And Finally

Shown the door

A consumer activist smashes Siemens fridges

Shown the door

Not a satisfied customer: Luo

“Fatty” Luo Yonghao is an internet celebrity and founder of the popular site, which had a reputation for criticising government policies until it was shut down in 2009.

And now Fatty is back fighting a new battle – this time smashing up fridges.

Specifically, he’s been sledgehammering a series of refrigerators made by Siemens in China, especially those that he says have doors that come open after being shut, requiring an annoying second tap to close.

It might seem like a small thing, but “many things have trivial beginnings,” Luo insists – and it seems that others have had the same problem with their Siemens purchase.

“This time, China’s bitterly oppressed consumers will enjoy their rights,” Luo vowed on his blog.

The uprising began on September 27, when Luo’s fridge and washing machine, both made by Siemens, started having problems in the same week.

Fed up, Luo posted the news on his weibo and was deluged with similar complaints from readers who felt that their own fridge doors weren’t shutting properly either.

Luo took the complaint to the company, casting himself as the representative of a wider community. But he was dissatisfied with the response, which he said failed even to admit to a problem with the product.

So Luo began blogging, tweeting and calling around, recording at least one phone conversation and putting it up on his blog (

In taking on the German multinational, Luo has shown a tenacity not dissimilar to the bull after which his original blog was named. He also seems to relish the confrontation, teasing an unnamed public relations executive on the phone call recorded on his blog with: “You’re a big international company and not the mafia, you can’t kill me, what are you going to do?”

Then on November 20, Luo put his fuller frame to use, as he and half a dozen others smashed fridges for assembled photographers outside Siemens HQ in Beijing.

Afterwards, they carefully swept up all the broken glass and metal.

By then Luo’s campaign was starting to get the attention of Siemens’ top management.

In a letter which Luo posted on his website and which he says is from Roland Gerke, president and CEO of Bosch and Siemens Home Appliances China, the company noted that “a very small number of fridges have this problem”. The problem will be solved “next week,” Gerke’s letter to Luo promised.

The next day Luo thanked Gerke for his “good attitude” but listed six points not yet dealt with to his satisfaction. He then gave Siemens another week to fix things, or said he will organise another fridge-smashing event at the 798 arts district in Beijing, complete with complimentary hammers for participants, as well as tea and cakes…

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