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Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 debacle is far from over

Galaxy Note 7 unpacked
If you’re one of the millions of people who bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, you’ve been walking around with a ticking time bomb in your pocket. Your amazing, super smartphone has a faulty battery pack that can spontaneously combust in a flash of smoke, searing heat, smashed glass, and bending metal. Your Note 7 could explode in your hands while you check Facebook, against your face during a phone call, or next to your bed while you sleep at night.

You’re probably wondering where or how you should sign up to return your Note 7 or get a refund. Well, don’t ask Samsung. Although Samsung did issue a recall, it has been poorly organized, poorly communicated, and even more disastrously executed. Samsung finally called for an end to Note 7 sales and permanently halted production on October 10 — one month and 10 days after the first reports of exploding devices. Why did it take 40 days for Samsung to take the drastic measures required to protect its customers?

A long string of failures

At first, Samsung called on all Note 7 owners to return their phones immediately, but failed to offer much guidance on how to do so or what to do while waiting for a replacement Note 7, which might never arrive. U.S. carriers including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile stepped in to offer Note 7 buyers the option to replace their Note 7 phones with a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. Some even offered full refunds or exchanges for devices around the same price point. However, each carrier offered different options, so customers got a different story from everyone they talked to. Samsung wasn’t much more helpful, and the best you could do was a phone call to customer support.

The continued production, sale, and advertising of the Galaxy Note 7 for 40 days after the first explosion was indefensible.

Then came the Consumer Product Safety Commission with its full U.S. recall. The CPSC declared that Galaxy Note 7 owners could get a full refund or exchange and advised customers to go to the store where they bought the Note 7 to resolve the issue. Again, it wasn’t easy or clear for anyone and Samsung failed to step up.

Finally, Samsung set a date for the arrival of replacement Note 7 phones. Happy customers picked up the “safe” devices and went home. Then, the replacement phones started exploding.

As of October 10, Samsung, and every major U.S. carrier, has now ended sales of the Galaxy Note 7 and will no longer sell replacement Note 7 devices. You would think Samsung would stand up, apologize profusely, and shepherd its loyal customers through this dark time with clear communication, assistance, and replacement devices. It has not.

And nearly two months after Samsung first issued its recall of the spontaneously combustible handsets, it still has no real answers as to why they were catching on fire in the first place. On Sunday, a spokeswoman for the South Korean phone maker told the Wall Street Journal, “We recognized that we did not correctly identify the issue the first time and remain committed to finding the root cause. Our top priority remains the safety of our customers and retrieving 100 percent of the Galaxy Note 7 devices in the market.”

Now, it looks as though the next flagship phone from Samsung, the Galaxy S8, is being delayed as a result.

Samsung owes customers clear instructions, and an apology

The continued production, sale, and advertising of the Galaxy Note 7 for 40 days after the first explosion was indefensible. The fact that Samsung has yet to apologize to its customers properly or offer meaningful assistance in the return, refund, and exchange process is incomprehensible. It’s time to get serious, Samsung. Your reputation and the security of your most loyal users is at stake.

I’m telling you this because I love the Note series. I loved the Note 7 most of all, and that’s what makes this loss so crushing. There are millions of people who feel the same, and you are letting us down. Here’s what you need to do.

Change the Galaxy Note 7 landing page into an apology letter — don’t just redirect it to your Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge promotion page. After all, Note customers are your most loyal fans, right? You built an empire off their love for your giant phablet series, so treat them with a scrap of respect. After you grovel publicly, include a call to action. Say, “We care about our customers’ safety, so we implore you to return your Note 7 today and get a Galaxy S7 Edge for free. Here is your shipping label.”

Keith Pierro/Gold & Gold, P.A
Keith Pierro/Gold & Gold, P.A

At the very least, redirect it to the recall page, which took you nearly a month to update. For 20 days the recall page ignored the fact that replacement Note 7’s were exploding, too, and mentioned that “safe” replacement units were coming to stores. That is not okay. It is wrong and reckless.

Also, acknowledge that some of your customers won’t touch a Samsung phone with a 10-foot pole and explain that full refunds and exchanges for other phones are available. Then, tell your customers how to get that refund easily. Sync up with carriers and every other retailer who sold your phones to get the right info out there, so the return, refund, and exchange process goes smoothly. Don’t hide it.

Don’t stop there

Samsung, you need to turn every Note 7 ad into a public service announcement, asking users to return their Galaxy Note 7 phones immediately. Give them a simple five-step plan on how to return the phone and get a new device. Blast an email out to every single Samsung customer who registered a Note 7 with the same info.

In early November, Samsung announced that it would be making it practically impossible for customers in New Zealand to use the handset. “From the 18 November, customers still using the Note7 will no longer be able to connect to any New Zealand mobile network services to make calls, use data or send SMS messages,” the company said.

“Numerous attempts by all providers have been made to contact owners and ask them to bring the phones in for replacement or refund. This action should further aid the return of the remaining handsets,” said New Zealand’s Telecommunications Forum chief executive Geoff Thorn in response to the announcement. “Anyone who is still in possession of a Samsung Note 7, please return it to your service provider as soon as possible.”

The Galaxy Note 7 may be dead, but the Samsung brand doesn’t have to be buried with it.

If you stand up for Note fans everywhere, we’ll be with you when the Note 8 comes back bigger and better than ever before. But so far, you’re doing everything poorly and showing very little care for the people who paid nearly $1,000 for your phone.

Get it together.

Updated on 11-04-2016 by Lulu Chang: This article was updated to reflect that Samsung has banned the Note 7 from mobile network connections in New Zealand. 

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Malarie Gokey
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As DT's Mobile Editor, Malarie runs the Mobile and Wearables sections, which cover smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and…
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