Feasibility of a ridiculous texting prank?
November 25, 2009 7:28 PM   Subscribe

What is the potential risk, and legality, of my idea for a prank: sending the entirety of Romeo and Juliet in text messages to a friend.

The Prank Idea: using my iPhone I managed to copy the entirety of Romeo and Juliet into a text message. In total, this encompasses around 920 160char text messages. (it might be removing something at the end- no big deal, though). Send them all to a friend early in the morning.

The Disclaimer: I understand that this is a very stupid prank. I probably won't do it until I can be sure I would come to no nasty trouble, nor anyone else for that matter. I just want to know- if I did, how bad of an idea would this be? Would I get disconnected? Fined? Give me all the details.

The Etc.:
-I'd be sending over 900 messages in sequence over AT&T's network. Sounds terrifying already.
-I have unlimited texting.
posted by Askiba to Technology (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does your friend have unlimited texting? Because if not, s/he will end up having to pay for any overage.
posted by axiom at 7:29 PM on November 25, 2009

Um. Does your friend also have unlimited texting? That would be the first question to answer, I think.
posted by hwickline at 7:30 PM on November 25, 2009

Does your friend have unlimited texting? Is your friend likely to find it funny?
posted by R343L at 7:30 PM on November 25, 2009

You might want to check if that unlimited texting deal has a fair or reasonable use policy attached to it. If it does, AT&T might frown on a 900-text spam flood from your phone.
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:33 PM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your friend pays $.10 a text message, that's over $90. If they have a 500 message/month plan, that's at least $40. Respectfully, I don't think it's that funny.
posted by box at 7:34 PM on November 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

In what order might your friend, (paramour?), read the received messages? Consider sending it backwards so that the last message received, and likely the first read, is in fact the beginning of the play.
posted by geekyguy at 7:35 PM on November 25, 2009

It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:42 PM on November 25, 2009 [49 favorites]

Does your friend use their phone for any kind of work purposes, being on call, stuff like that? Because I can imagine this might lock their phone up for a while with all the messages coming in. It could also fill up their available space meaning they'd have to delete them and wait for more to come in then repeat, all of which would mean any legitimate messages caught up amongst it would be lost. My first instinct after a few messages would be to turn the phone off until I'd figured out what was going on, particularly early in the morning. All this could potentially be problem if they actually needed their phone to be functional for some other reason.

Other than that I'm guessing at least some of it depends on the sense of humour your friend had. If anyone did this to me I'd be complaining to the phone company, but everyone who knows me knows how little I use my phone and how much I frown on anything like spam. Presumably you know your friend well enough to know what their tolerance is for stuff like this.
posted by shelleycat at 7:42 PM on November 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Unlimited texting for them, too. Should have clarified.
posted by Askiba at 7:42 PM on November 25, 2009

The first few texts won't make sense. Every one from then on will probably make friend dislike you a bit more. Plus the whole dollar value question everyone already said.
posted by Babblesort at 7:43 PM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I presume they (friend) know your number. Do you have an extra $90 to throw away?
posted by dukes909 at 7:43 PM on November 25, 2009

If a friend did this to me, I'd go broke from texting fees, and I'd cry.

I'm already broke though, so if your friend has a reliable job and/or trust fund, and all of the above issues are cleared...I wouldn't think it was funny.

Now. The entirety of Romeo and Juliet typed onto postcards? (with a typewriter, or computer printed out and taped on!) Or handwritten?

Absofuckinglutely do that and I would love you forever.

But, that's a lot of postage.
posted by bilabial at 7:49 PM on November 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

No. This sounds so much cooler than it actually would be. By the time they can tell what it is, they'll just be trying to stay on top of deleting the messages.

One a day for the next three years? Maybe.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:56 PM on November 25, 2009 [4 favorites]

My phone runs out of space after around 200 text messages. I don't know what mine would do if this happened. Maybe just send her 20-30 separate messages of a passage that you especially like (or is relevant to the situation).
posted by kylej at 7:57 PM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I also agree that you need to read your contract carefully because I've never seen any unlimited plan that's really unlimited. Otherwise spam would be rampant. A vague statement about reasonable use is enough to shut this down, particularly if you send them all at once. What would suck is if the limits on 'unlimited' somehow end up applying at the other end and your friend ends up getting stung (I don't know how likely that is, the idea of paying to recieve a message is profoundly weird to me). Your contract may also have info about what happens when you break the acceptable use policy, if not the website of your carrier probably does.
posted by shelleycat at 8:00 PM on November 25, 2009

Since you and your friend both have unlimited texting, it won't cost either of you any money, but it will probably end up being confusing and annoying (with that many messages coming in rapid succession, chances are they will arrive out of order).

I like crabintheocean's idea of sending one every day. Now that sounds romantic.
posted by amyms at 8:02 PM on November 25, 2009

Well, thanks all for giving me and my friends a good set of giggles.

Not planning on doing it now. It's more funny as an idea. But if I ever need to disable someone's phone or make them broke I'll keep this in mind. (KIDDING!)
posted by Askiba at 8:07 PM on November 25, 2009

I guess I'm in the minority here, but I think it sounds funny, especially if the text has some meaning for your two.

That being said, it needs just a little more planning before pulling the switch.

What kind of phone does your friend have? Do you have another friend with a similar phone that would be willing to help? Send the second friend all of the texts and see what happens. Is it funny at first and hella annoying five minutes later when you realize that the phone is bricked for the next five hours? Will ATT throttle your messages after 100, effectively ruining the bit. Will the receiving phone just start dropping messages at some point?

Do a test drive. If it still seems like a funny joke after that, then you can pull the switch.
posted by ericc at 8:07 PM on November 25, 2009

If your friend's phone memory gets filled, will your friend still be able to receive messages? I have friends whose inboxes are sufficiently full that they often have to delete messages in order for their phone to work properly.

If your plan does shut down your friend's phone, how easy would it be for your friend to delete 900 texts?

What sort of prank do you have in mind? Is this like a bachelor party prank where the idea is to cause some playful inconvenience to your friend? Or is it meant to make your friend smile and laugh?

I think your plan would work great for the bachelor party type prank, but the idea of one text a day for three years would be far better for the smile type prank.
posted by surenoproblem at 8:09 PM on November 25, 2009

I have Tmobile and on their website they have this clause under their terms and conditions:

16. * Misuse of Service or Device. You agree not to misuse the Service or any Device, including: (a) reselling or rebilling our Service; (b) using the Service or Device to engage in unlawful activity, or engaging in conduct that adversely affects our customers, employees, business, or any other person(s), or that interferes with our operations, network, reputation, or ability to provide quality service; (c) tampering with or modifying your Device; (d) "spamming" or engaging in other abusive or unsolicited communications; (e) reselling T-Mobile Devices for profit, or tampering with, reprogramming or altering Devices for the purpose of reselling the Device; or (f) assisting or facilitating anyone else in any of the above activities. You agree that you won't install, deploy, or use any regeneration equipment or similar mechanism (for example, a repeater) to originate, amplify, enhance, retransmit or regenerate a transmitted RF signal. You agree that a violation of this section harms T-Mobile, which cannot be fully redressed by money damages, and that T-Mobile shall be entitled to immediate injunctive relief in addition to all other remedies available.

I'm sure that your cell phone agreement has a similar clause.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:11 PM on November 25, 2009

Maybe if you just e-mailed them a line (/however much) a day for a really long time. And offered no explanation. And pretended to have no idea what they're talking about any time they ask you about it
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:15 PM on November 25, 2009

I pay 20 cents per message received, so that's $180...
posted by massysett at 8:22 PM on November 25, 2009

I think the postcards idea would be a lot better, to be honest. A deluge of post on one day, would have the recipient WTFing for the first one or two until they got it, and it would be something they'd almost definitely smiling at. Picture a less lethal version of the Hogwarts acceptance letter scene from the first Harry Potter book (aerial paper cuts ahoy!).

You have good intentions — it's unfair for people to be having a go at you when, obviously, you're asking for advice before you do it — but practically speaking things will, as aforementioned, turn into a bit of a nightmare. Even on a smartphone — I have an iPhone, but if I got hundreds of huge texts it'd be buzzing non-stop and if I was waiting for an important phone call/e-mail I'd probably cry. A series of e-mails could work, but still potentially tricksy considering that I'd probably just LOL and delete them. So, I vote for something physical and permanent.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 8:28 PM on November 25, 2009

Where I live no-one pays for receiving text messages (I still think that's a weird setup). I did this years ago (remember the brief flourishing of free web-to-sms gateways) with some random text-porn story from the net. I stopped after about 20 messages, and the recipient thought it was bloody hilarious.

I think 900 messages may be OTT, but that's about the only real problem.
posted by pompomtom at 8:33 PM on November 25, 2009

900 messages is too much for this to be funny, brevity being the soul of wit, etc.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:38 PM on November 25, 2009

Yeah, this doesn't seem like much fun.

Instead, you could start an alternate reality game for them alone with anonymous texts directing them into moving small sealed packages from a to b and trading dumb items for other items. Possibly putting an "X" with masking tape on the side of a certain mailbox or other similar signals. Maybe make her your geocaching cat's paw.

Throw in some vaguely Lovecraftian references to explain why everything needs to be done promptly and correctly.

The final drop could be a surprise party.
posted by codswallop at 11:36 PM on November 25, 2009

Instead of trying to send them at basically the same instant, use AT&T's web interface for SMS and send them out like one SMS per minute or something. Could be easily scripted.
posted by floam at 11:39 PM on November 25, 2009

Why not just parse this idea down to a song? Easier (for you), less likelihood for banning and funnier.

And have I got a suggestion for you...
posted by darlingmagpie at 12:05 AM on November 26, 2009

i don't know if you were worrying about copyright when you mentioned "legality" in your question, but romeo and juliet is in the public domain.
posted by anthropomorphic at 12:30 AM on November 26, 2009

Now that this is pretty much resolved I would like to note that I did a double take at the first couple of answers to this question. I keep forgetting how people in the US pay to receive a text message, which seems completely ridiculous to me. It's usage which you essentially don't control (the sender does), so shouldn't this be illegal?

Not to hijack the thread, but I just can't ignore my unending amazement at this policy.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:33 AM on November 26, 2009

900 texts of Shakespear? Not Funny.

900 texts full of blank space? Hilarious!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:19 AM on November 26, 2009

It say it depends on the phone your friend has. If they have a modern phone which stores messages in threads most of the concerns that have been raised do not apply.
posted by phil at 9:23 AM on November 26, 2009

Aside from possibly locking up their phone, it'd probably freeze yours if you did it all in one go, too.
posted by autoclavicle at 1:34 PM on November 26, 2009

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