Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

January 29, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

AN ELECTION ENIGMA....A California friend emails to tell me that he got his first campaign call last night (from Obama) and this morning he got another one. But the second call was a little more mysterious:

Today I got a call from a 213 area code, and when I picked it up a recorded voice said, "My mistake. Sorry about that." And hung up.

...What the hell was that?

I've never heard of such a thing. My only guess is that this campaign, whichever one it is, will only leave a recorded message on a machine, and if you pick up you get this odd recorded apology and then it automatically hangs up on you.

Or it's some company trying to figure out whether I'm home in the daytime. Or someone who wants to rob my house and is too lazy to call on their own.

I'm stumped. Any idea?

What say you, hive mind?

Kevin Drum 4:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (66)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

I had that happen once. It was my wife's boyfriend.

Posted by: Econobuzz on January 29, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect it is the RNC - testing to see if you are at home. And if you aren't then they will break into your house and catnap INKBLOT, for certainly if he decides to run they have absolutely no chance of reclaiming the Whitehouse.

Posted by: optical weenie on January 29, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

optical weenie is funny

Posted by: bend on January 29, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Or Dick Cheney's office calling to see if you're away so they can bug the place. Nothing to worry about.

Posted by: Auster on January 29, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

All Obama campaign calls are monitored by the FISA/FBI/CIA/NSA.

Prove me wrong.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 29, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is someone misrecorded the message, and somehow sent out the screwed-up version.

Posted by: Rob Cottingham on January 29, 2008 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

"I had that happen once. It was my wife's boyfriend."

Ouch!

Posted by: sheerahkahn on January 29, 2008 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I don't know...could have been a wrong number?

Posted by: DaveOinSF on January 29, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

It is pretty obvious Skynet was bored and decided to make prank calls.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on January 29, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly, your wife's boyfriend has hired the Romney campaign to rob your house.

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on January 29, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Casing your house for a burglary....

Posted by: The Operator on January 29, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Seems a bit of a stretch to say that this was a campaign call.

My guess is that it was an autodialer trying to send junk faxes. If it gets a fax machine, it sends the file through. If it gets a human, it apologizes and hangs up.

Posted by: Oregonian on January 29, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

A strange car drove past my house last night, I think it was an Obama.

Posted by: Alfred on January 29, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

What am I missing here? Why does he think it was from Obama? Or even a campaign call?

Posted by: Daniel on January 29, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it thought it was going to speak to another recorded voice.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 29, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with DaveO on this one.
Someone in California got a call from someone else in California who apologized for calling. Clearly a conspiracy is afoot.

It's hard to believe in this day and age that people still make mistakes.

Posted by: editor on January 29, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Someone in California got a call from someone else in California who apologized for calling.

Read it again. It was a recorded voice apologizing for supposedly dialing the wrong number.

Posted by: TR on January 29, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

I used to work in polling, so I can offer an educated guess. Usually random number dialing starts with an exchange number as a given and adds some randomly generated last four numbers. This gives access to many numbers in a set geographic area. The trouble with this system is that it generates a lot of disconnects and not in services. The call could have come from any kind of polling outfit (or less probably, a telemarketer) trying to find out what are the legit numbers automatically, so that their callers can follow up, at less time expense.

Posted by: wagster on January 29, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Wagster offers a reasonable guess.

Google the number and you will likely find out where it's coming from to give you an idea.

Posted by: Don on January 29, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

An attempt to make predictive dialing slightly less impolite?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictive_dialer

Posted by: Rocky on January 29, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

What Don says. Google the number.

I've done this before; you'll be surprised how much info you'll find on the source.

Posted by: Disputo on January 29, 2008 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

I know I'm not supposed to say this on this station but Hillary Clinton is humorless, charisma-less and the last person I would want to have a drink with in a bar. (This must be the reason she latched onto Bill.)

For all my readers out there, this is still not reason enough not to vote for her but I decided these were reasons enough for me not to vote for her.

I know I'm being petty and stupid but so it goes.

Posted by: Dr WU-the last of the big time thinkers on January 29, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like Campaign Guiliani to me.

Posted by: Royko on January 29, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

+1 for "Google the phone number". It's quick and easy, and you never know what you might find out.

Posted by: lux on January 29, 2008 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

The "hive" is humming...

“Revolutions, before they happen, appear to be impossible and after they occur they appeared to have been inevitable.” - Alexis de Tocqueville

Posted by: daCascadian on January 29, 2008 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

How did your friend know it was a recording?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on January 29, 2008 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

MCI was doing a marketing deal about two years ago; I think they would do a hang-up message if you picked up, too. I Googled the number and that's how I found out about it. There's a couple of websites specifically dedicated to phone numbers and calls like that.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 29, 2008 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like some sort of telephone "caging" campaign.

If you're not home, and/or don't call back you could be challenged at the polls.

???????????

Posted by: JaDe on January 29, 2008 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Definitely Google it, that's how I figured out it was the Hillary Campaign trying to call me with "unknown name" on the Caller ID this weekend.

Posted by: greynct00 on January 29, 2008 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

"What say you, hive mind?"

Resistance is futile. Prepare to be assimilated.

Next time, KevinDrum09854949686564WM will discuss the benefits of Borg Protocol 100010010011100011.

End of line.

Posted by: The Borg on January 29, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Funny, I had a 213 call yesterday here in Seattle that I DID NOT pick up...and they left no message, recorded or otherwise!

Posted by: Mistamatic on January 29, 2008 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I used to get these calls all the freaking time. For a while there was only one recorded voice. It took me a while to catch on -- I started immediately shouting "Hang on, wait a moment" to verify that it was a recording whenever I recognized the initial computerized pause after saying hello.

Annoying as they are, I doubt they're sinister. I have a hypothesis, and since I used to work in telephony this isn't a completely uninformed guess. Predictive power dialers don't actually connect the answering human with the poor call center temp who has to read the script to you until the call's actually connected and you say 'hello' and the computer has verified that you're not a fax machine or an answering machine or a business.

These computers are pretty smart: they know that about four in ten calls actually get picked up by a live human at home. So if they have 400 people ready to take a call, they call 1000 numbers so all their call-center people constantly have someone to talk to.

But by random chance sometimes they'll get too many people answering and there's no one ready on the other end to connect you to. So the computer plays its brief recording "sorry, wrong number" and hang up.

I never thought to connect it to political campaigns, but come to think of it the last time I got a bunch of these calls was around a year ago.

I just got one of these "wrong number" recordings last week on my cellphone.

Posted by: eyelessgame on January 29, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Econobuzz wrote:

I had that happen once. It was my wife's boyfriend.

Uber-crazy Republican activists trying to make the country swing wayyyyyyy socially conservative by convincing a bunch of guys in California that their s.o.'s are cheating on them?

Or just trying to ruin lives / make it hard on (likely) Dems in a Democratic state by turning man and woman against each other? Sometimes all it takes is a pin to drop-- remember that "Maple Street" episode of the Twilight Zone? And then Dems become more grouchy, less productive, live less fruitful lives + don't trust people when they should trust them. They waste time and money, and probably become more like a negative stereotype.

Psy-war from the inside against the inside.

Just a guess.

Posted by: Swan on January 29, 2008 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

I had this exact same thing happen a week or so ago. It was clearly a recorded voice. Never happened before. I'm in Chicago, for those keeping track.

Posted by: rabbit on January 29, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Eyelessgame at 5:09 sounds like a likely explanation.

But, hey, those Republicans are plenty sinister-- they've already used robodialers for lots of bad stuff. So, you can't blame me for guessing.

Posted by: Swan on January 29, 2008 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Freud say that there is no such thing as a wrong number?

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on January 29, 2008 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on January 29, 2008 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Rob Cottingham: "My guess is someone misrecorded the message, and somehow sent out the screwed-up version."

That reminds me of the 2004 campaign, when I was acting Exec. Director of the Hawaii Democratic Party, and John Kerry got Sen. Dan Inouye to record a robo-call prior to our state's Democratic caucuses, which contained a local Honolulu phone number for the Kerry campaign.

Unfortunately, Inouye transposed two numbers, and hundreds of people were calling this sweet old lady at the Arcadia Retirement Home to express their displeasure at being interrupted with a campaign robo-call.

And since those sort of mainland campaign tactics really don't go over too well out here in the islands (I had strongly advised them against it, but what did I know compared to DC operatives, right?), I found it very amusing that the Kerry campaign was completely flummoxed as to why Dennis Kucinich -- who was the only remaining candidate on the Dem ballot at that point -- subsequently did so well out here.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 29, 2008 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

It happens to me on a fairly regular basis. Usually a recorded female voice -- I've heard it often enough that I recognize it.

These are telemarketers, and it's an automatic system pre-qualifying numbers. It ONLY happens on my business number.

There's one number that I've programmed into my phone to ID as a "my apologies" recording, and it always comes in at non-business hours. I found that if I don't pick that one up, I get a recording on voice mail "Hi guys, this is Deb, and I saw this and thought of you. blah blah blah some scam pitch ...." It's illegal to robo-call except for specific exceptions, so that's their workaround.

I get a LOT of calls that I don't answer and that don't leave messages. If it's a toll-free number with "Unavailable" as the caller, I don't pick it up. Usually someone named "Sam" with an impenetrable Indian accent wanting to sell me copier and printer supplies.

Posted by: Ducktape on January 29, 2008 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Don't let them catnap Inkblot!

Posted by: catclub on January 29, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

over the years i have had 100s of messages on my machine that start with a busy signal and then a woman saying 'we're sorry your call cannot go through as dialed. Please try again later.'
Often wondered if someone or 'thing' was somehow trying to make calls that are billed to my number, but that has never happened.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on January 29, 2008 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Could have been God. Did your friend try *69? You know, He doesn't make these calls very often and one should be alert for them.

Posted by: 357 Days on January 29, 2008 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii: That reminds me of the 2004 campaign, when I was acting Exec. Director of the Hawaii Democratic Partyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Posted by: Sawing Logs on January 29, 2008 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

I mean, that's a tell-tale sign that your spouse is cheating on you, when you get a call like that.

If it's not someone trying to fuck with people's minds, the person who's sending those robocalls should be sued for negligence...

Posted by: Swan on January 29, 2008 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

I mean, that's a tell-tale sign that your spouse is cheating on you, when you get a call like that.

That is, when they say it's a wrong number without even talking to you. The person didn't sound like a wrong number-- didn't start talking as if you were the plimber or the pizza shop-- because it wasn't really a wrong number, just a wrong answerer.

Posted by: Swan on January 29, 2008 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

A judge has issued an order requiring everyone who voted for George Bush in any election to call someone who didn't, and apologize.

Posted by: E.R. Beardsley on January 29, 2008 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

I think our eyeless wonder nailed it. These guys use queing theory to figure out how fast to make calls. If too many people answer, they gotta chuck some of the answered calls away.....

Posted by: bigTom on January 29, 2008 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Barring Donald from Hawaii, it looks like the tin foil hat conspiracy club has all its members working really hard on reinforcing the creases in their headware today.

Posted by: optical weenie on January 29, 2008 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Extraterrestrials use that technique to find neighborhoods where the can safely and unobsevedly land their integalactic travelers. The pizza delivery car camouflage they use is effective for everything but the actual moment of landing, so they've got to be careful. If they can find three or four houses with no one home, they land. And then they post Ron Paul for President signs to let their ground forces know where they are.

Posted by: brad on January 29, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it was a pollster doing a statistical analysis of how many rings it takes before a registered Democrat picks up the phone -- you know, trying to calculate caller costs before doing the actual calls.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 29, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

I'm having a hard time deciding if Econobuzz or brad win the post today.

Anywhooooo, congrats to both, I had 2 good chuckles.

Posted by: optical weenie on January 29, 2008 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Or the person could just google "My mistake. Sorry about that."

And get several hundred responses. Mostly about autodialers.

Including this post at the tope of the list which low and behold has a 213 area code number listed:

http://www.xk9.com/woof/?p=160

That post is from 2006, let the conspiracy theories continue... I say its aliens.

Posted by: Inaudible Nonsense on January 29, 2008 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

doing phone banking myself, i've had to deal with people who were *convinced* i was a machine. obama lets people phone bank through his web site- maybe someone dialed the wrong number by mistake, and is now convinced a "machine" said sorry?

Posted by: jim on January 29, 2008 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

Obama owns the whole 213 area code? What a powerful man! I must vote for him.

Posted by: Helena Montana on January 29, 2008 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

It is actually a telephony system specifically designed to leave a pre-recorded message on your answering system that sounds like an actual human being, rather than a tape. This is why it hangs up when it reaches a "live" line, as you would realize that it is a recording and not respond.

The system is used by Direct Marketing and Direct Mail companies to induce you to call back, go online, or anticipate a direct mail piece.

This is not supposition on my part as I was a marketing consultant to several very large companies that use this system, including Toyota, Merril Lynch, etc., etc..

Posted by: cbear on January 29, 2008 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, You make it sound like the second mysterious call was from the Obama campaign. Was that intentional? And if so, why?

Posted by: LynnDee on January 29, 2008 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

The next time you get a recorded call you don’t want, just hang up, count to 10 and then pick up your phone.

Surprise, the recording is still going. In fact the recording will play to the end whether you listen to it or not.

Now let’s say there is an emergency and you need to call 911.

Surprise, you can’t.

The recorded call is tying up your line and you don’t get your line back until the recording is over and the automated equipment that called you releases your line.

You have just been denied access to your phone service that you pay for and you have been denied access to 911.


And the phone companies designed this special service for automated calling companies. Then the phone companies submitted this new service to the State Public Service Commissions for approval and tariffs (billing rules) and the PSC gave its blessing.

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?

Posted by: Alex on January 29, 2008 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

If you google "213 my mistake", you'll get a 2006 discussion of this same caller. I think it's Cheney.

Posted by: Sempringham on January 29, 2008 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

Eyelessgame is right.

Posted by: anandine on January 29, 2008 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

I had a call a couple of weeks ago from a recorded voice that immediately upon my answering said,

"I'm sorry, but all our representatives are currently unavailable, we will call you back at another time."

Bizarre.

I answer the phone, get a recorded voice telling me that they don't have anyone to talk to me, and that they will call me later. Plucky bastards. They never identified themselves.


Posted by: E Henry Thripshaw on January 29, 2008 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

My mother complained of a similar scenario happening over and over again before the Republican primary in SC. Her theory was they just wanted to leave their robomessage. She also said that if she knew which campaign was doing it, she'd be sure not to vote for him. She's a calm lady, but these calls ticked her off - getting up to answer the phone just to be hung up on.

Posted by: scarolina on January 29, 2008 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

The recorded call is tying up your line and you don’t get your line back until the recording is over and the automated equipment that called you releases your line.
You have just been denied access to your phone service that you pay for and you have been denied access to 911-Alex

Excellent case where AG John Edwards can work to put a stop to this sort of intrusive info-bullshit.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 29, 2008 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Reminds me of a telephone billing situation in Riyadh during 1987. The Candian Ambassador queried a telephone bill he had received for his residence. He pointed out to the friendly customer relations man that his family called Canada on fixed days and a huge Canada bill on that particular day was just not possible. Maybe he figured he could have some slack as Bell Canada had the Saudi contract in those days. The Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter had its own telephone exchange and it sent its own customer relations man to assure the Ambassador that the bill was quite kosher. The Ambassador was assured that the calls were indeed made, if he wished he could hear the recordings. Oops.

As to the 213 Area Code robocall? No idea. Just thought I would share.

Posted by: Lightflyer on January 30, 2008 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

Normally I'd agree with the predictive-dialer info, and that really is something everyone should know about, but in this case . . .

Well, I think your friend knows that this call was the signal and we all need to . . . no, I've said too much on a public forum.

Let's just say "message received" and leave it at that.

Posted by: Tripp on January 30, 2008 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Alex,
The recorded call is tying up your line and you don’t get your line back until the recording is over and the automated equipment that called you releases your line.

Are you sure about that, because it seems to say otherwise at this link.

Posted by: Tripp on January 30, 2008 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Yes Tripp, I’m deadly sure. The FCC site sounds quite up and up. If you have a complaint, give them a call, and see how well they assist you.

Better yet, hang up on that recorded call and wait 10 seconds. Then pick up your receiver. Your line should be clear and ready for use.

Surprise, the recording is still going.

Give it a try.

Posted by: Alex on January 30, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly