Qatar residents shelled out a total of QR4.1 million (US$1.1 million) for 25 “special” phone numbers auctioned off for charity by Ooredoo late last week.
While the successful bidders said the easy-to-remember numbers – many of which featured series of repeating digits – would give them more “distinction,” many also noted that the auction was a way of raising money for several local charities.
A total of 37 number were up for grabs during the hour-long auction, which saw 25 numbers sold.
The most expensive phone number was sold for QR760,000 (US$208,791) and included the number 5 as well as the digits 7 and zero repeated.
The second-highest was sold for QR665,000 ($182,692) and consisted of 5 and repeats of 6 and zero.
The cheapest number was sold for the opening bid of QR50,000 ($13,763).
‘Here in Qatar, it’s normal’
The highest bidder was a businessman who told Doha News that “special numbers” give him “distinction” and help him build relations and improve his business.
Responding to the suggestion from others who say it’s a “ridiculous amount” of money to spend on a phone number, he highlighted that the money was going to charity and there’s “no cap on donations for a good cause.”
Similarly, another bidder – businessman Ibrahim Al Malki – told Doha News that he wouldn’t have participated in the auction if the proceeds were not going to charity.
He bought four numbers for approximately QR350,000 ($96,153) and planned to give one to his wife and use the rest for business and personal use.
Another buyer who asked to remain anonymous bought three numbers for around QR655,000 ($179,945) for himself and his family. He told Doha News that the special numbers could also be used as an investment and sold later for a higher price.
“People in Western countries might think we’re crazy for spending this much money on a phone number, but here in Qatar it’s normal,” he said, adding that it gave Qataris status and helped charities at the same time.
Extravagant cars, designer brands and unique license plates and phone numbers are a common way of flaunting wealth and gaining prestige and status across the GCC.
In April, buyers spent nearly QR10 million ($2.7 million) in an online auction, held by Traffic Department, for “fancy” license plate numbers in Qatar, following similar events in Dubai.
Last week’s event was the tenth time Ooredoo has auctioned off special phone numbers and raised less money than last year.
Residents shelled out more than QR30 million at the 2014, including a word record-breaking QR10.1 million for a single phone number, according to Ooredoo.
The previous record, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, was set in 2006 when the phone number 666-6666 was sold for QR10 million in Qatar in an auction held by Qtel, which was later renamed Ooredoo. The proceeds of these auctions also went to charity.
Despite the decline this year, Ooredoo told Doha News in a statement that it was very pleased with the results of this year’s auction, and the “generosity of our VIP customers.”
It added that the the amount raised was in line with previous years, which ranged between QR4 million and QR8 million:
“We hold these auctions regularly, and the results are often different because of the range of numbers available and how special certain numbers are, which affects the prices,” Ooredoo said. “Last year’s auction saw a record result in part because it was one of the largest yet held, but this most recent auction is also a success and hit our expected target.”
Proceeds from the auctions will go to, “a general charity fund, which is then distributed to humanitarian causes in Qatar, or as emergency aid for those in need around the world,” Ooredoo stated.
It added that the telecom firm works with many charity organizations in Qatar to help those in need, including the Sheikh Eid Bin Mohammad Al Thani Charitable Association, Sheikh Thani Bin Abdullah Al Thani Foundation for Humanitarian Services (RAF), Qatar Red Crescent Society, Al Asmakh Charity Foundation, and the Qatar Cancer Society.