March 20, 2014

Scammer gets his comeuppance via the complete works of William Shakespeare…by text



When Edd Joseph of Bristol discovered he’d been scammed by a guy who sold him a PS3 console online and never delivered, he turned to literature. Not for solace, though — as ammunition.

Joseph was casting around for ways to get back at his scammer, and he finally hit on one that costs him nothing, is extremely annoying, and perhaps best of all, weaponizes Shakespeare (which is as good as, but different from, weaponizing cats — that we’ve covered here): he copied and pasted the Bard’s complete works off the internet and texted them to the seller. Because they can only be delivered in 160 character chunks, that means the seller’s been receiving an almost non-stop series of texts since last Thursday, when Joseph started his barrage.

Joseph has an unlimited messaging plan (though never has an unlimited messaging plan probably been tested as this guy’s testing it) and for each play, all he has to do it is copy the full script, hit “send,” and his phone service divides it into individual messages. A Bristol Post report estimates that the “37 works of Shakespeare will buzz through in 29,305 individual texts.” Joseph is apparently also deliberately scheduling the texts for the middle of the night, for “maximum disruption.”

This is a very British revenge: cryptic, torturous, educational. In keeping with his method, Joseph has expressed only the most benevolent feelings towards his target. When he started getting angry calls back from the scammer, he said that “I tried to ask him if he was enjoying the plays, but he was very confused.”

And ultimately, he hopes he’s doing him some good: “If nothing else I’m sharing a little bit of culture with someone who probably doesn’t have much experience of it.” (Ouch.)

This is genius: it’s like those Poem-A-Day features, if the daily poem was divided up into tiny nonsensical sections and meant to induce feelings of persecution and despair instead of transcendent, Basho-induced calm. Or an Intro to Shakespeare seminar taught by a mad professor who demands that you read it all — all!— before they’ll entertain any of your callow opinions.

But maybe the greatest part about this stunt is how it seems applicable to other life situations, with the help of Project Gutenberg. Jilted? Text your ex all 302,115 characters of the Burton translation of the Kama Sutra so they remember what they’re missing. Hate your landlord? Crime and Punishment is 204, 229 convincing words long. Simply bored? Your real friends won’t mind receiving the Collected Works of Anthony Trollope.

In the meantime, someone in the greater Derby area’s got 154 sonnets and Henrys IV, V, VI, and VIII — not to mention The Rape of Lucrece — to get through.


Sal Robinson is an editor at Melville House. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.