Robotelemarketing takes ‘creepy’ to a whole new level

Kai Ryssdal Dec 13, 2013
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Robotelemarketing takes ‘creepy’ to a whole new level

Kai Ryssdal Dec 13, 2013
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Samantha West works for Premier Health Plans Inc., selling health insurance over the phone. Her voice is friendly, just like your typical telemarketer looking to get you a quote for a decent health insurance policy.

The other thing: she might be a robot.

TIME Magazine reporter Denver Nicks writes that he started getting suspicious when she couldn’t answer some relatively simple questions.

“It sounds like a real woman, but she repeats herself over and over again,” Nicks says.  “Michael [his bureau chief] starts asking her questions like, ‘What is the vegetable in tomato soup?’ to which she doesn’t know the answer.”

When asked, point-blank, if she was a robot, “West” vehemently denies, saying that she’s a real person and complains of a bad connection.

Nicks says they did manage to get a hold of a live body eventually, but they denied any use of robots and promptly hung up. But we may never know the true motive behind the strategy, as Premier Health Plans Inc. — and Samantha West’s phone line — disappeared the day after Nicks’s story was published.

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