Police step in as crowds besiege mobile phone stunt

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 March, 1999, 12:00am

Police were called to Mongkok yesterday as hundreds jostled to collect free lunches handed out in a publicity stunt by a mobile phone company seeking new customers.

The shouting and shoving for cup noodles and health drinks became so intense that police told Hongkong Telecom to stop handing them out.

Officers said boxes of the gifts stacked on the pavement were causing an obstruction in Sai Yeung Choi Street South. A Telecom spokesman later apologised.

The lunches, offered in Mongkok and Causeway Bay, were just one gimmick as companies wooed customers on the first day that they could transfer their phone numbers to a new network.

The number of people applying to change companies was below the predicted 10,000, but firms said they were happy.

While Hongkong Telecom promoted its free lunchtime calls, People's Phone gave out bananas and New World handed out phones for people to test its service.

All six companies - Hutchison, Hongkong Telecom, People's Phone, Sunday, New World and Smartone - opened earlier, some by 8.30am, to meet anticipated demand.

A New World shop worker said they had expected queues yesterday morning, but by lunchtime only about 10 people had asked for free trials of its mobile phone.

'I think people want to be sure before they switch companies and they are taking their time to check out different packages,' he said.

Sunday, which has bombarded television viewers and MTR commuters with advertisements, attracted large queues to its promotion in Times Square, Causeway Bay.

Two customers said they had waited a long time to change companies as they thought their rival packages cost too much.