Epic: Kindle 2 Fails Man's Drop Test, Forces Amazon To Pay Him $400

Paul bought a Kindle 2 from Amazon. He dropped it one day, and it sort of broke but not entirely, and Amazon wanted $200 to replace it. Instead, he got them to send him a $400 check, while still keeping the device. How?

Paul is generally speaking a very smart cookie, plus he went to law school, so he sent them a very strongly worded letter noting that Amazon falsely indicated the device’s durability in a video (embedded here) that shows it falling to the ground unharmed and he would be willing to settle the matter for a payment of $400 ($200 to cover his replacement fee and $200 for incidental mucketymuck). He told Amazon they had 30 days to agree to his settlement offer, after which point he would file suit. Twenty days later, Amazon sent him a $400 check.

This is the amazing letter he sent them:

Paul Gowder
[Address omitted]

August 12, 2009

Amazon.com Inc.
Legal Department
1200 12th Avenue South
Suite 1200
Seattle, WA 98144-2734

Dear Sir or Madam:

On June 21, 2009, I purchased an Kindle 2 e-book reader from the Amazon.com website. I purchased this device based, in substantial part, on the expectation that it would be reasonably durable. In particular, I expected that it would be approximately as durable as is ordinary in the consumer electronics market.

Amazon.com advertises the Kindle 2 on the basis of its durability. Notably, Amazon.com displays a “drop test” video on the web page for this product. That video displays the device being dropped twice from thirty inches onto what appears to be tile. That video displays a fall with sufficient force that the device visibly bounces, and deliberately creates the impression that the device will function after impacts similar to that sequence of drops.

Despite those representations, the Kindle 2 is far less durable. On July 26, 2009, I dropped a messenger bag containing the device onto the sidewalk, from approximately two feet above the ground. It was dropped only once, and the messenger bag absorbed enough of the shock that nothing else in the bag, including a Macbook laptop, suffered any damage whatsoever. (Unlike the drop displayed in Amazon.com’s video, for example, nothing actually bounced.) Moreover, there was no visible damage on the exterior of the Kindle 2. Nonetheless, the Kindle 2 became completely unusable, with over 50% of its screen no longer able to display any text.

I called Amazon.com support and was told that, because of the accidental drop, you would not be willing to supply a replacement device under warranty. You did, however, offer to sell a new device at a discount, for $200.00. I took advantage of that offer under protest, and explicitly reserved my rights to bring a claim against you based on the unreasonable fragility of the device and the misrepresentations in your advertising. It is that claim that forms the subject of this letter.

I am prepared to offer an immediate settlement of my claims against Amazon.com for a payment of $400.00. That sum represents the $200.00 replacement fee I paid plus $200.00 to compensate me for the diminution of utility and value of the device as well as of the e-books I have purchased for that device, in light of the fact that the replacement device, too, can be expected to be far more fragile than advertised and prone to destruction under the slightest stress. This offer expires thirty days from your receipt of this letter. If you do not accept this offer, I intend to bring suit either individually, or, if I decide it is warranted, as representative for a class of similarly situated plaintiffs. At that time, I will seek the amount noted above, plus punitive damages under the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Cal. Civil Code �1750 et. seq., costs, fees, and such other monetary damages as provided for by law, including without limitation Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code �17200 et. seq., the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, and other relevant law.

Also, you have demanded the return of the broken device as a condition to the unreasonable discounted replacement offer which I accepted under protest. Your agent has informed me that you will charge my credit card for the full price if the broken device is not returned to you. I am considering seeking a protective order placing that device in the custody of the Court pending litigation. However, should I instead return the device, you are hereby notified that it is evidence in the anticipated litigation to which this letter refers. Should you modify, destroy, or resell the broken device, I will ask the Court to treat that as deliberate spoliation of evidence and make adverse inferences as appropriate.

Very truly yours,

Paul Gowder

<- And this letter is Amazon completely surrendering.

Savvy. It’s a great example of having all your facts lined up, knowing exactly what you want from them, and not making your request too outrageous. And Paul’s not the only one to have problems with Kindle screen breakage.

Sure, who believes advertising? The thing is, there is an allowance for puffery in advertising, but the drop test video goes beyond puffery (i.e. “The greatest car ever!” Or “World’s #1 Gold Buyer!) and creates the warranty that a Kindle 2 can survive as high a drop onto a hard surface. As one commenter said, “If you are at a fast food place and a picture of a hamburger has a bun, cheese, and lettuce on it you expect the hamburger to come with those items on it.” If Amazon can’t live up, they gotta pay up.

Kindle 2: fragile piece of shit or overpriced fragile piece of shit? [Uncommon Priors]
The Kindle War Begins [Uncommon Priors]
This is what victory looks like. [Uncommon Priors]