It’s The Captain calling…

Russell Wangersky
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It’s funny how the simplest of irritations can wind you up and make you do the stupidest things.

Getting caught behind a painfully-slow-moving driver on a narrow highway can get you pondering the most ridiculous — and dangerous — of passing solutions, scenarios where thumping the gas to the floor in the shortest of passing zones seems to make sense.

And then there’s The Captain.

Oh, I’d like a few minutes alone with The Captain.

An awful lot of people in this province — in this country — know The Captain real well.

You know him, because The Captain likes to phone your house — his phone calls start with the blare of a foghorn, followed by an automated voice intoning: “This is your Captain speaking …”

The Captain would like you to know that you’ve won a cruise. (Comments on the Internet suggest no one ever gets the cruise — even if you hang in on all the way to the end of the call, mysterious technical problems will disconnect you before the prize award.)

The script sounds like this: “Hello. This is your captain speaking. You will receive two free boarding passes for an all-inclusive cruise to Nassau, Bahamas in exchange for your answers to 10 questions. This is a public opinion poll. The process is automated. Just press the keys on your telephone keypad for your answers. You will receive two free boarding passes for an all-inclusive cruise to Nassau, Bahamas when you’re finished. This process only takes a minute. Press ‘1’ to start the automated survey and receive two complimentary cruise passes. Don't miss the boat. Press 1 now.”

Or, at least, that’s what it used to say — now, I hang up the moment I hear the foghorn. (That doesn’t always help — pick up the phone, and you’ll still hear The Captain nattering away to the empty air, unwilling to disconnect your line once his automated lips start moving.)

The Captain phones my house, my office and my cellphone. Not every day, but sometimes twice or three times in the same day.

The Captain phones from somewhere outside Canada, so I presume he simply laughs a little into the sleeve of his uniform when he hears about Canadian law and the Do Not Call Registry.

In fact, since he operates from another country, there’s a suggestion now that callers like The Captain are actually paying a fee and harvesting live telephone numbers directly from the federal Do Not Call list.

The Captain is a truly international pain in the arse.

Back-check his numbers: he might be in Pittsburgh — he might be in Florida — he might be in Port Arthur, Texas — his telephone number might be 00-000-000-0000. (Although that is one of the numbers a reverse lookup  on The Captain’s call will find you, I expect calling it would take you no further than a confused BellAliant operator.)

The Captain phones from as many as 21 separate phone numbers.


He has friends…

And The Captain is not alone. He has a friend — she likes to call and urgently say “This is Anne — hold for an important message.” Sometimes, she’s Becky. Sometimes, if you hold for the important message, you get to hear the foghorn, and The Captain, all over again.

There are suggestions he originates with an American automatic survey firm called the United Public Opinion Group — go to the website and the first thing it asks you to enter is, you guessed it, your phone number.

Do that, and another round of miraculous technical errors will hang up on you all over again, leaving your computer screen filled with a massive and detailed error number. After your experience on the phone, you figure you must have come to the right place. You can’t imagine how full their voicemailbox is.

Here’s what they say about themselves: “From helping create consumer survey questions that optimize maximum information that relates directly to your product or service, to running the actual

software applications, we are the nation’s largest automated survey company with the most experience to handle your opinion poll/survey needs.”

Go to the part about “How we collect information” and you can find a spectacular but meaningless piece of information: “United Public Opinion Group has gone into great lengths to make sure that the methodology and the questionnaire to be used have been thoroughly upogutinized and are the most appropriate for your particular needs.”

Does being “thoroughly upogutinized” mean being called over and over?

It’s not clear. In fact, it’s not even clear if The Captain really does live at United Public Opinion. Any place you would ask that question on the website requires you to enter your telephone number — I hardly want to give that to anyone who could be connected to The Captain, even though he clearly already has it. The help desk button doesn’t work. There’s no information anywhere on the site that indicates a geographic location for the company.

I realize that, in all likelihood, The Captain exists only in the ether of computerized telemarketing.

But I’d really like to shove the foghorn in a place where I don’t think The Captain would appreciate it.

And if I could buy some kind of  telephone app that would track him down and let me force both The Captain and Anne (or Becky) to walk the plank into a pool of Bahamian sharks, I’d get it in a heartbeat.

I’d like to charge The Captain a quarter every time he calls — and I’d like to charge the phone companies a quarter, too, for allowing The Captain and his real, live bosses to abuse a service I’m paying them for.

Captain? This is Russell speaking. Goodbye.


Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s

editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: United Public Opinion Group

Geographic location: Nassau, Bahamas, Canada Pittsburgh Florida Port Arthur, Texas

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Recent comments

  • kelly
    June 18, 2014 - 22:29

    I'm in Nashville, TN and the Captain has been a pain in my ass for years.

  • Rock star
    June 02, 2014 - 17:53

    A friend of mine was successful in contacting the CEO a few years back and called him on his bullshit ... After that she's NEVER gotten another call from the captain ;)

  • Andrew
    July 29, 2013 - 14:38

    Has anyone ever recorded this message or seen it online? I really want to download the audio

  • AB
    October 29, 2012 - 14:57

    I hear from The Captain at least once a month. It's always a Washington state area code. The first time I got the call I jumped about a foot in the air... and I always get suckered into answering without thinking about it, since my family lives in Washington.

    • spider
      November 19, 2012 - 16:18

      if you keeo hitting the # key when you get a prank call it boots your phone # out of their data base

  • Horatio
    September 10, 2012 - 15:47

    I live in New York, and started receiving these same calls a couple of weeks ago on my new cell phone number. I got bored one day, and completed the survey to see what would happen. After completing the survey, I was connected to a live operator. She only wanted my name, and would not answer any of my questions about the so called "free boarding passes." I told her that I thought this whole bit was a scam. She told me that it wasn't a scam, and that my name would be given to a travel agent, who would contact me about the cruise. Now I understand how this thing works. The telemarketing company collects the data of anyone who answers the survey. The telemarketing company sells this data to one or more clients. The telemarketer is also contracted by a travel agency to collect the contact information of people that might be interesting in going on a cruise. The travel agency then contacts the list of people provided by the telemarketing agency, and tries to get them to sign up for a cruise to the Bahamas. The cruise isn't actually free. Travelers will have to pay for food and drinks and other things, the sum total of which is about the same as booking a genuine all inclusive cruise. Also, if you answer the survey questions, you open yourself up to more unsolicited calls.

  • Alex
    March 27, 2012 - 20:00

    If you call 17027055246 (or which ever number they call you from) and press 1 they will remove you from their mailing list. Good riddance Captain.

  • Kim Appollo
    March 16, 2012 - 14:30

    There is one obvious and simple cure once and for all from such telemarketers. It must be either in legislation, or practiced as efficient counter-measure by government. The cure is: when a complaint is filed about a phone number that disturbed others (there may be a set number of complains to trigger this), the government would be obligated to identify the source company and post their real contact phone number to each complainant. That will work like a magic bullet: each telemarketer will have direct overwhelming feedback, prompting them to pay for changing contact phones all the time, and loose customers who will be unable to contact them. They will loose money each time they program Captain to call you. Its namely fear of such replies that makes them hide Captain call traces. Lets ask Members of Parliment make law actually work.

  • Captain J.P. Boyd
    February 28, 2012 - 21:47

    Yes! Spread dis-information. Don't hang up...fill their database with so much crap that it will be worthless. That said... When Skype-out was first introduced for free...I had one of those worthless pitch calls coming I programmed my computer to call them back relentlessly all day and night and play a handy ".wav" file when they picked up "Arrrrrr Ahoy There Matey! (from Pirate comedy Radio). I guess they couldn't block my calls (since Skype didn't provide a number) -- and they DO have a business and can't just ignore their phone. Everynow and then I'd interupt the script and call them with my headset....I'd hear a very tenative "Hello?" when they picked up the phone. They were so relieved to get a real person! Then I'd ask for the manager....and they would "connect me" -- as soon as I heard him answer I clicked "Resume" on my script... "Ahoy there Matey! ".

  • Ellie
    January 17, 2012 - 02:23

    I have gone through all that has been described. I got the captain, I did the survey, I got the error when going to the website. Then a week or so later got a phone call, which i had missed twice. Unsure of what it was about i just called back and started talking to a fella named James who was quite convincing. I continued to talk to him for a good 15 mins, i was skeptical the whole time but was bored at work anyway. He was even so "sweet" to stay on the line and tell me about all of the fantastic things i could do on my cruise while i went to get my credit card from my vehicle, even after i told him i worked in a store by myself which i couldnt leave without closing up. I had convinced him to call me tomorrow and i could have my card then, which i needed for some docking fee? So i have yet to hear from him, but from reading a lot about this scam i will sure have a splendid time messing with the poor fella.

  • mrs. smith
    December 27, 2011 - 17:29

    If you are really mad about the captain calling, call him back! I finally got some information about this company after many annoying calls. " carribean cruise lines " aka BESM 6555 Powerline Rd Ste 313 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309 1-800-869-2387 1-800-221-8200 954-351-0087 Have fun!!

  • Sean
    December 21, 2011 - 17:16

    After receiving the call from Captain Foghorn 4 times a day for months now, I decided to take a different approach today. I played along with the gig. The recording walked me through the 10 multiple choice questions (press 1 for Male, press 2 for female, etc). So I pressed 3 or other invalid response for all 10 questions. At the end it said I had successfully completed the survey and promptly transferred me to a human being who asked me to confirm my phone number and asked me for my name and postal code - I provided a false name and postal code. As soon as he had that info he plugged me back into an automated msg that directed me to to collect my free cruise tickets. The web site claims to be United Public Opinion Group. All you need to do type in your phone number and postal code. Unfortunately I did not properly record the phoney postal code so I could not log in. My guess is that this operation is collecting key demographic info by region, and selling it to companies and telemarketing groups. I am not sure if they will call me back but I have a recommendation to all of the hundreds of thousands or millions of people out there receiving those annoying phone calls. **OUT-SMART** these scoundrels, don't hang up. Take a few minutes to give them false information. When they sell crap to their customers, their customers will ditch them very quickly and put them out of business. When you connect with a real person, you are tying them up even for a brief period of time. Someone is paying them a salary. When you give them garbage info you are causing the employer time and money for no gain. That will also drain them over time. I will be very interested to see if they call back. Regards, Sean

  • Johnny
    November 16, 2011 - 16:51

    I just like to close my eyes and listen to the steel drum dreaming of the sun, water and beach. Sucks when you don't press 1 it cuts off after about 30 seconds......what a drag. :(

    • Richium
      December 08, 2011 - 18:18

      If it is on your cellphone, program the captains number into your phonebook, and add a distinctive ring of no ring to the number. At least he won't wake you up at 6am or cost your cellphone minutes.

  • Misti
    October 24, 2011 - 19:27

    I got this call and did it all the way to the end just to see. I actually talked to someone who took my name and said someone would call me back about my "free" cruise. Maybe a week or so later I did get a call and listen to the real live person and and answered a few questions, but the moment he ask for a credit or debit card to hold my "free" cruise up to 18 months I hung up the phone i wasn't going to take a chance. It all sounded really good up until than. I haven't got this call many of times, but i have got it before but I only waited to the end once.

  • meeee
    September 30, 2011 - 21:19

    I get this same phone message saying "this is your captain speaking" many many times. I have been put through to a live person. Everytime I ask to please be removed from the callers list...but the person on the other end always hangs up. My solution???? Get out the hockey air horn and blast it in the phone, smile and go and have a glass of wine. :) but not before having a good laugh.

  • Alan
    September 25, 2011 - 09:11

    It's not just the Captain or recorded messages. I've spent a month swamped with multiple daily calls to all my numbers. The worst offender has been some crowd who tell me their records show I've been downloading a lot of files and data and appear to have picked up a virus. (A good trick, considering I had been staying in a place without internet access.) Every caller had a South Asian accent. Every caller disconnected as I said the words "federal do not call list". But the calls continued.

  • Willy
    September 24, 2011 - 15:15

    Yes, that scaly-wag the Captain should be keel hauled. We never answer the phone now unless we know who is calling, "must be the Captain" and I just lift the receiver and drop it.