Just ducky in voice mail hell

It could only be the duck. Ever since a New Jersey-based online brokerage added the sound of a duck quacking as an option on its voice mail, hundreds of thousands of people have been calling.

The chief executive of the National Discount Brokers Group, Chris McQuilkin, says business has never been better.

In August, NDB's automated operator started asking "If you would like to hear a duck quack, press seven." McQuilkin says a week later, eight people pressed seven. Now, the firm is getting nearly 500,000 calls daily - and paying $10,000 a day in 1-800 charges.

But McQuilkin says it's worth it. He says the exposure amounts to a hundred free television commercials.

And he says the number of people signing up with NDB has gone up nearly 50 per cent.

"It can only be our duck."

McQuiklin says NDB hasn't spent a penny in advertising the duck. Word has spread about their voice mail through the Internet and emails. McQuiklin says he recently received a call from the world champion duck caller offering his services. The CEO says he's considering the offer. But that would mean he'd have to tell the original quacker he's out of a job.

"It's been a pretty serious duck all along, although we have fun with it now and then," McQuiklin said.

The duck first became the company's mascot sixty years ago. The founder, Arthur Kontos, is an immigrant from Greece. "Every once in a while (he) found himself in a rich person's house," said McQuiklin. Pictures of ducks adorned the walls, and Kontos began associating ducks with wealth. It was from these visits that the logo was born.

In October, Kontos sold NDB for $1 billion.