Apartment Buzzers

Can we talk for a moment about apartment buzzers? I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a building where the buzzer system has worked consistently and reliably. Either you don’t hear the rings, or you can’t actually grant access by dialing, or they can’t find your name on the list. This latter issue, ironically, has only been exacerbated by large buildings and digital systems.

For further buzzer-flavoured irony, why is it that my friends who live in the older buildings have less trouble with their buzzer system? It’s because the buzzer exists seperately from the telephone system. They have a distinct receiver that they pick up and grant access with. It’s a classic integration issue–clearly, buzzers and telephones were never meant to work together.

My solution is to outsource the entire buzzer system. A few companies own and manage all of the podiums and wall units. That way it’s not every building manager’s problem. Instead (in theory), the systems are maintained by people who actually understand them. As residents, we could update our information or log an issue through a Web interface. I don’t know, I think there’s a market out there. Deliver me from my buzzer madness.

Alternately, I suppose I could just buy a house.


  1. Which reminds me of a day about eight years or so ago, shortly after I moved into a new building. I got a call at work from the police. It was difficult to hear them, but they said they had just arrested someone driving my car, which had been stolen a few weeks earlier. They kept saying “We’re outside, can we come up and talk with you?” or some such. After some confusion I realized my genius landlady had set the buzzer system to call my work number. The cops seemed to almost be getting suspicious of ME when I explained to them that I was not, in fact, upstairs, but rather about ten miles away at work, and could not let them in to talk right then. So. Actually, this was a potentially dangerous situation. The neighborhood can be a bit sketchy at night, and I can imagine some friend without a cellphone wandering off looking for a payphone….

  2. Not all people who live in older buildings have problem-free buzzers. My buzzer worked for the first week that I lived in my apartment, but hasn’t properly functioned since. Although I can hear when I am buzzed — and can even press a button to hear what one is saying downstairs — I can neither reply to the visitor nor buzz them in. Hence my only option is to go downstairs to let them in when I hear my buzzer go off.

    I bugged my landlord several times to fix my buzzer the first two years I lived in my building — but have since given up hope that it will ever be fixed. I guess there are some give and takes in living in a building with cheap rent.

    Alas I look forward to the day where I will own a house and not need to have a buzzer.

  3. I have one of those “old style” buzzers as well and it’s so damn loud that it takes 10 years off my life everytime it goes off and I happen to be standing near it.

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