It’s been that time of year again, the season of goodwill and a time for giving, for caring, for understanding, and for tolerance. And for receiving…

So what did you get for Christmas? If, like me, you’re an O2 customer, then you will have received lots of text messages pimping out its ’12 Days of Christmas’ iTunes-related marketing campaign. 

Unfortunately, you’ll have received these messages whether you wanted them or not.

Now, I can deal with the cold weather, annoying consumers barging past me to seek out discounted high street treasure, and wall-to-wall bad TV. But I can’t deal with the fact that a mobile operator is unable or unwilling to remove me from its marketing list. It’s a marketing basic.

Everybody loves a giveaway, in theory, although you couldn’t pay me to download the freebies. I’d sooner choke on urea than listen to Snow Patrol, Robbie Williams or JLS. But the point isn’t about context and targeting, but simply that I asked O2 to stop sending me marketing messages months ago. I should never have received these messages in the first place. It’s spam, and after 10 consecutive days of spam I’ve had enough.

The messages themselves include the legally mandatory opt-out: “To stop SMS, text STOP to 81145”. The trouble is that O2 takes no notice of these texts.

Apparently (and oddly) the opt-out system “takes a few days to process”. Not so… I first texted the opt-out number on 1 September, and again in late December, and more recently I’ve been resorting to profanity. Has O2 really been ignoring customer opt-out requests for four months?

Anyhow, it turns out that I’m not alone. I checked out the O2 Twitter feed and noticed that Father Ted creator Graham Linehan has been complaining too. It looks like the issue is widespread. 

A deeper look at the bad noise on Twitter reveals that a hashtag has been created (#stopthespamtexts), and there are lots of complaints from aggrieved customers. Here’s a sample:

@eggboxrobin: Another day, another spam text from @O2. I’ve given up with saying ‘stop’. I suppose they think they’re above the law. Way to go!

@bradwarwick: I’m plotting to send @o2 a poo in the post for every unsolicited spam SMS they send me.

@utonador: @o2 how can I stop your daily spam texts when I am no longer a customer of o2? I can’t use the 81145 text number.

@thamuhacha: Daily O2 spam #o2fail

@gunzalis: Getting a little bored of the unsubscribe fail from o2’s January spam SMS.

@mholgate: 11am and another daily spam SMS from O2 with no way to stop it

@JohnyMoz: Yet more spam texts from O2 with lies about being able to opt out by texting 81145. I WANT TO OPT OUT GOD DAMN IT! @o2 #o2fail

@bradwarwick: @o2 STOP F***ING TEXTING ME YOUR IRRITATING SPAM!! How many times have I got to text stop and call your customer services?!

@thamuhacha: Is everyone else sick to death of O2 and their days of Christmas spam? Is each STOP SMS costing me money? #O2fail

@daveisanidiot: i don’t really need an #itunes12daysofchristmas text message from @o2 everyday.

@DanielBrydon: Huge @o2 fail. Keep getting marketing SMS daily. Have text 5 times to say “STOP” but they continue. 3rd call to CS- been lied to& hung up on

@hollyseddon: I have texted STOP to 81145 about 27 times and still #O2’s text messages plague me. Someone make them STOP! Please!

@alister667: @O2 #O2spam Arrrggghhhhhhh! LEAVE ME ALONE. I’ve texted stop to 81145 till I’m blue in the face. I’m leaving yer network because of this.

@nomagnolia: @o2 I want no more sodding texts about iTunes to 07789003093. Have texted STOP to 81145 repeatedly & I STILL GET THEM. STOP STOP STOP.

@chrispople: Aargh how do I stop these pissing O2 Free iTunes texts? I’ve tried replying STOP, texting 81145, AND STILL THEY COME!

@metabrew: I texted STOP to 81145 multiple times, stop spamming me with texts @O2! Don’t want your stupid iTunes freebies.

The takeaway here is that you need to get your house in order before launching a marketing campaign, especially an extended one like this, and more so when you have millions of customers. Some rudimentary checks should be done in advance (in this case the opt-out system needed to be tested). Customer services staff must be informed of upcoming campaigns and alert to any problems, which should be reported.

I have no beef with O2, which has provided me with a hassle-free service thus far. But any firm with an active Twitter account must be listening, and we know that the problem has been spotted. Why it hasn’t been fixed – especially in the face of customer fury and churn – remains a mystery. 

The last word goes to Felix Cohen, who directed the following tweets at the official O2 Twitter account:

When will the texts from @o2 end?! Why did they send them out? Awful bit of marketing.

RT @o2 Unfortunately it takes a few days for the opt outs to process. >> That’s incredible. WTF does it have to do that takes a few days?

@o2 could you please just end this crappy marketing promotion now. Enough already, jeez, I never asked for this shite to get sent EVERY DAY.

@O2 No response to my messages @ you over the weekend or this morning? Nice.

O2 replied (and remember that it can answer every single message it receives, if it wanted to):

@felix_cohen We get a lot of tweets in and so aren’t always able to reply – the iTunes 12 Days promotion is nearly over

Felix then told it like it is:

@O2 I’m so glad. How was it ever allowed to happen? Spammy texts, awful content, broken opt out. Way to treat customers like dirt.

It looks a little bit like internal communications at O2 are a little bit broken. If social media teaches us one thing, it is that customers expect service and action in the face of complaints. Inaction is insane.