I’m so thrilled and flattered to be featured in this week’s “real life” section of In Touch Weekly Magazine!
This reporter, Jaclyn Roth, was one of the nicest people you can imagine. She asked some great questions and was very patient with me as I talked about telecommunications and my bots. I love telephones and, in case you’re new to my blog, I made these robots out of love for the telecom network. I just want you to love your phone as much as I do, and telemarketers are the biggest reason people hate their phones right now.
Jaclyn wrote this great article and sent it to me. She gave me permission to post it on my blog (as of now, it’s not online at InTouchWeekly.com).
You can click here for the PDF of the story. Or click the image below for high-resolution.
I’m going to post the text of the article here so the search bots will index it.
We’ve all been through the same infuriating experience. The phone rings, so you drop whatever you’re doing to answer it. But the voice that greets you doesn’t belong to a friend or family member. It’s a telemarketer trying to sell you a service you don’t need or — worse — scam you out of your hard-earned money. Cue the steam pouring out of your ears.
But a mild-mannered telecom consultant named Roger Anderson is leading a one-man crusade to rescue us. His method of doling out vigilante justice? He’s designed a team of computerized robots that are programmed to trick telemarketers and phone scammers into believing they have a live human on the other end of the line. The bots waste the telemarketers’ time and, ultimately, scare them off that telephone number for good. “Telemarketers are blanketing the country with fraudulent calls,” says Roger, 47, who lives with his wife and four kids in the LA area. “My goal is to disrupt the industry as much as possible.”
His inspiration came a couple years back, after a telemarketer swore at his then-14-year-old son. “We’d get about five to 10 calls a day,” he says. “I was never worried about getting scammed because I don’t buy anything over the phone, but it felt like such an invasion of privacy.” Having worked in the telephone business for more than 25 years, “I thought to myself, ‘I’m a phone guy, I should be able to fix this,’” Roger recalls. “So I started building this robot.”
At first, it was just a hobby. Roger set up the program to intercept calls to his home. But after posting some of the funnier exchanges on YouTube and receiving positive feedback, he officially started the Jolly Roger Telephone Company. He began creating more bots that could convincingly pass as real people. “My favorite robot personality is ‘Kim the Kraken,’” says Roger, who originally voiced the bots but now gets help from his wife, friends, other family members and volunteers. His character Kim the Kraken is “recovering from pneumonia, so she coughs and says things like, ‘I’m really sorry, my phone slipped and you are going to have to repeat that.’ She can keep telemarketers on the phone for 10 to 20 minutes.” While it may sound like a minor victory to tie up just one agent, telemarketers are usually auto-dialing up to 30 people at once, “so it prevents potentially hundreds of phone calls from being made,” Roger explains.
So far, Jolly Roger’s robot army has fielded around 300,000 unwanted calls. A subscription to the service costs $6 per year (jollyrogertelco.com). When cellphone users get an unwanted call, they can conference in the bots, who then take over. Landline calls can be linked up so Jolly Roger will answer when it recognizes a telemarketer’s number. Once the telemarketers realize they’ve been fooled, “It’s in their best interest to stop calling you,” says Roger. In an ironic twist, many clients have come to welcome the calls they formerly dreaded, relishing the chance to eavesdrop on the exchanges. “When a telemarketer loses their cool talking to a robot, it’s just so satisfying. All of your years of frustration get vented,” says Roger. “Plus, it’s hilarious.”
— Reporting by Jaclyn Roth