Being 'SLY' to avoid awkward phone calls

Fresno, CA Related Links: A simple phone call to /*Slydial*/ allows you to go straight to someone's voicemail and their phone will never ring. After you hang up, they'll get a notification they've got a new voicemail ... and you've successfully avoided an uncomfortable situation. Fresno etiquette expert Cynthia Merrill says she fears this kind of technology could stunt the development of young people's communication skills. "You need practice in those areas. You're not getting practice when you're just texting, emailing, or being able to leave a voicemail with no communication. Kind of a big "cop out" in the way the real world works," said Merrill.

Slydial is just one of several services that offer to help you manage your voicemail but not all are necessarily sneaky. Websites like 'Phonetag' and 'Youmail' convert voicemails to emails or text messages. Realty Executives, a real estate brokerage firm in northwest Fresno, uses 'Youmail' to manage up to 200 calls daily. "It's not possible to for us to be talking to 200 people a day on the phone so this is a way to manage our business effectively," said co-owner Sam Cavallaro.

At Realty Executives, all voicemails are transcribed by Youmail and then sent to workers' Blackberrys and desktop computers. Based on the message's content, the emails are then forwarded to other employees so they can get back to the client.

Another service Youmail allows you to personalize your voicemail greetings based on who is calling. So while your clients and boss may hear a professional greeting, you could send your friends to something called 'voicemail hell'. Then, there is "Ditchmail' to ditch those you don't ever want to hear from again. They won't get a chance to leave a message and might hear something like, "I'm sorry, that number has been disconnected ... You'll have to find a new boyfriend."

While some of these services are free, they will use minutes out of your cell phone plan and others may cost you a monthly or per use fee. Still, sometimes being sly and avoiding the ones you love - or don't -- can be priceless.

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