How many times do you let the phone ring?

When I started to use the phone, back in the Dark Ages before answering machines were common in homes (let alone cell phones) I was told “the rule” was to wait through six rings – no more or less – before giving up and hanging up your call. This was based on there being ten seconds from the start of one ring to the start of the next, and thus you were giving the callee a full minute to set down their coffee cup, get up, walk from that room to where the phone was and answer it. Hanging up sooner was rude: you’d disrupted whatever they were doing but then potentially left them stranded saying Hello to a dial tone.

Obviously things have changed. I think answering machines cut the average number down to four: if someone hasn’t answered by then, and you don’t want to bother leaving a message, might as well hang up then.

But now I’ve noticed an increased number of incoming calls stop after just two rings. (Yes, I’m talking about a landline, and one we pretty much never answer. I’m not really sure why we still bother to have one.)

Anyway. I’m wondering if this is just a robocaller thing, them having wised up to the reality that people who don’t answer right away aren’t going to answer after three or four rings (or respond to left messages either) so it’s more efficient to move on to the next potential target sooner?

Or has it become general etiquette since most people have their phones right beside them all the time, and thus could/would answer right away if they wanted to? And thus letting a call ring three or more times is unnecessarily annoying and kind of rude to them and/or the people around them?

What do you think?

At least two rings.

We subscribed recently to Nomorobo and it is great. It catches almost all robocalls on the first ring.

When calling my mother, I’d let it ring at least 6 times because she’d spend lots of time outside and I wouldn’t want to hang up on her just as she got to the phone. Now that she has an answering machine, unless I know for sure that she’s waiting for me to call, I’ll hang up at 4.

My inlaws don’t always have the phone at hand, so they get a few more rings. Businesses will get more. Folks who used only cell phones get 3-4 before I give up, unless I intend to leave a message.

I’m loving caller ID - I can just shoot incoming calls to voicemail, thereby saving the annoyance of robocalls or scammers.

Immediately if I’m near the phone. Two rings max. If I’m not nearby, I’ll let it ring until I get to it. It’s not a matter of counting or timing. We had an answering machine some time back, but when it quit working (I forget how or why) we didn’t replace it. We use Caller ID if we’re really curious who tried to get us, but at least half the time that number won’t be listed. In effect, it was too cool that we missed the call! :slight_smile:

I too was taught to let it ring 6 times – and 10 times if the person you were calling was old or infirm and needed extra time to get to the phone. This was a time however when not only did most folks not have answering machines but also didn’t have extension phones.*

Old habits die hard, though. I still mostly let it ring 6 times.

  • I’m old. When I was a child, all phone sets were owned by the phone company and customers paid monthly rental charges on each. My family was unusual in that we had an extension phone on the desk in my parents’ bedroom so that my dad could make business calls in relative privacy. No one else I knew in our neighborhood had more than one telephone in their house.

If nobody answers within six rings, what do you think is the down side of letting it ring six more times? Who would know, except the person you want to talk to in the first place, who might have been momentarily preoccupied.?

It takes two rings for the Caller ID to kick in. If it is a number I recognize, I answer on the third. Otherwise, I let the machine answer it (on the fifth ring).

When I was a kid, before voicemail and caller ID, I was taught that if they didn’t answer after 8 rings, they weren’t going to and you were just annoying them, if they happened to be home (and wasting your own time if they weren’t).

Now, I call until the voicemail answers. There’s usually a few seconds between the voicemail picking up, and the beep for you to leave your message. So if I don’t want to leave a message, I just hang up when the robot says “You’ve reached the voicemail box of…”.

Personally, unless I’m right by my phone and it happens to be my wife or my boss or a customer, I don’t answer it. Leave a message if it’s important, but I’ll see you called and call you back when it’s convenient for me. That is, if I recognize the number. If I don’t, you better leave a message or I’ll just assume you were an unsuccessful telemarketer.

Am I reading the OP wrong, or did nobody else read it? I thought the question was how many times do you let the phone ring when calling someone before hanging up. I’d say six sounds about right. I played the sound of a phone ringing in my head, and my the end of the fifth one I thought I’d let it go one more time before giving up.


I think the title threw some people off and they didn’t fully read the OP. When I make a call, I let it ring until someone picks it up, or it goes to voicemail, which most people have nowadays. If no one picks up, I’ll give it about ten rings, then hang up.

OTOH, modern tech has prevented one nuisance - one time, way back in the 80s, the phone next door was ringing all night. Either the person calling really didn’t subscribe to the 6/10 ring rule, or the system somehow “latched open” and the phone company kept the ring going forever.

I don’t actually know when it stopped, but it was a long time!It probably took the person coming home before it quit ringing. I’ll be they came running in, thinking they were just missing a call, and when they answered it, no one was there. They must have figured they just missed the call, when in reality, the caller probably went out, got drunk, drove to Vegas, got married, woke up, got divorced, drove back to LA, and completely forgot he ever called my neighbors. And that dammed phone was ringing the whole time!

Six to ten.

Machines usually catch it before that, anyway.

That’s what I meant, but the answers on the other side have been interesting, too.

The rash of 2 ring only incoming calls made me wonder if I’m annoying the people I call when I let it go on until the answering machine gets it OR six rings.

As for me answering incoming calls – I’ll either do it right away, say, by the second or third ring, depending if I have a free hand to grab the phone, or never. The landline is eternally ignored unless a Real Person actually starts leaving a message, in which case I pick up.
Oh, and for the ten seconds/ring thing: it was at least true when I timed it once, but that was back in, mighod, the sixties when it was Ma Bell or nothing. I have no idea if there is any consistent standard at all now. Probably not, given how ring tones vary in length.

If that’s really true, you may have just explained something that has bugged the everlovin’ hell out of me for some considerable time.

Round here, it is not ten seconds from one ring to the next. It’s five (I just called my own phone and checked) or possibly a touch less. Nevertheless, ever since there has been voicemail, it has seemed to be the policy of the phone companies to let the phone ring seven times, then go to voicemail.

That’s thirty-five seconds. I’ve never lived in a house with an extension. Back in our last house (two stories) I found that if I went on high alert the absolute second the phone started going, dropped everything, and ran full pelt for the phone, I could probably get there just as the last ring was ringing.

This was not a course of action that commended itself to me generally. So effectively the phone company decided I was going to “screen” most of my calls.

If that heuristic was set up by someone who assumed that seven rings was over a minute, suddenly this makes sense. A minute is fine. Thirty seconds is pretty damn tight - too tight, in my opinion, to cover all the different variations of human reaction speeds, walking speeds, and distances the recipient happens to be from their phone.

Two rings is just obnoxious. Seriously, the only way I’m going to answer after two rings is if the phone is already in my hand and I’m looking at it, thinking of calling someone.

Your waiting time seems a lot longer to you than to the person you’re calling. You’re just hanging around waiting, but they’re not waiting, they’re doing something about getting to the phone and answering it.

How many rings before I answer an incoming call? 98% of the time I let it go to voice mail, which is full because I never check it. Then, if it was from someone I know, I’ll text them back asking what’s up to see if it is worth the hassel of an actual call, which it usually isn’t.

How many rings before hanging up when I MAKE a call? Well, I very rarely ever make a call where I haven’t already texted the person to see if they are available for a call. But the few times i do, I let it ring until it goes to voice mail, but I don’t ever leave a voice mail. I just text.

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Back in the day, before all these new phone companies and new-fangled phones, the AT&T/Ma Bell local company standard was a 2-sec ring followed by 4 seconds of no ring. 6 seconds from the start of one ring to the start of the next ring. I’m not sure if there are any tariffed ring standards any more.

When I’m calling someone else, I let it ring until the call is answered by an answering machine. I can’t remember the last time I made a call to a number that wasn’t answered by a person or a machine.

I still have a digital answering machine which handles all incoming calls after 4 rings.

If I don’t answer my IPhone after the 3rd ring, the caller gets passed to voice mail. Is there a way to extend the number of rings?

I let it ring about four times. On the other side, I answer after my phone rings two or three times, even if it’s right next to me. People get caught off guard when someone answers right away.

I’m calling – I was taught 10 rings. But then again we were pretty rural and homes only had one phone. If someone was on the porch or “around back” it would take that long to get there.

Answering – I freak people out. The main phone is next to my usual chair and another on my nightstand so I often snag it on the first ring. Which always seems to catch people by surprise.

When I call I let it ring 4 to 6 times. Assuming voicemail / answering machine / etc. doesn’t answer first.
Something many people don’t understand is the ringing noise you hear when calling is NOT synchronized with the actual ringing at the receiving end of the call.

Especially when calling a cellphone it’s common for the caller to hear 2 or almost 3 rings before the receiving phone rings even once.

If you’re in the habit of calling, listening to two rings, then hanging up thinking that’s enough and the other party must be ignoring you, you’re doing it wrong. Odds are their phone never rang. Nor will it show a missed call from you.