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Jolly Roger Telephone Company Uses Software To Entrap Telemarketers


Meet a man on a mission, a mission to stop telemarketers. It all started with a passion for phones.

ROGER ANDERSON: I just love telephones and telecom in general. And it really, really offended me that all these unsolicited telemarketers are clogging up the system and causing people to drop their landlines. And that offended me so much that I wanted to create something that would at least cause them some pain as well.

SIEGEL: So that's what Roger Anderson did. He created the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, a computer program to entrap telemarketers.


For example...


ERICA: Hi, good evening, Joseph?


ERICA: Hi, Joseph. My name is Erica (ph).

ANDERSON: Hello, are you are a real person?

ERICA: Yes, I am. Are you? (Laughter) That's the oddest question. I've never had that asked of me before.

CORNISH: Actually, Joseph is not a real person. It's a recording of Roger Anderson's voice. His program is able to sense a caller's inflections and pauses, effectively getting telemarketers to talk in circles to a robot. Anderson says he's not doing it to be funny or cruel. He wants to help protect people.

ANDERSON: You can at least get a little bit of, you know, a feeling of empowerment over these telemarketers when you think about them wasting 3 to 5 minutes of their time talking to a robot instead


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The reason I'm calling, my company's having a promotion - clean out your entire ventilation system. I want to know if you want to take advantage of what we're offering.

ANDERSON: OK, so I just woke up from a nap. I'm still kind of groggy. And I took some medicine that doesn't help, so you know that feeling when you just wake up and need a couple minutes to think and figure out what's going on, maybe get some coffee? Do you drink coffee?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I don't drink coffee. That's...

ANDERSON: So hang on. I haven't had a chance to really wake up all the way. So can you just go a little slower? Who's this?

SIEGEL: As of last month, Roger Anderson made the Jolly Roger Telephone system available for free to anyone. And like many things these days, there is now a Kickstarter campaign to take it further.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You are the homeowner, correct?

ANDERSON: Oh, gee, hang on. There's a bee on me. There's a bee on my arm. You know what? You keep talking. I'm not going to talk though, but go ahead a keep talking. Say that part again. And I'm just going to stay quiet 'cause of this bee.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What we do is that every year annually, I sent you a mailer about two weeks ago. And they had a picture...

ANDERSON: Look, I know I'm kind of out of it, but that was way too much information all at once.


ANDERSON: Could you slow down and start over?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Sure, not a problem. Here we go.

SIEGEL: Nobel Prize contender?

ANDERSON: (Laughter) I don't know about that, but that's very flattering. Thank you.

CORNISH: Roger Anderson, creator of the Jolly Roger Telephone Company. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.