Syed Faisal Ali | Arab News
Thursday 11 December 2008
Last Update 11 December 2008 12:00 am
JEDDAH: Pilgrims thronged the Saudi Telecom Company’s (STC) stalls in Mina during the past few days to avail themselves of the company’s latest offer for the pilgrims.
The marketing move — “Buy a mobile set free with a SIM card” — proved an instant hit with pilgrims from all over the globe. The set and the SIM enabled them to stay in touch with their near and dear ones during Haj.
The numerous outlets opened by STC in the tent city attracted huge crowds. One of the company staff said around 2,400 sets each with a SIM card were sold in one morning. The offer included a mobile handset with a SIM loaded with a talk-time worth SR50, for just SR150. The offer turned out to be very attractive for pilgrims, particularly for those who did not bring their mobile sets.
“It is quite attractive. There are many pilgrims who came here without mobile sets and realized how important this device is during Haj. I have bought four sets. One for my use and three more for my family as gifts,” said Yusuf Al-Harbi, a Saudi pilgrim from Western region.
“I got a mobile set with SIM loaded for just SR150. With this I can stay connected with all my friends and relatives,” said Abdullah Muallaim, from Yemen.
The STC was open to bargain too. They offered a SR10 discount to those who were either pushy or really persuasive. Officially, the STC says the price is fixed at SR150, but there have been instances when the customer walked out of the shop with the set and SIM for SR140 only. Arab News learned of this bargain from the buyers and some outlet vendors, who did not wish to be identified.
The rush at the STC shops was not only induced by this offer but also by clients seeking to recharge their mobiles. Those selling recharge cards of different denominations were also doing brisk business here. In some cases, prepaid phone cards were being sold at higher price much to the confusion of consumers.
At departmental stores or eateries, the attendants offer the pilgrims SAWA cards for a minimum of SR105, with some others stores selling them for SR110.
“This happens every year during Haj,” says convenience store owner Abdullah Al-Ghamdi. “Usually we buy the SAWA cards for between SR96 and SR98. But now we get them at a flat rate of SR100 because of a shortage of cards.
“This is the time to make money. You have got the Haj pilgrims in town for anything from a week to a month. You also have the local residents who are on holiday, and on Eid day everybody makes a lot of phone calls and sends text messages,” Al-Ghamdi said.
An STC official, Mustafa Al-Shamri, told Arab News that the company has nothing to do with these price hikes. It sells the cards, issued by its head office in Riyadh, through approved agents across the country.
“The role of those authorized distributors is to sell the cards to thousands of retail outlets all over the country for a specific commission,” he said.
There may, however, be some authorized agents who stock large quantities of SAWA cards and sell them at a premium of 13 to 15 percent.