Sunday, December 20, 2009

Procedure for replacing lost SIM card in Saudi

Several months back, I had written an article about telecommunication system in Saudi Arabia (Click here). To give a quick recap, there are three telecom operators in the kingdom - STC, Mobily and Zain. The market leader, due to historical reasons, is STC. Most expats prefer to buy 'SAWA' card, the prepaid chip from STC due to the lesser hassles of paperwork.

As has been mentioned several times in the past, as long as everything works smooth in paradise, nothing will go wrong. But things DO go wrong and horror of horrors, no one knows where or whom to approach to when they do go wrong. Which was why this blog was started in the first place. One such issue is when you have a prepaid SAWA card, as most expats do, and the unthinkable happens - you lose it! Ask me, I have first hand experience!

Well, the first thought which would come to your mind when you lose your SIM card is obviously to contact 902. Rule # 1: Don't expect a friendly operator to pick up the phone and answer your call! After going through the machine-recorded ordeal of STC's latest promotions and offers, you are lead through a series of buttons you have to press. After half a dozen options, when you finally press the button for prepaid mobile phones, you are greeted with a recorded message - no surprise - "Please use your own mobile to make your complaint". Oh dear! Why would I make a complaint if I had a mobile with me in the first place?

The next thought which would come to your mind would be to go to the nearest STC outlet, right? Wrong! STC have opened sales outlets in several places which work till 10 pm, but when you lose your SIM card, none of these outlets can help you. After visiting a couple of them, the truth realized on me that these outlets are, as the name suggests, only sales outlets - nothing more, nothing less. You have to personally go to the STC's customer service office in your town.

My next destination was the STC customer service office. Their office works only between 9.30 am to 2 pm, Saturday through Wednesday - so much so for customer service! Okay, after undergoing the embarrassment of asking time off from my boss, I finally made it to STC's office on a weekday. After about 45 minutes of wait in the queue, I got my turn. I explained to the guy in the reception my problem and he kept nodding his head all the while. I thought that I was through, but it took me some time to realize that I got it all wrong. My problem was not my losing the card. My latest problem was that I knew only English and this guy knew only Arabic! Excellent communication in a telecom company!

Finally after looking around, I got hold of a friendly Bangladeshi janitor who did the role of a translator cum mediator between us. Just when I thought that my problems had come to an end, I realized that they had just begun.
I was told to go to Arab National Bank, pay SR50 and then bring the receipt back to STC. Oh dear! Why don't they just take the 50 riyals and be done with it? I asked the guy whether I could pay this amount online in my own bank - after all I pay my monthly phone bills online. The answer was a big NO. You've got to pay ONLY in Arab National Bank! By then it was already time for the afternoon prayers and I thought it was best to come back another day!

So, I had to undergo the same ritual of asking time off from my boss (who looked at me like a worm!) and proceeded to Arab National Bank. I filled in the cash deposit form for SR50, stood in the queue for about 20 minutes, and finally when my turn came, the cashier tells me that I have to fill in another form specifically meant for STC and not the usual cash deposit form. Don't tell me! The cashier gave me a concession, though. He said that I could come straight to his counter bypassing the queue, after filling in the right form. Thank God for small mercies.

After wading through the piles of forms, I finally got someone to help me out with the STC form. No surprises, every single word in the form was in Arabic! So, after getting a Saudi to fill in all the details, I finally paid the money and went back to STC triumphantly - afterall half the battle is won, isn't it?
No, how wrong I was. There was a shortage of SIM cards and I was supposed to come and try another day. I almost had a heart attack and the image of my boiling boss came to my mind! Drained of all energy, I went back to the same Bangladeshi janitor and asked him for a favor. I wanted his mobile number so that I could enquire the availability of SIM card in the office before coming. He took pity on me and gave me his number.

This morning I called up the janitor (who was more helpful than any of these customer-service guys) and I was asked to come urgently. So, hopefully for one final time, I approached my boss and before he could reach for his gun, quickly left the room to reach STC! An hour and a half later, I finally got the replacement SIM card. No, my problems aren't yet over. I was told that the card would be activated after one hour. Well, it is almost going to be a day as I write this post, but at least I have the SIM card in my mobile - never mind that it doesn't work still!
So, to make the story short, here is the summary when you lose your chip:
1. Go to Arab National Bank, fill in the form in Arabic and pay SR50.
2. Find out from the STC customer service center whether and when the SIM card is available
3. Take a copy of your iqama (for verification) and the receipt for SR50 which you paid in Arab National Bank.
4. Get the chip and after putting it in your mobile, enter the PIN number. Now wait........don't ask me how long, I don't have an answer for that.
While waiting for my turn in STC office, I did some fact-finding. For those of you who are on exit and want to surrender your landline as well as DSL connection, you have to first find out your balance amount from STC, go to any bank (yes, you read it right, ANY bank) pay the amount and bring the receipt to the STC customer service office. Fill in only the landline form (not DSL form) for cancellation and hand it to the counter along with the bank receipt and you should be through.
Hope the above post was useful.


Peter said...

Expatguru, you just hit the nail on the head! I know how exactly you feel as I too underwent the same. Keep up the good work!

Zakaria said...

A Bangladeshi teaboy was my translator at the Hajj office where everyone spoke Arabic. A Bangladeshi janitor was my guide at the Motor Vehicle Dept of Riyadh(Maroor) after I got into an accident.
Seems like applying for a US Green Card is simpler than applying for a replacement SIM card from STC. No guidelines whatsoever.
Great work from you, Expatguru.

Expatguru said...

Thanks, Peter and Zakaria. Looks like every expat has had such an experience over here.

S.A. நவாஸுதீன் said...

Excellent Post. Keep it up sir.

RAK said...

I guess it is high time everyone quit STC. I had the experience of losing my Mobily SIM card; I expected it would be difficult to get it back. I got on the customer service number, who blocked the SIM card for me and instructed me to go to the main outlet on Olaya Street, next to Kingdom Tower. I was surprised when I got in and out of the Mobily office in 10 minutes with a replacement SIM card.

Anonymous said...

Ukmitra wrote:
Well, that was in 2009. Blessing has come in paradice, effecive Nov 2009, SIM are available in abundance. STC has also changed a lot with lot of their business lost to Mobily and Zain.

Nabaa said...

was the replacement the same number as your sim card or was it a new number ?

Expatguru said...

It was replaced with the same number.

Abraham T Mathai said...

respected sir i am working as a staff nurse in saudi hospital.i need to resign from the job due to illness.i singned contract for 3 years but now i complete 16 months and i need experience certificate. so how much i want to pay for breaking contract and for experience certificat.

Expatguru said...


There is no need to pay anything for breaking your contract. But you need to give 30 days' notice in writing to your employer and he will arrange your exit papers.

Zaheer thinks said...

I lost a dual sim phone both zain and mobily. Could you please help me witht the process. One belongs to me and the other belongs to ky bro in law
.. help