When Roger Anderson kept receiving phone calls from the telemarketers, he couldn’t contain his anger. What else would he need to do to keep them away? He then had a revelation: what if someone else dealt with all the calls from the infuriating telemarketers for him? No more annoying calls, no more scams.
With a smile slowly spreading on his face, he got to work on his plan.
Roger Anderson was an experienced telephone-systems engineer. He caught the bug of telecommunications when he first started working for Sears as an engineer in his youth.
He had also been blogging about telecommunications extensively. People know him as Roger The Phone Guy.
Overall, Roger Anderson is a nice guy. Until telemarketers start bugging him.
Annoying Phone Calls
Companies stop at nothing to make a sale. Scammers also stop at nothing to trick people into giving their money or personal information. And Roger knows this very well.
He had been getting countless phone calls from both of them. However, telemarketers and robocalls were the ones that ticked him off. And it was only a matter of time before he had to do something about them.
One day, Roger was on the phone with a particularly tenacious telemarketer. He was selling air-conditioning cleaning services and wasn’t going to quit any time soon. Feeling his blood boil, he called his 14-year-old son.
“Here, try to make this telemarketer waste as much time as you can,” said our man with a grin. The son took the phone from his dad with a gleeful smirk. That smile vanished pretty quickly though.
Enough Is Enough
Roger junior came back to his dad after a while with an incredulous look on his face. “The man cursed at me and hung up on me,” he said.
That was it. That was the tipping point that would make Anderson hatch one of the most elaborate vengeance plans in the history of telecommunications!
Normal folks don’t really have many options when being harassed by telemarketers. But Anderson knew better. With his background in telecommunications, he knew how robocalls worked and decided to put his knowledge into use.
He started working on a pretty basic system. He set up an answering system whereby the caller would need to press “1” in order to connect with the landline. Pretty ingenious, but not quite what he wanted.
Roger’s system worked. To a certain extent. Phone calls were getting blocked, but many more were still getting through. He did everything right though. How were these telemarketers finding their way through his system?
He was furious. He went back to the drawing board. After a few days of analyzing his calls, he cracked the code.
Calls Getting Through
Roger still had phone calls coming in, and he wanted to get to the bottom of it.
Ultimately, he figured that the auto-dialers of the telemarketers had identified his number as an answering machine. They then kept calling and calling, day and night, even when no one picked up. Blocking his landline wasn’t enough anymore. He should start fighting fire with fire.
An Engineer on a Mission
It was time for an upgrade, and Roger knew it. He told Toney Macia of The Weekly Standard, “… I realized I wasn’t inflicting any pain on the telemarketers.”
To annoy the telemarketers as much as they annoyed him, he had to go the extra mile. Mr. Anderson decided to make a robo-caller of his own. He had the industry knowledge to make one and knew the technology was fairly cheap. So he got cranking, and the results were about to be astronomical.
The New System
Our man starts engineering a new robot. Whenever a telemarketer calls Mr. Anderson, he patches the caller through his robot, puts his phone on mute, and lets his bot handle it.
The robot then “listens” to the telemarketer’s speech and adapts its responses to it. Don’t be mistaken, it is not an artificial intelligence robot (yet). However, it can keep the person on the end of the line engaged by analyzing their speech pattern and inflections.
The results were nothing short of amazing.
Mr. Anderson recorded some random lines to play to keep the conversation going with the telemarketers.
For example, the telemarketer might hear: “I just woke up from a nap, I took some medicine and I’m really groggy. Can you go a little slower?” The robot would then follow up with an unlikely message along the lines of: “You sound like someone I went to high school with!”
Some of the conversations were pure gold.
Roger’s goal is to have the telemarketer on the line for as long as possible. The robot monitors the conversation and gives something like this (taken from Roger Anderson’s website):
Telemarketer: “Hello sir, [starts asking questions about the person]”
Bot: “I’m sorry, I just have a hard time concentrating, you sound exactly like someone I went to high school with.”
Telemarketer: “Uh, alright, … [proceeds to give sales picth]”
Bot (interrupting the telemarketer): “Oh, jeez, there is a bee on my arm. Hang on. You know what, you keep talking, I’m not gonna talk. Say that part again, and I’m going to stay quiet.”
If you found this funny, you’re not the only one. And Roger soon discovered it.
The Jolly Roger Telephone Company
Roger knew he was onto something. In February of 2016, he decided to share his invention with more people. This is how the Jolly Roger Telephone Company was born.
It offers this service to everyone for free. You just need to add the number 214-666-4321 to your address book in order to send telemarketing calls to the robot. The bot works with landlines (including conference calls and three-way calling services) and cellphones.
He knew some people would love his service, but he just didn’t expect it to blow up.
When Roger Anderson published his website and advertised his service, it didn’t gain much traction at first. The engineer kept honing his product though.
The first users loved the robot. It kept getting more and more eccentric as the calls went on. Its answers were always affirmative, making the telemarketer go on and on. Still, the service needed a push to appear on the map.
One day, Gizmodo, the technology blog, wrote about the service. That’s when things went wild.
Making The News
When Gizmodo wrote about the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, their robot started working round the clock. Over 70,000 calls were then recorded.
Then began a huge promotional campaign to advertise the robot. The Heidi and Frank Show on a Los Angeles radio station aired audio clips of the robot’s funniest calls. Anderson appeared on BBC World Service Newshour, “The New Screensavers” show on Tech.tv, “All Things Considered” on NPR, and more.
He had massive success, and not just within the borders. International demand was on the rise and the Jolly Roger Telephone Company delivered.
Roger Anderson’s invention attracted people from all around the world. Telemarketers seemed to be annoying people everywhere! The engineer extended his service to the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.
He also developed more bot personas users can choose from. The Original Jolly Roger is the star of the show, played by Roger Anderson himself. Salty Sally is a busy mom whose teenage daughter keeps distracting her. Whitey Whiteboard is a feisty senior citizen. Seven other personas, also called “pirates,” are available to choose from.
And Roger is not stopping there.
Roger Anderson launched campaigns on Kickstarter and Indigogo to help cover the cost of all the incoming calls. He also wishes it can help him develop his project in a variety of voices and languages.
He is devoting his nights and weekends to make it better. Even his young son is helping monitor the calls! But the reason goes beyond just annoying telemarketers.
The Reason Behind It All
Roger explained in one of his interviews that he is truly helping people. But he is not doing it for the sake of vengeance (only). He is also trying to protect people, especially senior citizens, from getting scammed by telemarketers.
And the numbers back him up. The statistics for unsolicited telemarketing calls are terrifyingly on the rise.
According to a “Private Citizen” research, telemarketers make 148 million junk calls a day. The Federal Trade Commission processes around 18,000 complaints of these calls per month. The Direct Marketing Association receives 4,000 complaints per month as well.
“It’s really scary to hear how these telemarketers are trying to scam people,” he shared. This is why he laid out his dream for his service in big bold letters. And we dare say, it’s pretty ambitious!
“There really is no way to protect yourself. You can not answer the phone, but they’re going to call you again tomorrow and the day after that,” said Anderson. This is why he made it his mission to “disrupt the autodialers.” An he’s up against something big!
Not all heroes wear capes. Some are inventing robots!