Monday, February 6, 2017

Adventures with STC

Before I went on vacation in December I bought a new data sim for my home Wi-Fi router as my current data plan was due to expire while I was on vacation. The idea was that I would have Wi-Fi when I got back to Riyadh after my vacation; just slip in the new sim and I’m good for another 4 months.

Things didn’t work out quite as I had planned. The new sim didn’t work because it needed to be registered with STC under my name and under my fingerprint. So I took myself off to STC (Saudi Telecomms Company) and asked them to please register the new sim under my name. They politely declined because I could not produce the invoice for the sim. Evidently there are concerns about black-market sims. They suggested that I visit the STC counter at Jarir Bookstore where I bought the sim. Further, STC had changed their system whilst I was on vacation; henceforth no one is allowed to have more than two sims registered under their name. I had three registered under my name: my personal phone, my work phone and my Wi-Fi sim. After some discussion I told the clerk to delete all but my personal phone sim. Fine, he said, allow 2 days and it will happen.

Three days later I returned to Jarir and they also would not register the card due to the lack
of an invoice. Customer services at Jarir were pessimistic about the chances of me getting a duplicate invoice but they gave it their best shot. After about an hour they discovered an invoice that may have been the one we were looking for. The helpful clerk went off to print said invoice, only to return ten minutes later with the news that he couldn’t print the invoice due to their printer being out of ink and no ink being available. Did I mention that Jarir is the largest stationery chain in Saudi Arabia? The clerk suggested that I return the following day when we could take another shot at printing the invoice.

Next day we were back at Jarir. The clerk I had dealt with the previous day was not there (or maybe he was hiding from me) and the new clerk couldn’t figure out how to locate the elusive invoice. Eventually I gave up and decided to just buy another sim and write off the SAR300 I had spent on my December sim. I went to the counter where I had purchased my previous sim and got sent to another counter. There I was given the sealed card and sent to queue at the STC counter again. While I was waiting, another clerk came to fetch me and told me that they had located the invoice.

Actually, they hadn’t located the invoice but the clerk had a lengthy discussion with the STC employee who eventually agreed to activate my card even without an invoice. I queued up yet again and eventually I was told that I still couldn’t register the card due to still having two cards registered under my name. The clerk suggested I return to STC.

So I took myself back to STC. Did I mention that the average waiting time for service at STC is around 90 minutes? The clerk at STC was very sympathetic but told me that the unwanted sim was marked for deletion but that I would just have to wait. Rather grumpily I stalked out of the branch.

Some days later my colleague Pieter also needed to visit STC and offered to have a go at sorting out my issue while he was there. He told me that there was a huge crowd at STC and the mood was ugly. There were businessmen who had fifteen or twenty numbers registered on their names as they supplied their workers with phones. One large gent was escorted off the premises by security when he became unruly.

As luck would have it two senior STC managers were present at the branch that day and Pieter had a lengthy debate with them. They told him that under the new rules it would probably take between one and two months to delete my unwanted sims. Pieter rather inflated my status and position at the university and an urgent email was sent by the managers to their head office asking them to give my case urgent attention. That was about two weeks ago.

A couple of days later I noticed that my phone data and air-time were running rather low so I went to my banking app to top up airtime as I usually do. This time it didn’t work – the link is down, said my phone. I tried again today to convert some of my airtime to data only to be told that due to error 4996385r this was not possible. Repeated attempts also failed.

So now I sit with no WiFi at home, about 20meg of data on my phone and about SAR 35 of airtime and no way to recharge.

30 May 2017 - Update
Around the middle of April I spoke to the STC consultant at the university. Radi, my colleague and friend accompanied me as translator. This individual told us that the only way to get the surplus sim deleted from my account would be to visit STC Head Office. Accordingly, later that week, we visited the Head Office in downtown Riyadh. After the standard wait of around 90 minutes I got to speak to a consultant who was able to delete the unwanted sim in under five minutes.

Two days later, filled with optimism and joie de vivre I again visited Jarir to register my data sim. All went well until I registered my fingerprint and the computer reported that I already had too many sims on  my iqama. My protestations that I only had one number fell on deaf ears and I was once again obliged to withdraw, defeated.

I again visited STC head office and after the standard wait spoke to a consultant. When he attempted to register my data card the system informed him that my card was invalid and had expired. So we consulted his superior who told me that all the cards in the batch where my card originated had been cancelled and invalidated. He then attempted to register a new card on my account only to be told by the system that I already had too many cards under my name. He then did a nationwide search using my details and confirmed that I had only one number registered under my name. At this I was advised to consult with CITC, Communications and Information Technology Commission who would investigate my issues. This is the government department who could solve my problem.

I sent an email to CITC outlining the highlights of my five-month saga and they replied with a link that I needed to follow in order to register my complaint on their website. The first thing I was directed to do was to submit a written complaint to STC (using the CITC system) and allow fifteen working days for a response. This seemed to be a pointless exercise but as I had no choice I did so. Within a few days STC replied that I had too many cards under my name and they advised me to have the surplus cards removed!

I then forwarded my complaint together with STC's reply to CITC for their speedy action. That was about three weeks ago and I am still eagerly awaiting feedback from CITC. Using
their own system I have confirmed that only one card is registered under my name. I also have emails from the other service providers confirming that they have issued no cards to me. A small notation on the back of the data card I have been trying to register warns that I must use the card before the middle of July. An email I sent to CITC querying the status of my complaint remains unanswered.

So here I am, five months down the line and still trying to register and use the data card I bought last December.


  1. Doesn't it make you feel like you're right back st home? PS : you misspelled "stationery"

  2. Welcome back to the Magic Kingdom! Are you still in Riyadh? I am......I'll probably never leave **maniacal laughter**

  3. As of today, I am still waiting for STC to delete my unwanted SIM...