Ring tones irritate pod mates in Raleigh, N.C.-area offices.
Byline: Jonathan B. Cox
Oct. 15--Warning: Cell-phone
ringers could cause neck wringing.
Personalized ring tones are becoming a pet peeve in the workplace. Tortured
tunes are proliferating with the growth of new gadgets, piercing the office hum
like digital daggers.
With a dollar or two and the punch of a few buttons, users of the latest-model
mobile phones can download rings for any mood: "Lean Back" by the rap group
Terror Squad, Michael Jackson's '80s hit "Billie Jean" and the sound of a
"It not only says something about you, but it expresses that to other people,"
said Lewis Ward, a mobile-communications analyst at IDC, a market-research firm
in Framingham, Mass. "It makes a statement."
There's the rub. People's personalities can be funny, annoying, obnoxious and
bizarre. So, too, can their ring tones.
Kelly Jo Garner cringes at the jingling of a colleague's mobile phone. It sounds
something like the beginning of the "Star Wars" theme, she said. But it's
horrible and loud.
"Why, for the love of Zeus, do you need a ring tone that sounds like a bird
chime gone bad that goes off approximately 10 times a morning?" said Garner, who
works for a pharmaceutical company in Durham. "It's an office. You're not at
Chuck E. Cheese."
Distinctive ring tones have been marketed as an easy way to distinguish the
devices as they multiply in purses and on hips. The tunes generally sound as
though they were produced on electronic keyboards. Most exclude the lyrics,
though some songs sound like actual clips. And technology is improving.
Consumers get special ring tones on the Internet or by accessing menus from
their mobile phones. They generally cost 99 cents to $2.50 each. U.S. cell-phone
users will spend $316 million downloading about 200 million of them this year,
according to IDC.
In an office, creative tones can befuddle and bother cube mates.
Consider the phones that play "Jingle Bells" in the heat of July, pipe the
victory anthem of a rival alma mater or mimic bodily functions.
Max Spevack, an engineer at Red Hat, had a co-worker who set his mobile phone to
emulate an alert from instant-messenger programs. He called his phone and
chuckled as those nearby tried to pull up imaginary messages.
Kathryn Bishop, who works in communications at the Raleigh software company,
thought her pod mate had a kitten locked in her desk when she first moved in.
"She opened her desk drawer and showed me her phone," Bishop said. "I still
laugh every time it rings."
For mobile-phone companies, the ringers are lucrative accessories that boost
their bottom lines. IDC predicts revenue from them will grow by 70 percent a
year through 2008.
Carriers, who already contend with concerns about etiquette, sense a potential
Restaurants, theaters and other public places have banned or restricted the use
of cell phones, mostly to quell inappropriate gabbing. They could be forced to
limit ringers if customers complain. Offices also might have to set policies.
"We encourage individuals to use common sense when they download their ring
tones," said Dawn Benton, a spokeswoman for Cingular Wireless, the nation's
second-biggest mobile-phone company.
"If they're going to be stepping away from their desk at work, place it on
vibrate or silent."
Otherwise, colleagues could take matters into their own hands.
"Really, I should go over to him and say, 'Your ring tone is really, really
annoying,' " said Garner of the vexing cell phone owner in her office. "I just
keep thinking one day I'll walk over there and smash it."
'Papa Don't Preach,' Madonna
'My Boo,' Usher and Alicia Keys
'My Next Thirty Years,' Tim McGraw
'Addicted to Love,' Robert Palmer
N.C. State fight song, Halloween scream, dog barking, turkey gobble, wolf howl,
ambulance siren, cough, sneeze
(MTV, Modtones, Ringtonejukebox.