The Internet of things is a dangerous world.
There are so many reasons why we shouldn’t connect random electric devices to the internet. There are security fears. Software could malfunction. The devices may not really add to your life in any meaningful way.
Or the company that makes your internet-of-things device could just decide they don’t like your tone and turn your device off remotely.
A customer of Garadget, an internet-connected garage-door system that can remotely open and close doors, recently found themselves locked out of their garage. This is because they left a one-star review of the $99 monitoring system on Amazon, and called it a “piece of shit” on Garadget’s support forum, according to Ars Technica. Responding to both actions, a representative for the company told the customer:
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.
It’s worth noting that 20% of the Amazon reviews for this product are one-star reviews. Later, Garadget responded to the forum thread, saying:
Ok, calm down everybody. Save your pitchforks and torches for your elected representatives. This only lacks the death threats now.
The firing of the customer was never about the Amazon review, just wanted to distance from the toxic individual ASAP. Admittedly not a slickest PR move on my part. Access restored, note taken.
When asked by other customers what the actual issue was, the company responded saying, “it was about badmouthing the product that I spent nearly 2 years working on.”
Whether or not one ascribes to the aphorism that the “customer is always right,” this situation does seem disconcerting for a future in which people are interested in buying internet-connected devices for their homes from startups. If they get frustrated setting then up, and complain publicly about it, that startup founder could just cut them off because they didn’t like their tone, or because they hadn’t entirely bought into the vision they had been trying to build for a garage-door monitoring system.
As Internet of Shit, a Twitter account that questions why everything needs to be connected to the internet, pointed out, it does seem that spending nearly $100 to make sure your garage door is always closed is perhaps not the most productive way to spend $100.
Some IoT devices are very useful. Being able to chat to a voice assistant like Amazon’s Alexa and asking it to turn on the lights or turn on the stove can be useful when your hands are occupied. But there are countless single-purpose internet-connected devices that really overcomplicate relatively simple processes, like IoT crock pots, bluetooth soccer balls, and internet-connected toilets. Just because we can connect something to the internet doesn’t mean we really should, and even when we do, it doesn’t always work as we’d like. Perhaps not every aspect of suburban life needs to be disrupted.