Sainsbury's sexy SMS job ad causes complaints

The supermarket's plan to advertise by text message for new jobs causes offence, but does attract applicants

A text message advertising jobs at a local store was sent by Sainsbury's to hundreds of people in Stockport, telling them that the sender needed them and couldn't get enough of them. Some recipients believed that their partners were being unfaithful. Sainsbury's has now apologised. They obtained the mobile numbers through TMP, a direct marketing agency. The job ad read: 'I wnt u, I need u, I cnt get enuff of u.'

The supermarket chain used the message as a way of advertising 400 jobs at a new store in Hazel Grove, according to reports in the Daily Mail.

The text message continued, "Sainsbury's is recruiting at a new store" with Stockport Job Centre's number. Within minutes, the job centre was bombarded with complaints.

Camille Bentley, Media Officer at Sainsbury's, said the mobile numbers were obtained from a list compiled by people who had downloaded ring tones. Sainsbury's was targeting the 19 to 23-year-old age group. "Sainsbury's is always looking at innovative ways to communicate job opportunities. This text message recruitment campaign was undertaken with best intentions, aimed at students and young people using a lighthearted, fun approach. It has been a success. We have had 80 inquiries in the two days before the ad was withdrawn."

Claire Clayton, a 25-year-old Benefits Agency worker, was angry and worried because she had no idea where the supermarket obtained her number. She told the Stockport Express "I do not shock easily but when I got to the Sainsbury's part I was a bit concerned."

"I don't think they should do that but I am more anxious about where they got my number from."

Stockport Job Centre's spokeswoman, Linda McGee, said: "I was not aware that a text message was being sent out and if I had seen the content it would not have gone out in that form. Sainsbury's has apologised to me and my team."

Cyber rights advocate Yaman Akeniz told ZDNet UK that "if data has been collected unlawfully they can be fined by the Information Commissioner's Office."

Helen Langdon at the Information Commissioner's Office said, "This is a widespread practice. There are a number of things people complaining could do. They need to write to the Information Commissioner's Office with full details. They can contact ICSTIS (Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services), which regulates the content and promotion of premium rate telephone services. Finally they could contact Oftel, the UK regulator for the telephone industry."

A Sainbury's spokeman said: ""We apologise if it has caused concern and we withdrew the text as soon as we received the complaint. This was a trial and we will look at whether we'll do this again."

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