Follow TV Tropes


Website / Jolly Roger Telephone Company

Go To
"Could you start over?"
"Oh geez, hang on, there's a bee on me. Hang on, there's a bee on my arm. Okay, you know what? You keep talking. I'm not going to talk though, but go ahead and keep talking. Say that part again. And I'm just gonna stay quiet 'cause of this bee. ... ...Okay, so you know when I said I was listening to you during the bee thing? Actually, I-I was just concentrating on the bee. I'm sorry."
—A Jolly Roger bot, doing its best to distract a telemarketer

The Jolly Roger Telephone Company, sometimes shortened as simply the Jolly Roger Telephone Co is an Internet-based company which makes bots which are designed to waste the time of telemarketers. Users of the service can either transfer calls or have them intercepted by the cloud, and later receive a recording of the results. The bots are designed to trick the telemarketer into thinking they're talking with a real person and thus waste their time, preventing them from succeeding at whatever they're trying to sell or whatever scam they're trying to push. This also has the effect of preventing them from being able to call others as well during the time wasted.

The company was named after company founder, Roger Anderson, and thus each of the bots has a pirate-themed name, such as "Salty Sally," "Whitey Whitebeard" and "Kim the Kraken." Anderson, who is the voice of the original Jolly Roger bot, founded the company after a telemarketer was abusive to his teenage son. Having worked in the telecommunications industry and bothered by the use of the telephone system for telemarketing, scams, and what-not, he became determined to do what he could to put a stop to it.


Recordings of the calls have found some popularity on YouTube and can be found here, while the company's official website is here.

The Jolly Roger Telephone Company and its associated bots provide examples of:

  • Apologizes a Lot: Most of the bots will apologize on a fairly regular basis when supposedly forgetting what it was they were called about and asking the caller to start over.
  • Artificial Stupidity: A rare example of an intentional example. The company founder, Roger Anderson, has described the bots made by the company as being employed with this, using the term word-for-word. They are designed to seem vague, forgetful, scatterbrained, distracted, and just generally "not all there," all in an attempt to waste as much caller time as possible. He has also quipped that "Never has so much money been spent to sound so stupid."
  • Advertisement:
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: All the bots get distracted by stuff going on in the background. Additionally, at one point, the Jolly Jenny bot, New Year's version, states that "concentration" was #13 on her list of New Year's resolutions and suggests that she should have put it higher after getting distracted.
  • Alliterative Name: Many of the bots have alliterative names, including Bloody Billy, Debbie Doldrums, Jolly Jenny, Kim the Kraken, Salty Sally and Whitey Whitebeard.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: The bots serve to waste the time of telemarketers who themselves waste the time of people.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: One scammer mentions killing his own dog, then offers to do the same to a bot's puppy. He was probably trying to shock her so she would hang up the phone and let him call someone more receptive to the scam.
  • Bad Santa: The Santa-bot can display shades of this if his routines play out long enough, and he has a fairly large set of routines. One of these involves him mentioning that he is one of the big-deliverers of male-enhancement pills along with them hinting that he may be taking them himself. Another involves him talking about the naughty and nice lists and mentioning that sometimes it's those who are extra-naughty he likes to visit first.
  • Bee Afraid: Jolly Roger, the OG bot, has a routine in which a bee crawls up his arm and freaks him out.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Salty Sally has one. She's mad because Sally has made her pause her show to talk on the phone, she can't use the phone, or because she needs leggings washed and dried within 10 minutes to wear out with her friends.
  • Captive Audience: Oftentimes, the callers. They may want to hang up, but may be working under a rule that they're not really supposed to unless the person being called says something which is obviously abusive, which the bots won't do. In some cases, they may be using a computerized system that does not even have a method for them to easily hang up, as it's expected for the person being called to end the conversation. As such, they may have to get a supervisor involved before they can hang up. This is regarded as a big win, since it now means that two people are tied up with the bot.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Almost all of the bots will often ask the caller "Could you start over?" or simply ask them to "start over."
    • The company itself has become known for the phrases "There's a bee on me" / "There's a bee on my arm," popularized by the original Jolly Roger bot in one of the company's most well-known telemarketer time-wasting routines. This has even been used on official merchandise for the company.
  • Cheerful A.I.: When telemarketers and scammers have their time wasted by these bots, the telemarketers naturally get upset, although most of them don't seem to realize they're talking to bots, and unleash all kinds of verbal abuse and swearing, and some of them try to talk to female bots in a flirtatious or sexual manner. The bots, however, are not fazed by any of this. That said, though, not all of them are entirely cheerful. Salty Sally will ask the caller at one point if the call is a call of solicitation or if they're calling about something, and also will ask the caller if they can get to the point. Whiskey Jack at one point gets downright hostile, asking how he falls into the caller's database and what makes them think that he falls into their database. There's also the "no-bot", a phone technician who always answers any question in the negative and is rather annoyed that the caller somehow reached him; unlike the others, he's designed to not engage with the telemarketers, and indeed most hang up on him within a minute.
  • Christmas Elves: The Santa-bot will sometimes be interrupted by his elves singing, arguing or operating machinery.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: All of the bots, and some of the people they talk to.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Some of the callers get very abusive when they can't successfully complete a scam. This is probably because scammers are often not allowed to hang up on a recipient without permission from a supervisor. Because of this, if the scammer feels that they aren't getting anywhere with the scam they insult the recipient, hoping that they will get so offended that they hang up. Obviously, this doesn't work on the bots.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The callers sometimes think that they're talking with an actual person who is doing some sort of gag or running a soundboard simply to mess with them. The ultimate example of this would have to be this call in which two debt collectors blow over thirty minutes combined with a robot that emulates Santa Claus, thinking that "Santa" is just a personality created by the person they called to put off unwanted callers and that they can wear him down.
  • Deadly Gas: Implied, one of the bots mixes bleach with ammonia to make a cleaner, these react to form toxic chloramines. The "bleach" bit was eventually snipped because apparently some telemarketers had actually called the police trying to be helpful, and in later calls she just says "ammonia."
  • Distracted by the Sexy: At one point, the female biz-bot will claim to have been distracted and missed what the caller said because a really hot co-worker just walked by. "Oooh, baby!"
  • Dogs Hate Squirrels: One of the later iterations of Jolly Jenny has her shouting at her dog Fluffy, telling him that "It's just a squirrel!"
  • Dream-Crushing Handicap: Ox-Gut McGee tells the caller that he could have been an Olympic figure-skater, but one fall and that was the end of his dreams.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The Santa-bot thinks this about the "Jingle bells, Batman smells" song because he knows Batman, and he doesn't smell.
  • Fake Interactivity: The bots are designed to trick the caller into thinking there's a person on the line, when actually the bot is just responding with pre-written routines. However, they can never actually directly respond to what the telemarketer or whoever's calling says and will fill spaces in-between with phrases like "Yes, yes" and "Uh-huh" to make the caller think that they're responding. Later iterations of the programming have gotten more advanced, such as being able to detect certain scams and engage custom routines ("Oh, my back's really hurting me, do you have medication for that?") as well as pass the call off to another bot once one runs out of material, but the same basic idea still applies. Taken to new heights in this call in which the caller spends around six minutes chatting with the bot, having figured out that it's a bot, simply because he's bored and it's the best conversation he's had all day.
  • First World Problems:
    • Salty Sally has a routine about not being able to figure out her "new cable thing" and how she's missing her shows. This plays particularly entertainingly against telemarketers and scammers who are calling from a third-world country and clearly cannot empathize at all, nor help her when she asks "do you know about all that stuff?"
    • The Jolly Jenny bot, New Year's version, says that she's getting ten hours of sleep a day and wants to try to get more because she doesn't think it's enough. As founder Roger Anderson points out in his text commentary, this isn't something that agents in foreign countries struggling to stay awake trying to meet their quota on just a few hours of sleep are likely to appreciate.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: A particularly special case. Though it's possible that some of the callers will figure out what's going on if their calls are picked up by bots enough, the turnover rate in the telemarketing industry is huge. Therefore, at any given time, it's likely that that any call redirected to one of the bots will be handled by someone who is still rather new on the job. That said, this doesn't necessarily prevent supervisors from warning agents about these bots, which means that the company must still be innovative in coming up with new tactics, routines and bots to try to stay ahead of the game.
  • Forgetful Jones: All of the bots. All of them will eventually claim, often multiple times, not to know what the caller called them about and that they need the caller to start over.
    Whitey: What is it? What are you... are you selling anything?
  • For Inconvenience, Press "1": The bots are designed to detect if they are themselves speaking with a screener bot or some sort of automated system and push through in order to get through to a live human.
  • 419 Scam: The bots were designed to respond to telemarketers, however, some enterprising scam-baiters figured out that they might be used to engage with this routine as well. They would trick the scammer by responding to their e-mail saying that they don't like to deal over e-mail and only want to respond by phone and then give out the number for one of these bots. Eventually, Jolly Roger creator Roger Anderson picked up on this and designed a couple of bots which are specifically designed to respond to this scam. They will do stuff like saying that they're worried about it being a scam and need reassurance, repeat that they only want to deal by phone and not e-mail and pretend to start reading off a confirmation number, only to stop before they can finish.
  • Harassing Phone Call: Designed to reroute telemarketer calls and scam calls to bots, so humans can enjoy dinner and time with their families in peace. It has also had much success with other types of nuisance calls: charity collectors, political pollsters, alma maters calling up alumni to ask for donations, religious queries, and prank calls. And theoretically, you can blacklist a number (say, that of your Psycho Ex), which will reroute them to one of the bots, even though they're not really designed for annoying personal calls.
  • I Can't Hear You: The bots will regularly say that they can't hear the telemarketer and they need them to repeat as a way of wasting a bit of time. However, there's one in particular that asks if the caller just said "English muffin," saying they could have sworn they heard them say that, then admitting that they just started a new diet with no carbs and they would kill for an English muffin.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The basic premise of the vacation scam heard in this call. The pitch is as follows: the person being called has supposedly already paid $698 on a vacation and now they have gone to the "expired accounts department" because they never actually traveled on the vacation. Therefore, the company is offering the opportunity for them to pay the remaining $698 and go on the vacation, with a special offer thrown in. Either that, or if the customer doesn't pay the remaining $698, then the account will instead be sent to collections to collect this remaining $698 that they never paid. As company founder Roger Anderson points out, "So apparently I paid part of a vacation, but I never traveled. So now I'm in 'delinquent status' and I owe the balance. Like, isn't this company better off if they just keep my first payment and I never travel?" Furthermore, how can they claim to have the right to collect anything if they never provided any actual service or product?
  • Jerkass: While most of the bots are designed be sympathetic, there is one called Barbarossa who in general is not. During a call with him, he will admit to having cheated with his boss's wife (and is rather unapologetic about it because you're supposed to hunt for women), gone out for a night of drinking, drugs and more girls, calls his child "stupid," calls for someone else to clean up his dog's mess, and eats a foot-long burrito he shouldn't have and breaks his toilet.
  • Jewish Mother: Grandmother, actually. Crazy Mazy, with the accent and everything, laments the fact that her grandson can't be bothered to call her as often as she'd like him to.
  • Kinda Busy Here: The bots go through all sorts of routines and gags, all while supposedly listening to the pitch of the telemarketers or whoever it is that's calling. Of course, the real gag is that nothing is happening because they're just a bot and the caller is talking only to a series of pre-programmed recordings.
  • Mathematician's Answer: The bots, when not in the middle of one of their routines, will respond with stuff like "Sure," "Mm-hmm," and "right." As such, any direct question, such as "Can you give me your credit card number?" (bank account number, etc.), "Could I have your name?", etc., will generally be answered in such a way, driving the telemarketers nuts, as the bots will say essentially that yes, they can, but they never actually do. In one instance, a telemarketer wasted over ten minutes just trying to get a bot's name because they weren't supposed to proceed with their pitch without it.
  • Mister Muffykins: One bot has a new puppy and gets distracted fawning over her.
  • Must Have Nicotine:
    • "Ox-Gut McGee" just quit smoking and has a routine where he is desperate for a cigarette, eventually breaking down and going outside to smoke while on the call.
    • Jolly Jenny is also trying to quit smoking and one point tells the caller as much and to start over and she'll try to focus on what they're saying to her and not cigarettes.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Kim Kracken's son in the background, stripping off his clothes and running around.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The Santa-bot will mention that his workshop could be considered a hostile work environment for his elves.
  • Nothing Personal: Company founder Roger Anderson often states in the commentary provided with the recordings of the calls that he doesn't have anything personal against individual telemarketers. He just hates their business model and wants to put it out of business.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The bots act friendly and gullible, but they are also very forgetful and easily distracted, and often ask callers to go back to the start of their pitch. It's obfuscating because they could be programmed to simply block calls or give a snarky response, but this would leave the scammers free to make more calls to real people. Instead, the bots act stupid to lure scammers in and waste as much of their time as possible, preventing them from calling other people and potentially scamming them.
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: One of the bots is a "biz-bot" designed for cold-callers to businesses that is actually a pair of two bots. One of them is a male bot who after a few minutes will say that he's not the right person for the caller and transfers them to an incompetent female receptionist. This receptionist will admit that it's first day on the job and she's not really the real receptionist, insist that the caller go slow as she types what they're saying into a text, and then start talking to someone else, saying that all her lines are flashing and she doesn't know who she's talking to.
    • Also, a "Congratulations, you've just won a free vacation package!" scammer does cocaine right on the phone with Roger.
    • This call deserves a special mention. Two scammers repeatedly insult and sexually harass someone who they think is an vulnerable, elderly man. In particular, they seem to think jokes about anal sex and sex toys are hilarious. They also pretend to be aliens.
  • Prank Call: Inverted, the bots give prank responses to scam calls. This is intended to keep scammers occupied to prevent them from calling real people.
  • Pirate: The website has a pirate theme and all the bots have pirate names. Averted with the bots themselves because then need to act realistically to trick callers.
  • Punny Name: The female biz-bot is called "Polly Crackers," a play on the phrase "Polly want a cracker?"
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: In certain cases, the caller will be told by a knowledgeable supervisor that they've been speaking with a bot, only to refuse to believe that they could have spent that much time not speaking with a real person. In at least one case, the reverse was true and the caller figured it out, only to not be believed when she told those around her.
  • Santa Claus: There is a Santa-bot who, among other things, mentions living at the North Pole, asks for a product for his elves, gets distracted singing Christmas songs and asks to keep the caller on his 'nice' list.
  • Stink Snub: Santa-bot doesn't like people making fun of Batman by singing "Jingle bells, Batman smells".
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Whitey Whitebeard is designed to exemplify this and thus makes a great choice for those looking to scam the elderly. He rambles about the bad weather, talks about how hard it is for him to get up to go answer the door, and generally seems like he's not quite all there. Later iterations of him even have a custom routine in which if the AI detects a medical scam, he will start talking about his back pain and ask if the scammer has medication which can treat that.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Many of the telemarketers, scammers, and other unwanted callers unleash torrents of profanity upon the bots, hoping to get them to hang up and stop wasting their time. Unfortunately for them, the bots never get irritated about this because they're bots, nor will they hang up.
  • Sleepyhead: The Jolly Jenny bot, New Year's version, claims that one of her resolutions is to get more sleep because she gets 10 1/2 hours a day and doesn't think it's enough.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: The names of companies and callers are bleeped out using tones. The time needed to add these has been cited by the company creator as the reason why recordings of calls aren't posted on YouTube more frequently, as he himself has to edit any call that's posted, as well as the reason why calls of an extremely long duration can't be posted (to date, the longest posted has been about 20 minutes, even though there are others out there which are much longer.)
  • Spiritual Successor: To "Lenny," a set of recordings designed to sound like an old man which have enjoyed some popularity on YouTube and wasted the time of telemarketers and unwanted callers. However, Lenny is only one bot with a very limited repertoire, and no A.I. to customize the routine to engage. Jolly Roger, on the other hand, provides a number of different bots and has added new features over time, including the ability to pass from one bot to another when material runs out, as well as detecting certain scams and engaging custom routines.
  • Suddenly Shouting: At one point during the routine of the female biz-bot, she will state that she can't hear the caller because a bunch of people just walked into the office! (Guys! Guys! I'm on the phone!)
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: In some cases, even after having ages of their time wasted with a bot, the callers will still keep going, thinking that they've already spent all this time already, so at this point they have to get something out of the call. They will grasp at any straw, anything at all the bot says that leads them to believe that the person on the other end of the line is actually interested in what they're pitching.
  • Talk About the Weather: Whitey Whitebeard in particular will talk about the weather as a means of wasting telemarketer time as heard here, for example. He'll go on about how he recalls how wonderful the weather was for him during a vacation in Florida, and how it's storming now outside, so he can't really concentrate on what the person on the other end of the line is saying.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Some of the callers mistake the bots for this, kind of figuring out what's going on but thinking that they're just listening to a recording, rather than talking with a bot. As company founder Roger Anderson points out on one of his podcasts, the bots are designed to respond with stuff like "yes, yes" and "sure" when not in the middle of one of their routines, something that isn't possible with a garden-variety recording, no matter what television might try to tell us.
  • Too Dumb to Live: There's a female bot who has a routine in which the talks about mixing ammonia with bleach to make a cleaner, stumbles around stubbing her toe, and otherwise acts the idiot.
  • Troll: The bots for responding to the 419 Scam troll the caller by starting to read off a supposed confirmation number and then suddenly stop. If the call continues long enough, they will do it again, except this time with a different fake confirmation number.
  • TV Telephone Etiquette: The bots are designed to frustrate the telemarketers and scammers. Despite all their training, there are times when the bots wear them down so much that they simply end the call without saying goodbye in some fashion.
  • You Talk Too Much!: Crazy Mazy may ask at one point if the caller is done talking, saying he's never heard someone talk so much.

But, uh, you called me. It was nice talking to you. I hear your voice. But tell me, what-what you call me for?