Do you hate telemarketers and robocalls? Well then, I'd like you to meet Lenny.
He's about 80 years old, Australian, talkative, and easily distracted. And he's not like you and me. He actually loves these kinds of calls.
Oh, one more thing. He's a chatbot whose main purpose in life is to intercept telemarketers, waste their time, and destroy their business model.
(His other purpose: to make the whole thing enjoyable for people like you and me.)
Lenny has actually been around for a while, nearly a decade according to his anonymous creator--an IT worker who the folks at Motherboard explained recently, "sought to create a 'telemarketer's worst nightmare ... a lonely old man who is up for a chat, proud of his family, and can't focus on the telemarketer's goal.'"
'It's funny that you called...'
You'll want to just click below and listen to how much fun this is--but first let's set the stage.
We're all inundated with spam calls, and it's only going to get worse. By next year, nearly half of all incoming cell-phone calls will be spam. And while the government has come down hard on some of the worst offenders, it hasn't stopped the deluge.
Chances are you get them--maybe to the extent that you just don't answer the phone anymore. If it's not the "can you hear me?" scam, or the "free cruise to the Bahamas" scam, it's the top of the funnel scam.
Against them all, ladies and gentlemen, it's Lenny to the rescue.
He's programed to answer with yesses, and um-hmmms, and to go off on long soliloquies about his daughters.
He also likes to tell callers in a longwinded manner that it's funny they should call, because he was just thinking about the very thing they're calling about, and they should feel free to tell him more about their product or service.
At some points, he loses track and asks them to repeat their name, or their company, or just to start the whole pitch over.
Anything to drag out the time, make them less productive, in a business in which time is most definitely money. Have a listen.
The only downside
My friends, there are hundreds of these online--recordings of Lenny frustrating telemarketers, wasting their time, making their lives less happy.
(The telemarketer in the recording above figures out she's talking to a robot or recording, and she's very cool about it, apparently finding the whole thing hilarious. The majority of callers get a lot angrier and NSFW, though, fair warning.)
Now, the slightly bad news. As awesome as it would be to enable Lenny on your phone in some kind of app, the developer said he decided not to do that because uploading the code somewhere might require him to reveal his identity.
So for now, unless there's a developer reading this who wants to duplicate Lenny, you'll have to go with some alternatives.
There's the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, which offers a slightly more absurdist array of recordings, rather than chatbots, which nevertheless can do a good job of wasting a telemarketer's time.
Downsides: Personally I don't think they're as funny as Lenny, and they cost 99 cents a month to use.
Or, you can switch to a Google Pixel phone and use Android's new Call Screen function, which basically just lets you screen unfamiliar incoming calls before answering. (This was only announced in October, so if people like it I'd imagine you'll see a knockoff feature for iPhone before long, too.)
Or, you can use what I like to think of as the "manual Lenny," in which you simply answer the phone yourself, and if it's a telemarketer, just ask them inane questions and waste their time for five or 10 minutes while you play checkers or read the news in the background.
Either way, we're all in this together, because for every telemarketer whose time we waste, the cost of this kind of ridiculous, unwanted interruption goes up a little bit higher.
And that's what makes Lenny and his virtual collegues so brilliantly simple. Or maybe it's simply brilliant. Whichever you prefer--as long as it destroys the telemarketing scourge.