Security

IoT company bricks customer's device after negative review

Garadget, which offers an internet-connected garage door opener, recently denied a customer access to its server after he left a negative review. Here's how to respond in a more professional manner.

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Image: iStockphoto/marchello74

In a shining example of what not to do when you own a company, Garadget, which sells internet-connected garage door openers, recently bricked a customer's device after the customer left a negative review for its product.

On April 1, a customer calling himself R. Martin, left a strongly-worded comment on the company's message board after encountering some issues with the device's associated mobile app. Martin's comment read: "Just installed and attempting to register a door when the app started doing this. Have uninstalled and reinstalled iphone app, powered phone off/on - wondering what kind of piece of s**t I just purchased here..."

Martin also left a one-star review on Amazon, as noted by Ars Technica, urging other customers not to "waste their money" on the product and claiming that the company hadn't "performed proper quality assurance tests." In response, Garadget publicly bricked Martin's device by killing its connection to the company's server.

SEE: Internet of Things security: What happens when every device is smart and you don't even know it? (ZDNet)

Garadget founder Denis Grisak's full response was as follows:

Martin,

The abusive language here and in your negative Amazon review, submitted minutes after experiencing a technical difficulty, only demonstrates your poor impulse control. I'm happy to provide the technical support to the customers on my Saturday night but I'm not going to tolerate any tantrums.

At this time your only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund. Your unit ID 2f0036... will be denied server connection.

After another user pointed out that he thought it might be illegal to brick a customer's device, Grisak responded by saying that bricking didn't technically occur, but that Martin was "just denied use of company servers."

The whole situation blew up, going viral on multiple websites. Grisak responded in the forum, stating that he was just trying to gain "distance from the toxic individual ASAP." Grisak also linked to a tweet from Tesla founder Elon Musk, referencing the time that Musk personally canceled a blogger's Tesla order after a rude post about the vehicles.

The Garadget situation highlights the concern that users should be raising when purchasing a product that solely works with the parent company's service. With many devices increasingly dependent on the cloud, customers are at the mercy of a company going bankrupt or, as the Garadget fiasco demonstrates, a business owner who wants to cancel their service on a whim.

For businesses, what happened between Garadget and its customer is an example of the wrong way to react in that situation. When you own a business like this one, part of your core mission should be helping paying customers figure out what's wrong or winning them back from a negative opinion, not carrying out a service-denial vendetta based on your personal feelings.

For all Grisak knows, Martin could have been planning to stick with the service regardless, and maybe could have been convinced to purchase the next iteration of it. This is another simple truth in business: Some people just like to whine.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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