Following our report chronicling the treatment of two Indian bloggers attending the IFA trade show in Berlin, Samsung has issued a response to the accusations that it forced bloggers to operate as Samsung representatives against their will.
In its statement, Samsung highlights that its voluntary community of Mob!lers (the program in which the two bloggers were taking part) are always free to choose the activities they complete and at no time are they forced.
But what’s interesting is the notable difference between the statement and what was contained in the personally-addressed section of an email to Clinton Jeff, one of the affected bloggers. The email from a Samsung representative states specifically (emphasis added by TNW):
“I would like to reach out to you and deeply apologize to you for your experience in Berlin at IFA. We put you through undue hardship and we are trying to rectify the situation.”
Samsung has suggested an in-person meeting between the company and Jeff in order to work toward a resolution. But the statement from Samsung reads quite differently, chalking up the whole thing to “a misunderstanding”.
Samsung’s full statement:
Samsung Mob!lers is a voluntary community of active Samsung mobile device users, who are offered the opportunity to participate in our marketing events across the world. At these events, all activities they undertake are on a voluntary basis. No activities are forced upon them.
We regret there was a misunderstanding between the Samsung Mob!lers coordinators and the relevant blogger, as we understand he was not sufficiently briefed on the nature of Samsung Mob!lers’ activities at IFA 2012. We have been attempting to get in touch with him.
We respect the independence of bloggers to publish their own stories.
Notice what’s missing in the public statement? The entire section admitting fault to Jeff. Here’s the full email, for context:
Originally, Samsung had approached Jeff, of Unleash the Phones, and another blogger who asked to remain nameless, alerting them that they had been chosen as winners of a contest and given Mob!ler perks.
This meant that they would be flown out to IFA 2012 in Berlin, Germany and booked into a hotel at Samsung’s cost, to cover the launch of Samsung’s new products (where the Galaxy Note 2, the Galaxy Camera and new Smart TVs were announced). Jeff says that it was made abundantly clear to Samsung that they were independent bloggers and did not want to become brand ambassadors for the company.
When offered the choice of whether he’d like to attend as a reporter or as a promoter, the offer was accepted only if he was allowed to do so as a reporter.
Before arriving in Berlin, the two bloggers were given minor tasks to complete, such as posing in front of local landmarks to promote the Mob!lers program. Shortly after they landed, however, the line between reporter and promoter was blurred when Samsung representatives alerted them to the fact that they would “have to be in uniform, in the Samsung booths, every day. Showing the products to members of the press.”
“This was really a shocker. For a month before departure we were continuously reminded that we were being sent to IFA to cover the launch of the Note 2, every little detail was taken care of and we were even updated on a daily basis with the situation of the stay , tickets etc.”
When the bloggers alerted the representatives to the fact they hadn’t agreed to be “booth babes” and would not be a part of the company’s promotional activities, they were then told that their hotel booking and return tickets to India would be cancelled, if they didn’t agree to wear a Samsung branded shirt at its Unpacked event, and not blog about the incident.
“None of this should leave Berlin. Or reach India,” a Samsung representative told the duo.
The bloggers did attend the event and wore the T-shirt, not knowing whether they would be able to get home without doing so. In the end, Nokia ended up offering to take care of their hotel and flights, ensuring that they would be able to stay in Berlin and cover the event in greater detail.
TNW’s Matt Brian was instrumental in the publishing of this post.