Mark Twain’s 19th century quote, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” has a 21st century counterpart: “Everybody complains about robocalls but nobody does anything about them.” That was true until Hadley Wilkins decided he was sick and tired of getting robocalls.
Hadley Wilkins is the electronic genius. You’ll probably recall that it was Hadley who made super hacker Henry Histoid stop hacking residential cell phones all over the country.
It’s a fact that thousands of people have called to complain about robocallers—those electronic phone nuisances who call several times a week. Ring! You answer, a robo voice says, “Please press one now.” When you press “one” and wait a bit, a live operator tells you he/she can do something good for you like cut your credit card interest rate. Next the operator asks for the number on your credit card. Then you’re done.
Consumer support organizations can’t shut down the robo callers because the robo calls are produced by untraceable digital auto-dialing machines. It doesn’t do you any good to be on the national “Do Not Call” registry. Robocallers ignore the registry ban. Robo call centers make thousands of calls a day. You can’t avoid robocalls with “caller ID” because robocallers use technology to disguise the originating phone number.
One day, Hadley said, “I’ve had it.”
He designed a robocall system of his own. Hadley’s robocall message was a loud “btfsplk.” That’s the sound you make when someone has annoyed you and you stick your tongue between your pursed lips and blow out air. Some people call “btfsplk,” a “Bronx cheer.”
Once Hadley perfected the “btfsplk,”-sound, he found the name and personal phone number of Cody Wolfeson, the chief executive officer of the nation’s largest robocall corporation. Mr. Wolfeson received Hadley’s robocall on his personal phone about five minutes after he got home from work. He checked the caller ID. It was blank. He ALWAYS got a caller ID.
“What the….?” Said Wolfeson and pressed the answer button.
A loud “btfsplk,” came from the earpiece. “If you would like to hear this message again, please press “one” now. If you wish to cancel any further ‘btfsplk,’ calls, please press “nine” now.” An angry Wolfeson pressed nine.
A raucous braying sound erupted from the phone. Wolfeson pressed the “off” button. The phone remained on and connected to the to the robo call. “That was frustrating, wasn’t it?” the voice on the phone said. Then, “If you wish to hear a pig grunt, please press ‘seven’ now. If you wish to hear a rooster crow please press ‘five,’ now.” Enraged, Wolfeson hurled the phone across the room. It struck a far wall and fell to the floor. The robo voice continued to rise from the plastic shards that remained of the phone…
Wolfeson carried the shards to the garage, slammed them on the cement floor and tromped on them. The voice continued.
By now Wolfeson was thoroughly spooked.
“What do you want?” he screamed at the ghostly robo voice.
“Stop robo calling my home,” said the voice.
“Who ARE you? asked Wolfeson.
“I’m an angry citizen who your benighted company has been calling three times a day.”
“But who ARE you? How can I stop the calls if I don’t know who you are?
“You’re an electronic genius, figure it out. You have forty-eight hours. If you don’t stop robo calling my phone, every business you work with, every person you know will get “btfsplk,” calls from me. Goodbye.”
The ruined phone went silent.
That night Wolfeson assembled a crack team of robo call experts and gave them the task of shutting off robo calls to “the voice’s” phone. Thirty six hours into the project they had narrowed the possible phones to several thousand, but could make no more progress.
“Stop robo calls to all of those phones,” ordered Wolfeson. “I don’t care what it costs the company.”
After 48 hours with no call from the voice Wolfeson decided he was safe. It was only then that he gave orders to limit robo calls to any one phone to two.
But Hadley never got another one.