The War on Authenticity: Update on Amy

Amy, the perky robo-shill, called me again yesterday. This time I actually listened to the pitch.

They’re selling vacation getaways.

Actually, they’re “giving them away” but I assume they’re somehow monetizing it on the backend.

One of the tricks the recording pulled was the default “get out of jail, free” robocall excuse, “because we’ve done business in the past, I’m calling you…” which plays into the Federal Trade Commission’s regulations on robo-calls that have a couple of huge cut-outs in them for: charities (“Hi, this is the fraternal order of police…”)  politicians (“Hi, this is Representative Wanker…”) and businesses you’ve done business with, before. I dare you – dare you – to try to guess which influence groups helped FTC develop those rules!!!  Go ahead, give it a shot! And, for extra credit, try to guess whose opinion they didn’t consider!

The “we’ve done business before” trick is incredibly obvious and I’d be very surprised if the FTC didn’t realize all along that the robocallers would immediately game it. “Oh, gee, we had him in our customer database that we bought from a company that sanitized it from the list of all Yahoo! users that those Russian hackers sold.” The robocallers also ignore the FTC guidelines about having a way to unsubscribe. The marketers have been slowly ignoring each of the FTC rules, in turn, and when the FTC demonstrates it isn’t able to do anything, they get bolder.

Remember when the marketers thought they needed to have a real human on the phone? Then you’d get those 1/2 second of someone saying “hold for an important message…” calls that switched to a recorded message. You used to be able to shout “PERMANENT DO NOT CALL LIST” if you were fast.

Now, we have Amy.

Now we have phone-aggregators that have egress points in every state, like Onion Router (TOR) nodes, that allow them to appear to be calling from your area – and, thanks to the magic of voice over IP, they don’t cost the marketers anything. Remember what happened on the internet: as the system cost of sending spam dropped to zero, the spam content of the internet went to around 90%. And, of course the spam senders and robocallers leave a godzilla-size footprint on network traffic: they’re very very easy to identify. But the phone companies will not do anything because, well, when did capitalism care? Hey, who do you think owns this thing, anyway?

I will say this much, the clarity of the recording is amazing, and the actress who did “Amy” was perfect. Her timing and tone was spot on. I bet that she probably got paid for an hour of recording in a sound booth somewhere, and “buh-bye!” I hope she gets a good job doing voiceovers for computer games, or animated features.

Meanwhile, the FTC is “sending messages”[ftc] by trying to look tough on robocalls:

Tired of robocalls? The FTC just shut down Payless Solutions, a scam using illegal robocalls to lie about lowering your credit card interest rate.

Yes, FTC. I’m tired of robocalls. Don’t just shut down one of them: stop producing regulations with pre-configured holes in them. I don’t want scammers calling me at home. Any scammers, not just political scammers, police scammers, and the perky miss Amy. Given the inauthenticity of the government, I know which side they chose in the War on Authenticity.


  1. jonmoles says

    I got the same call yesterday. I usually don’t answer but I thought I would try to use the “PERMANENT DO NOT CALL LIST” line but I realized about 8 seconds in that wouldn’t work and hung up. I also got the credit card call the other day, sometimes that even goes to voicemail. The Do Not Call list might as well be the Go Fuck Yourself list for the good it does.

  2. Sean Boyd says

    Mine is named Emily. Apparently, I stayed at one of her resorts in the past. One would think I’d remember, especially given that I’ve never had enough money to stay anywhere that could even charitably be called a ‘resort’.

  3. says

    I’m guessing the next move in the game will be chatbots with limited AI.

    Robot: “Hi, I’m Amy and I’d like to offer you..”
    Homeowner:(interrupting) “Permanent do not call list”
    Robot: “That’s not nice, let me finish. As I said I would like to offer you…”
    Homeowner:(hangs up)
    Phone rings again:
    Homeowner: “Hello?”
    Robot: “Please don’t hang up until my message is delivered. I would ..”
    Homeowner:(interrupting) “Fuck YOU!”
    Robot: “I also work for Department of Homeland Security as a baggage screener and under federal law you are not allowed to threaten us. Please cease being threatening or I will call the police. As I was saying, I would like to offer you…”
    Robot: “I am the supervisor.”

  4. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says

    Wife got the call about the resort (maybe the same one, maybe not). She put it on speaker. Wife stayed on the line until a human actually connected (yes, she outwaited a robot). As soon as the woman launched her live spiel, Wife said, “Yeah. I stayed at your resort. It sucked. We got fleas, bedbugs, crabs, lice, and silverfish. The sheets were stained. The carpet smelled like a dozen frat boys had vomited and pissed on it. Your resort sucked. I want a refund. ”

    Silence from the other end.

    Wife then said, “Look, either refund me what I spent spending nineteen days at your sucky resort, or remove my name from your list.”

    “Let me get my supervisor.”

    Dum-dee-dum-dee-dum-dah-dah, dum-de-dum-dee-dum-dee dum. [REPEAT AS NEEDED]

    “Hello, I am Supervisor. When did you stay at our resort?”

    Wife said, “You called me. You mean you don’t know?”

    “What dates were you here?”

    “If you have my name on your list, and you claim I have stayed there, you must have the dates. Unless you are lying and you really, really, really want me to contact the FCC.”

    “I’m sorry, your name appears to have been placed on our list by mistake. Goodbye.”

    I really wish we had a recording of that conversation.

    Wife tried calling number in her phones memory and a recording stated that that number cannot receive incoming calls. She has not been called since. Almost two months. Not bad, considering it was a thrice-weekly call (different number every time).

  5. AndrewD says

    I suppose that if you have a voice operated device like that from Amazon, you could hook Amy to it and let them chat forever.

  6. says


    > Hello, I am Eliza.
    * Hi Eliza, I’m Amy. I see you stayed at one of our resorts before.
    > How long have you been Amy. you see me stayed at one of our resorts before?
    * Eliza, I don’t understand you.
    > Why don’t you understand me?
    * Would you like a free vacation?
    > We were discussing you, not me.

    I still have a version of Eliza I coded a sockets interface onto back in the 80s… A bit of text to speech and she’s ready to help Amy out!

  7. says

    Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains@#4:
    “Hello, I am Supervisor. When did you stay at our resort?”
    Wife said, “You called me. You mean you don’t know?”

    Someone needs to write a “please get me the supervisor” bot that stays on the line asking for help, then asks the supervisor questions. I can see you’ve got a good start on the script! Your wife wouldn’t happen to be named “Eliza” by any chance?

  8. says

    We deal with the collector robocalls all the time “by continuing to listen you acknoledge you are Soandso…….” these guys are idiots, the debt they keep calling about was paid by army allotment yrs ago

  9. says

    A V Sandi Nack@#9:
    “by continuing to listen you acknowledge you are Soandso…….”

    I wonder what lawyer cooked that up. Sounds pretty sketchy to me – I have house plants that are able to continue listening…