“Hello, my name is Joe”

From time to time I dream of winning a grand victory over an evil intelligence, as Captain Kirk so often did in Star Trek. Yesterday, on a small scale, I finally had my chance.

The telephone rang while I was working on my desktop computer at home. I did not recognize the number showing on caller ID, but that did not necessarily mean the call was not from someone I know. I haven’t memorized all the phone numbers of people I might want to speak with on the phone.

I picked up the phone and said hello. A cheerful voice introduced himself as “Joe from Senior Auditory Center and Helping Hands.” He asked how I was doing and I said, “I’m fine, Joe; how are you?”

Instead of the usual, “I’m-fine-thanks-for-asking,” Joe moved immediately into a description of what his company offered. He implied that someone in the household had a need for a hearing aid. “I don’t think I’m interested,” I told him, but Joe then said that someone in the household had contacted his company.

Given the name of the company, I didn’t think that was likely. Instead of saying so, I offered, “Let me write down your name and number and ask my family if any of them have contacted you.”

“I’m not trying to sell you anything,” Joe assured me. “This is a free service.” I thanked him and asked again for a way to contact him if someone in the family indeed had an interest in what he was offering.

Instead of giving me a phone number, Joe said, “I’d just like to ask you a few questions, OK?”

By this time, Joe’s failure to respond to what I was saying made me suspect that Joe was not a human being, but rather a computer-generated voice. His pauses before responding were just a smidgen too long; along with his unfitting responses, our conversation made me picture a 1960s, made for TV, room-sized computer with whirling tapes and flashing lights. I knew that if I said “OK,” Joe would start asking his questions, so I said, “I don’t think I want to answer any questions.”

“OK?” Joe asked again.

“I know what word you want me to say, and I’m not going to say it,” I told him.

“I just want to ask you a few questions, OK?” Joe repeated.

Although I was tempted to tell him that logic is a chirping bird, I instead chose a more fitting line. “Joe, what we have here is failure to communicate,” I said.

“I’m sorry to hear you’re having that problem,” Joe said.

“I don’t think the problem is on my end,” I told him.

“My name is Joe,” he said, more slowly than he had said it the first time. I pictured the face of an android, eyes blank and staring, smoke starting to rise out of both his ears. He continued, slowly and distinctly, “I am from the Senior Auditory Center and Helping Hands.” After that came a silence long enough that I figured it would not be rude to hang up on Joe.

In three different episodes, Captain Kirk was able to save an entire planet and its resident civilization (not to mention his life and the lives of his crew) by talking a computer to death. I’d like to believe that, in a small way, I have now shared in the good captain’s victories. J.

26 thoughts on ““Hello, my name is Joe”

  1. I received one today from the Senior Auditory Center and Helping Hands. It was a woman’s voice out of Bidderford, Maine, so as you pointed out, it seems local in Maine. She did not reply to my statements or questions but when I asked for the name of the company again so I could look their website up, she gave it to me. Very bizarre

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This same company is targeting New Hampshire now with over a dozen “local” phone numbers. They call themselves “helping hands association” now, which has an actual non-profit in Florida by that name begging people to stop leaving nasty posts on their Facebook page. They market hearing aids and walk-in tubs now. What can be done about companies like this that try to trick the elderly with these kind of calls?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan, I wish I had an answer for you. These companies seem to be able to stay one step away from punishment. An altruistic law firm could try a class action suit, but even that would be a long shot. The best hope I have is that every contact tells them “no,” and they go out of business. J.


    • From my experience, the name of the company is likely Hearing Systems, LLC, 300 Bull St., Ste. 200, Savannah, GA. The use of a local CID is called “neighborhood spoofing”. That trick increases the likelihood that such a call will be answered. My wife got such a call from an avatar or IVR (interactive voice recording) calling herself “Chloe”. My wife handed the phone to me and I answered all the IVR’s questions with responses most likely to result in the call being transferred to a live operator. In fact, the call was transferred to a “Michael Andrews,” a live person who claimed to be located in Salt Lake who said he was with “Listen Clear” out of Tulsa, OK. He proceed into his sales pitch. When I asked him about “Chloe” Andrews said, “She’s a computer…artificial intelligence…Yeah, we’re testing artificial intelligence…” Andrews went on to explain that they had 2 “Joe’s,” “Chloe,” and, his favorite, “Emily”. What was the name of the “person” that called you? And, did you determine whether or not you were talking to a live person or a computer? All unsolicited, prerecorded commercial calls to residential and wireless lines are forbidden by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. (47 USC 227 and 47 CFR 64.12000). Congress has provided telephone consumers with a private right of action and damages of $500 per call, trebled to $1500 if the call is willful or knowing, ie., they deliberately made the call and it wasn’t an “honest” mistake. Kindest to you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan, the hearing aid perps are likely Icot Hearing dba the non-existent name, Listen Clear. The walk-in tubs are likely from Safe Step Walk-in Tub Company out of Tennessee and run by Stuart Hall and Mike Duffer. In my experience, I received an anonymous interactive voice recorded call (CID 404-497-4071) from a chatty pre-programmed robot that will ask questions designed to see if you are in pain, infirm, immobile, etc. The last robot that called me admitted to being with Safe Step Walk-in Tub. The robot will send the call information for good prospects to a Safe Step rep who will schedule an appointment for a sales guy to come to your home. The TCPA prohibits unsolicited, prerecorded calls to wireless and land lines at 47 USC 227(b) and provides the called party with a private right of action worth $1500 for willful or knowing calls…and, yes, these perps didn’t call either of us by mistake.


  3. I received two different calls today. The first was a female. After the hello, I asked, “Are you a real person?’ She laughed and asked, “Why would you ask that question.” I said, “You sound somewhat mechanical.” He reply was “Unbelievable!” She hung up. A few hours later, Joe called and asked if I had called about a hearing problem. I answered that I did not. He then insisted that someone in my home called about a hearing problem. I again said no. He then said, “Are you sure?” I told Joe I thought he may have a hearing problem. He hung up.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha, ha! I spoke to Joe, too, I guess…the recording dropped out when he said his name. In fact, I played customer and was connected with a guy who thanked “Joe” for transferring the call to the corporate offices of Listen Clear in Savannah, Georgia. The live operator directed me to the website, http://www.listenclear.com. That website is anonymously registered under the name, “Domains By Proxy, LLC”. The “User Agreement” at the listenclear.com website states, “ListenClear, a Georgia Limited liability company is the owner and operator of this Site…”. However, I was unable to find any Georgia company registered under the name “ListenClear” or “Listen Clear”. I ordered the product and finally identified Icot Hearing Systems as the apparent entity behind the calls. I filed a civil complaint against Icot in Charleston County Small Claims Court. Their lawyers claim that they have evidence I opted in for the call!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate the work you are doing to try to eliminate these annoying calls. It seems as if the “do not call” registry has somehow been evaded by Joe and his ilk. J.


      • Thanks for the praise….BUT it’s misplaced because ICOT HEARING SYSTEMS called August and September trying to sell hearing aids. (CallerID “West Virginia 304-238-7564” a dead, spoofed number.) The first call wasn’t answered and left no message. The second call connected to a robot calling itself “Chloe”!! I played customer and “Chloe” transferred the call to Michael Andrews, who said he was with “Listen Clear”. Michael Andrews was a wealth of information. He said that there are actually 2 “Joe” robots, “Chloe”, plus “Emily”, his favorite! I’ll give an update when I am able to transcribe Michael’s comments.


  5. Funny, funny, funny. I’ve had similar encounters. But mine usually leave me angry and hanging up while the taped/computer generated response is still playing. Most recently I asked if I was talking to an actual person and was told I was. Well, if that were true, it was someone who has no clue what conversation is. He may have been paid by the number of spiels he ran off, I don’t know. But he certainly didn’t know how to actually engage someone else. Sad.

    But it was fun to read about your encounter with “Joe.”


    Liked by 3 people

  6. While I’ve never been much of a Star Trek fan, I found this post very amusing because I fully relate to those nagging automated telephone calls. I detect a strange irony in the fact that even the live voices I talk to these days too often sound just as automated.
    Specifically, I’m thinking about those representatives of the extreme left “progressive” political ideology. When confronted with a rational question that merely requires a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, they sidestep the issue altogether in favor of preaching their favorite propaganda – but NEVER asking if it’s “OK?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • As our machines become more like us, maybe it’s inevitable that we become more like our machines. In the 1950s and 1960s, science fiction writers often conveyed their fear that our machines would take over and run our lives. It appears to me that the machines are winning. J.


  7. Hahaha, good for you! This post made me laugh, you did a good job, lol. On both the post and the talking Joe down, heheh. We might have to start calling you ‘Captain J’ from now on. You might just have saved your family from apparent (hearing) doom!

    Liked by 2 people

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