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Mon 23 Nov 2009 04:00 AM

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Why I h8 junk txts

Joanne Bladd explains why she's taking a stand against telco companies.

Twice last week, I was woken in the early hours of the morning. Once at 2am, and once at 3.45am. This was not because my house was burning down, or because one of my nearest and dearest had suffered a mishap – in my book, the only two really valid reasons for hauling me into wakefulness at such ungodly hours. No, it was because a certain telco (as the UAE has a duopoly, you have a 50/50 chance of guessing who) decided to spam my phone with junk texts.

In the UAE, one of the perks of not having daily post is the lack of junk mail. When I moved here I was delighted to see my house didn’t even have a letterbox. Excellent, I thought. An end to the sad piles of junk mail gathering dust in my hallway. No more luminous, badly-written leaflets plugging the merits of double-glazing. Forget the glut of charity pamphlets pleading with me to save a donkey in Outer Mongolia.

You see, in the UK, removing yourself from a mailing list is nigh-on impossible. Even dying won’t crack it. A reported eight pieces of junk mail are sent out each month to a dead person in Britain; twelve if they lived in Surrey. But I had thought moving continents might help with the deluge; especially when my destination was a country without postcodes.

I was wrong. Now, I am just blitzed with offers by phone. And it drives me crazy. Shops I have never visited send me weekly updates on the merits of their stock. ‘Sale!’ they bellow. ‘Limited offer of 40 percent off crockery!’

In the last month alone I have been offered cheap spa treatments (for men); cut-price tyres for my car and – my personal favourite - a 15 percent discount on steam cleaning for my carpets. How did I ever get on this list?

For me, the worst offenders are the telco companies. Each text is sent multiple times, in English and Arabic, and usually in the wee hours of the morning. To paraphrase BT, it might be good to talk - but not at 3am.

Of course, this is symptomatic of a wider problem. Increasingly, you can’t buy a pack of gum without being interrogated for your personal details. I tried to buy a pair of sunglasses recently – with cash – but was stalled at the checkout when I refused to hand over my mobile number. No one could explain to me why the act of buying a pair of overpriced plastic glasses obliged me to answer questions such as; ‘What is your combined household income?’

Obviously, I know why. It’s so my data can then be flogged to the highest bidder, who will torment me with texts before selling my details on to another tenuously-linked company so it can do the same.

But my worry is that so many of us oblige with this demand for intimate information. Shoppers meekly hand over sensitive data on the slightest pretext; mainly because we don’t want to cause a fuss, or hold up the queue behind us. Oblivious, we fill out feedback forms –largely composed of questions that have nothing to do with the service received – just because a blank-faced waitress told us to.

Well, I am taking a stand. In the manner of a secret service officer, I’ll refuse to divulge any information unless someone in uniform (by which I mean police, not McDonald’s staff) is requesting it. Join me. Your phone – and sleeping patterns – will thank you for it.

Joanne Bladd is the deputy editor of Arabian Business English.

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Ali 10 years ago

You are absolutely right. Etisalat is driving me nuts with its text messages, many at 3am. What are they thinking? Probably they don't think! This must stop.

Sandjockey 10 years ago

I have contacted Etisalat more than once about these obnoxious text messages and have asked numerous times for them to remove me from any list. Of course, I'm always told it isn't their doing but the act of some nefarious company who is illegally using my phone. They even tell me this when I tell them that many of the messages are from THEM. In order to defeat this "enemy" I have devised some simple steps. While I abhor having to take these steps they really are the only way to get peace and quiet. 1. At night I turn off all phone notifications except the phone. This ensures I will not be bothered by any of those silly text messages 2. When, at checkout, I get asked for my mobile phone number I never provide it. If they insist and tell me they cannot complete the sale I will encourage them to enter their phone number. 3. I also make it a point of asking the checkout clerk or manager for their mobile number. When they ask me why I tell them it is so I can call and bother them at a later time. That usually solves the problem. SJ

Huzi 10 years ago

The worst part is most of the spam i receive is in Arabic and I've never subscribed for arabic text. Even Etisalat sends me text in Arabic. I hope I'll not receive junk from you guys on my email mentioned in posting this comment.

Hanan 10 years ago

Well simply, I keep my phone on silent at night and secondly, if a text msg looks like those store or telecom promotions, I delete it immediately. Problem solved! And yes, in the future, I will be more selective as to who I give my contact numbers to but believe me, these people can buy your numbers from your telecom I was told, also, if you are in a shopping mall and have your bluetooth on, then can send you messages on your phone without knowing your number.

Amira Smith 10 years ago

Putting your phone on silent is the obvious solution (although irritating - can't they just stop sending the texts?!) But the problem is that if you, like me, are a seven-hour flight away from your family, it's hard to quash that niggling fear that if something happens, you'd be uncontactable for however many hours. Possibly neurotic, but it does mean I tend to leave my phone on overnight.

Adam 10 years ago

I have to disagree with the comment about junk mail in the UK. We registered with the Mail Preference Service (and Phone Preference Service) years ago and only extremely rarely do we get any junk. As for phone texts in Dubai, my (already low) opinion of the phone companies gets lower each time they spam me. Since you can't argue with them, the solution (and I know this won't go down well with many these days) is to turn off your mobile phone at night. Anyone who needs to get in contact with me urgently has my home phone number. You've got to remember who is the master....your mobile, or you !!

Manish 10 years ago

Why do you bother giving them your valid number when you know that you may end up on a SPAM list. Just give them the mobile number for the person you hate the most...(like an ex-employer or boyfriend/girlfriend) and pass on the trouble to someone else, or you can pass give them the mobile number of your favorite telco employee and let them deal with it. ;)

MD 10 years ago

This is a simple solution to avoid being woken up at night. Most mobile phones offer this option. Sorry, I don't have any solution to prevent Etisalat and Du from spamming us!

Chris J 10 years ago

It seems that not only are the duopoly bad at sending spam, but even worse are the estate agents who attack our e mail boxes non stop with property details.

Juliette 10 years ago

I tried calling the phone company after they woke me too many times in the middle of the night. The person on the line said there was nothing they could do about it. "So I just have to live with the fact that your company is harassing me during the night?" Not surprisingly the answer was a simple "Yes". Ok, I understand that the person on the line couldn't resolve my issue, but I am not impressed with the fact that she couldn't put me through to someone with a solution. The problem is bad at night, but should I also just turn my phone off during the day, after all, if I added the time checking smses that I didn't care about, I could probably put this time towards something more useful.