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Samsung’s response to a customer whose phone caught fire only made things worse
A company fans the flames that resulted from a serious design flaw.
Damage control is a tricky thing: One wrong move can make a small crisis exponentially worse. Such is the case for Samsung, which moved to suppress YouTube evidence that its Galaxy S4 smartphone can catch fire for no reason at all, only to have the original poster call the company out for it in a second video that received five times as many views as the first.
Samsung had itself to blame for the initial clip as well. In it, YouTuber ghostlyrich remarks that the company had demanded proof that his new phone was indeed defective before they would agree to replace it—they just didn’t expect him to share that evidence with the world. We get a few closeups of the charred and melted charging port, along with an alarming hypothetical: The battery could have exploded, resulting in a much worse fire.
Ghostlyrich soon received a settlement proposal from Samsung that promised he could exchange his fried phone for “a similar model,” but on several conditions. He would have to delete his YouTube video, promise not to upload similar material, officially absolve the company of all liability, waive his right to bring a lawsuit or other legal complaint, and never make the terms of this agreement public. A witness would also have to sign the form.
Sounds airtight, doesn’t it? But Samsung didn’t anticipate that ghostlyrich would twist the knife by conveying to his subscribers what steps the manufacturer was taking to brush a serious safety concern under the rug. Now almost half a million people have seen that Samsung won’t provide the services outlined in their warranty until you sign some more rights away.
That should be a valuable lesson to businesses everywhere: You may be able to get away with selling a product that burns a few apartments down, but trying to censor whomever publicly complains about it will provide a crash course in the Streisand effect.
Oh, well—when does the S5 come out?
Photo via Ghostlyrich/Facebook
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'