to your original settings, please visit

Did you know we have a 15 day trial for all our premium packages? To try one of our premium packages for 15 days Free, please visit

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We really hope you're enjoying TrapCall. We've got a lot of exciting TrapCall updates to announce very soon!

Thanks for your support!
The TrapCall Team

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