Fred DeLuca, who runs the $3-billion Subway sandwich-shop chain, can have any high-tech toy he wants. But his most-valued communications tool is humble voice mail. Here's why:

"We started using voice mail about nine years ago. I like it because you don't have to have any special equipment -- you see a phone, you make a call.

"I get about 60 messages a day from employees and franchisees, and I listen to all of them. For my sanity, I set a time limit of 75 seconds, because people can be long-winded when they're excited. When I hear, 'You have 30 messages,' I know right away that I'll spend 60 minutes on voice mail. I take 2 minutes per message, listening and returning or forwarding. And I'm addicted to using it in the car instead of turning on the radio. You can't do that with electronic mail.

"Voice messages have more texture -- expression and emotion -- than E-mail or a memo does. Some people aren't readers; they're talkers, and you just can't capture them in writing the way you can in speech."

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