back to article AT&T Idolises promotional texting

US operator AT&T decided to let customers know about American Idol by sending a "significant number" of them a text message about it, without asking first. The show is sponsored by AT&T, and was among the first in the US to screw more cash out of viewers by text voting, but until now it's not been promoted by text message, and …


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  1. Andy Worth

    Bullshit from AT&T

    An unsolicited text message IS spam whether they like it or not. The simple fact is that these customers never chose to opt IN to receive these messages and will have to explicitly opt OUT in order to stop receiving them.

    I'm not sure which part of that AT&T reckon is not spam.

  2. David

    What title?

    "Operators themselves rarely stoop to such measures, for fear of exactly the kind of backlash that AT&T is now experiencing."

    Rubbish, I get at least 3 promotional texts from Movistar (subsibiary of Telefonica) a week.

  3. Gulfie
    Thumb Down

    Great Business Ploy

    So lets get this straight. AT&T send messages to subscribers but don't charge for delivery.

    If the subscriber wants to stop the messages (as I'm sure many will want to) they have to send a text asking them to stop. For which they have to pay for?

    So AT&T develops a marketing strategy whereby it can push adverts to subscribers (and charge the advertiser) and then make more money when people decide they don't want them. And of course you'll have to opt out of every single campaign. Brilliant, who thought that one up? Bonuses all round!

  4. Jon Lawrence


    I expect to get sms from my operator informing me of 'their' new products or changes to my service.

    I wouldn't expect to receive ANY unsolicited sms's if I we had the ludicrous situation here where we had to pay to receive texts.

    If I wanted to receive texts about crap on tv I'd ask for them. For AT&T to say it's not spam is ridiculous.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phone books

    Genuine query here - am I allowed to go through the phone book and cold call people to see if they're interested in my products? From what I'm aware, I always ALWAYS tick the "don't contact me" but still get occasional phone calls from randoms who I have had no prior contact with (recorded messages mostly). I understood that you could add yourself to some register that opts you OUT, but there is and has never been an opt-in service for marketing calls.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    do not want

    "The use of text messages for promotional purposes is tightly controlled in the UK"

    Really? Why do O2 insist on sending me spam about their latest deals then? They've never once asked me if I mind.

  7. g e

    @Phone Books

    That'll be the TPS - Telephone Preference Service (correct?) also the MPS for postal junk coming through your letterbox.

    As I understand it they send refreshed databases to marketing co's containing donotcall data (or donotmail). I always use both and get next to no crap by phone or mail, when I moved house and registered my new phone/address all crap had ceased within a quarter :o) It''s free free to register.

    Shameless plug... If you want a handy tip on a method of dealing with cold callers from contact centres then read one of my mad rants @ (I think, from memory, the corp network here bars livejournal!), LOL

  8. Paul Berry

    @Anon Cow

    Your provider can and will contact you about offers and services. It's almost always a condition of your having a service with them. It's not spam as you're their direct customer.

    And yes, companies in every industry are conspicuously ramping up the volume and aggressiveness of their marketing and sales. So expect to be contacted by any means :(

  9. Anonymous Coward


    "Operators themselves rarely stoop to such measures, for fear of exactly the kind of backlash that AT&T is now experiencing. "

    Horeshit. T-Mobile continually send me bollocks despite all my attempts to stop them. I'm in the UK and my number is registered with The TPS! They must think thta, just because they are my carrier, they have a right to royally piss me off.

  10. Lionel Baden


    All i get is 1 msg a week telling me how much free calls i have left but can have that stopped and all !

    I am happy.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    @Paul Berry

    "It's not spam as you're their direct customer."

    If I don't want it, it's spam, regardless of whether I'm their bloody customer or not.

  12. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: Eh?

    "....T-Mobile continually send me bollocks....."

    Is that like ASCII line-art or an actual picture of their bollocks?

  13. Sooty

    is anyone else

    struugling to see how the american companies managed to slip in paying to recieve texts? i could understanda flat fee, as part of your contract, but how do you justify being charged for something you have no control over?

    anyway, o2 do the same thing here, send out loads of junk, it's just that it's their junk not ads for other things

  14. Wade Burchette


    I'm on AT&T and I didn't get any text messages about American Idol. Neither did my mom who shares a plan with me. But then again, I was smart enough to de-select all options under the "My Profile" settings. Seriously, it isn't hard to find and change. Maybe instead of slamming AT&T for doing what every other company on God's green earth does, you should spend 2 minutes making sure your profile is correct.

    (P.S. The reason I'm glowing about AT&T right now is they are replacing my broken Blackberry for free and since I told them I was going on vacation Monday, then bumped up the replacement to overnight shipping for free.)

    (P.P.S. Seriously, everyone should check their profile for your on-line accounts. If you have an on-line account with a big company, they will have opt-in to several stuff by default. None are immune, whether credit card or mobile phone companies.)

  15. Michael


    "struugling to see how the american companies managed to slip in paying to recieve texts?"

    Because they somehow managed to convince the general public that 180 characters costs them the same as a minute of mid-range long distance. How I will never know...but if people actually understood computers, they'd realize that I could store every (text only) transmission for a entire year on my hard drive. That does not cost them 25 cents to both send AND receive

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @g e

    The best suggestion I heard for dealing with cold callers was to reply to the "Have you got satelliteTV/double glazing/mobile phone/etc. question with 'Yes, but before we discuss that can I give you some Good News about Our Lord Jesus Christ'". It's great when telemarketers hang up on *you* :)

  17. Dave

    Paying for Texts

    Paying for text messages follows on naturally from the way the US mobile (cell)phone market developed. Because they stick the phones into the normal number range, there's no way in advance that a caller can tell they're calling a mobile, so it's not reasonable to charge the caller. This is why in the US you pay to receive calls on your mobile, compared to the UK where you know in advance that you're calling a mobile because it starts with 07 and have been deemed to agree to get ripped off.

    Charging for incoming text messages is only a small step from that, simply because US punters are used to paying to receive stuff. As a side effect, it makes things like Twitter more viable, because there's scope for them to do deals with carriers to send loads of messages for very low cost because the carriers are at least getting money from the recipients. Twitter stopped sending text notifications in the UK some time ago for cost reasons.

  18. jake Silver badge

    Typical of marketing.

    Piss off the people who are smart enough to not want the product that you are pushing, thus ensuring that not only do they not watch the program, but they get a negative view of the advertiser WITHOUT having to view the obnoxious TV ads. Brilliant.

    Seriously ... The slack-jawed mouth-breathers who watch the heavily scripted and over produced so-called "reality television"[1] are ALREADY drooling over the new season, they don't need to be told about it. The rest of us are carefully programming around it, and in fact most people I know don't watch ABC/CBS/NBC/FOX at all ... network TV is a vast wasteland.

    [1] Do you really think the FCC would allow a real "reality TV" to air? And if they did, do you think the networks would run the risk of actually showing it? If your answer is "yes" to the above, all I can say is that they've got your number, haven't they ...

  19. Christopher Ahrens

    @Anonymous Coward (Eh?)

    "T-Mobile continually send me bollocks despite all my attempts to stop them. I'm in the UK and my number is registered with The TPS!"

    Did you remember the three cover pages? Didn't you even read the memo?!

  20. jake Silver badge

    Cold calling

    "The best suggestion I heard for dealing with cold callers"

    I try to tick 'em off, or get them to cry.

    My favorite is "You should become a (male)prostitute. At least then you'd get paid to please people, instead of what you are doing now, getting paid to irritate people" ... If it's a non-profit, I ask 'em why they are driving a third-hand 15 year old Escort, while their boss is driving a new Mercedes ... As long as you don't swear at them or call them names, they aren't supposed to hang up. Get creative! They telephoned you uninvited, you might as well have fun with them. Your phone, your rules, right? The more people who employ this tactic, the sooner the problem goes away.

  21. Chris C

    re: is anyone else

    "[H]ow do you justify being charged for something you have no control over?"

    This is the US. Haven't you learned by now that the US government and powerful corporations (certain software companies, oil companies, telecom companies, banks / credit cards, etc) can do anything they want without having to justify it?

    But if you want a serious answer, I'd say it's because people have no choice. It's either A) pay for every text message sent and received (either per-message, as a separately flat-rate monthly fee, or as part of your plan), or B) don't get a mobile phone. And with the alarming disappearance of pay phones, you pretty much need a mobile phone now, even if only for emergencies. Ten years ago it wasn't too bad for emergencies because you could get a plan for as low as $20/mn (granted, that was only for 20 minutes of talk time). Now the lowest plan I can find is at least $40/mn plus taxes and fees (this includes the pay-as-you-go plans I've seen which require you to purchase minutes, but then those minutes expire whether you use them or not). It's similar to why people stay with Comcast despite their illegalities and deception -- we have no choice if we want faster-than-dialup internet access (a lot of the US, even suburbia, doesn't have any form of DSL available yet).

    But, back to your question -- "[H]ow do you justify being charged for something you have no control over?" I think the more important question -- in a different industry but the same principle -- is how can you justify being arrested and charged (in the legal sense) for something you have no control over (receiving an SMS of a (semi-)nude picture of a 15-17 year old)? Again, this is the US. Government and corporations don't need justification. They'll do whatever they want. After all, what are the sheeple really going to do -- wait for another election, vote the current idiots out, only to realize that most politicians are the same, that they don't care about their constituents, and only care about those who line their pockets?

    But don't worry. With the way the US likes to push (read: force) it's ideas and laws onto other countries, the rest of you will probably adopt the same scheme(s) at some point in the not-too-distant future.

  22. chris

    I've worked with these people...

    I've worked and played with these people, I have a deep and considerate understanding of their thought processes.

    The only solution is to CUT THEIR GOOLIES OFF.

    Right off

    Chop chop

    No more problems.


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