Honey and vinegar: a tale of Samsung, HTC and divergent PR strategies

Habib Tannazi just wanted a working phone.

After returning to the WIND Store for the umpteenth time, the Maple, ON native was tired of being told that his HTC Amaze, which had stopped working twice already, was still being looked at. Worst of all, the WIND employees in who he put his faith did not seem to know where his phone was, or how long it would take to get him another replacement.

So Tannazi took to Reddit’s Canada subcategory to voice his frustration. He asked for advice, and updated the growing number of thread subscribers to what was happening. After returning to the store with the loaner phone, for which he had put down a $60 deposit, he discovered that a young WIND Mobile employee had actually entered into the system that he had returned it, pocketing the money in the process. Tannazi didn’t want to get the kid in trouble, but he certainly wanted his money back, especially after being knocked around for nearly six months without his original phone.

After waiting in limbo for a few weeks, a member of HTC’s PR team caught wind of the Reddit post and messaged Tannazi about potentially providing him with a new device. They settled on an HTC One, which the company sent him along with apologies for his troubles. Though the fault was with WIND Mobile — the Amaze was still under warranty — HTC saw an opportunity to make things right and potentially keep a customer. While Tannazi hasn’t decided whether he’s going to leave WIND, things are looking a lot brighter.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Richard Wygand, whose terrible experience with Samsung’s PR has garnered national attention. The Vancouver native woke up last week to a strange corrosive smell, only to discover his Galaxy S4 had been charred overnight. Turns out the included AC adapter — regulation and from the box — had overloaded the lithium-ion battery, coming close to starting a fire.

Wygand called Rogers to sort out the issue, who recommended Samsung itself would provide an expedited experience. After contacting the OEM’s Canadian office, the company asked him to provide video evidence, which was put on YouTube and has since attracted over a million hits. In exchange for a new phone, which Wygand was entitled to, Samsung reportedly issued a document requiring him to remove the video from the sharing site and to stop publicizing the incident. While this is standard practice in the industry, Wygand feels it was heavy-handed and inappropriate given all he had been through.

After receiving the letter, which he refused to sign, Wygand posted yet another video on YouTube, expressing his dismay at the company’s actions. While Samsung has since offered to replace his device, and actually sent one to Wygand’s residence, which he promptly denied, the snafu has thrown Samsung into a negative light.


Nokia, seizing on the opportunity, contacted Wygand over Twitter and offered him a brand new Lumia device, which he has decided to accept. While he hasn’t sworn off Samsung products indefinitely, Wygand claims that the company, who has experienced problems with its removable batteries in the past, needs to sort out its quality control issues.

The two scenarios speak to the type of will, both good and bad, big companies can offer. HTC has long been considered an underdog, though at one time was the leader in Android sales in North America; Samsung, on the other hand, has grown to be the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, and has a considerable presence in Canada, both in terms of marketing and market share. Samsung may have thought it was doing the appropriate thing, asking Wygand to take down an inflammatory and likely-damaging portrayal of a very unlikely, and uncommon, smartphone nightmare, but they underestimated the power of social media. YouTube has long been an outlet for protest, and Wygand’s familiarity with the medium — he stands and talks in front of a camera — meant it was his first and only stop. The videos have since gone viral, being covered by Mashable, Global News and others.

HTC, on the other hand, was able to turn a potential negative experience, though on a much smaller scale, into something that may turn a few skeptics into potential buyers.

Obviously, Samsung isn’t the only company to have had issues with batteries — Apple has had its fair share of charred iPhones over the years — but treating the situation with honey rather than vinegar would have likely resolved this situation much faster, and without the burning.