Dubai: Etisalat customers say they feel "cheated" by a promotion that claims they have a chance of winning Dh25,000 in cash.
"Lucky" potential candidates receive an initial text message from etisalat's 1000 shortcode number, asking them to text "win" back to the number. Customers are then sent basic general knowledge questions and pay Dh5 for each answer they send to be entered into a cash-prize draw.
However, many customers told Gulf News that they feel cheated by the promotion. After the first general knowledge question is sent, a continuous stream of questions is sent, encouraging users to spend more money entering the draw.
Sample questions from etisalat's latest SMS quiz
"I got this message on Thursday saying I could win Dh25,000 and I felt tempted because I'm broke and it was from Etisalat, A.A., who did not want to be identified, told Gulf News on Sunday.
"So I decided to participate. After the first message I got another message saying I had to answer another question. I spent about Dh20 on this and it's never-ending — I'm being cheated by etisalat. For poor people like me it's a rip off, etisalat is putting its credibility at stake by sending this kind of quiz. In the first instance they don't say you have to answer another question," the father-of-two said.
Wasif Ahmad works in advertising, and said that he thinks the promotion is a scam.
"I keep getting these texts from "1000" which is apparently an etisalat SMS number. Each SMS costs Dh5 and if you reply once it opens you up to a chain of such SMS's with silly questions. You are promised to win Dh25,000, which is supposed to happen daily but I have yet to see or hear that anyone has won. I replied once to the text and then saw it for the scam it was," he said.
Other customers Gulf News spoke to said they sent one SMS, then when they received the next message they realised they were being goaded into sending more money, and so did not send any more.
"I was one of the fools who tried, I think I spent around 100 bucks on Thursday until I realised it's probably a sham…Still receiving those SMS's…," T.S., sales manager, said.
Rawih A. Abeidoh, Dubai resident, said there have been many other such schemes in the region: "It's sickening... Cheapest trick in the world and must be fought and condemned."
Interviewees for this article spent a total of Dh1,005 on the "Send and Win" promotion.
On the etisalat promotion website www.sendandwin.ae the scheme is described as an "SMS-based Mobile Content Download Service where you can send an SMS in order to download mobile content (i.e. wallpapers). In addition you get a chance to win high value prizes through a Trivia Game" — this, however, is not explained in the SMS sent to customers.
Despite repeated attempts by Gulf News, etisalat was not available for comment on Sunday, but said they would issue a statement on Monday.
With each SMS one "virtual credit" is obtained to be used on the promotion website, plus 10 (or more) points to participate in the trivia game; extra points are given for completing challenges.
Have you received this message? Did you reply to it? How much have you spent on it? Do you know anyone who has won?