You are unwanted: Student business offers humorous text rejections
You: “Who’s there?”
Girl you just met: “You have been rejected by TextReject.com. Rejection hurts. Ouch.”
Denial has joined the digital world in the form of TextReject.com, a website started by two engineering students from Washington University.
Philip Thomas, a senior and systems engineering and physics double major, and Andrew Hess, a junior and systems engineering and computer science double major, have revolutionized the art of rejection through their new site.
Thomas and Hess were inspired to start the site after a trip to Steak ‘N Shake during fall break this year with a female friend. A man next to them in line asked whether either boy was dating her before proceeding to ask the girl for her number.
“And she gave it to him…because she didn’t know what else to do,” Thomas said.
In the car on the way home, the conversation turned to the old method of phone rejection, the Rejection Hotline, which is a number that, when called, responds with a recorded voice message telling the caller he had been rejected.
Hess and Thomas noted that this method was outdated considering the advanced technology of phones these days.
“People don’t really call each other anymore—now it’s texting,” Hess said. “We realized there wasn’t a way to do that, no new format for it.”
Two days later, the website was born.
The two boys rented numbers with area codes from St. Louis, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Users of the site can provide a suitor with a rented number with the appropriate area code and then get away. Upon a text from the suitor, the program will wait five minutes and then send back a prefabricated response. After a second response from the suitor, the program will generate a random rejection response, revealing the suitor has been a victim of TextReject.com. The text conversation is then automatically posted to the website.
The rejections are meant to be humorous, including knock-knock jokes, roses-are-red-violets-are-blue love poems and even an occasional “meow.”
“We change them up all the time. We did holiday ones and, for Election Day, election rejections,” Thomas said.
Text Reject can also reject romantic hopefuls who choose to call instead of text. An automated message plays when the number is dialed, announcing that the caller is “unwanted” before hanging up with a curt “bye.”
Although Text Reject can come in handy for that awkward guy or girl at a party who asks for your number, the co-founders emphasized that Text Reject shouldn’t be used as a last resort when approached by someone potentially dangerous or threatening.
“If it’s an issue of safety, you should contact the police—this is for entertainment value,” Thomas said. “The future of the website is less as a service and more as for entertainment.”
After some quick success and recent media coverage, including an article in the St. Louis Business Journal and a soon-to-be-published one in the Riverfront Times, the boys decided to submit their idea to the engineering school’s Discovery Competition. They were named one of the top 20 finalists and desire to come out winners, hoping that the prize money will help them expand their business.
“We’re looking into getting into different cities, which is really easy, but I’d like to see us work on cities we already are in,” said Hess.
Some students are excited about the service.
“I think it’s a really good idea because [if] creepy people come up to you and you don’t want to say no, you won’t have to give them your number,” sophomore Karen Gitlin said.
“I have a girlfriend, and I always feel bad rejecting girls to their faces,” senior Ari Sunshine said. “So I’d probably use that if I could.”
Others feel that the service may be a little mean-spirited or that it’s not feasible on a university campus.
“I’d probably give them a fake number…I think the rejection thing is a little harsh,” sophomore Leslie Liberman said.
“I guess I would use it if it were a totally random person but not someone that goes to this school or that I might see again,” junior Kara Hunersen said.
In terms of the painful effects of rejection, the founders said that they are open to suggestions, including a recent one for a harsh reject line or a light reject line which would allow users to pick a line according to how abrasively they wanted to reject a suitor.
“This is one of the things that started off as a 48-hour project, so now we’re kind of seeing what happens,” Thomas said. “The sky’s the limit.”