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Analysis Washing Machines

Customers to Samsung: Get your shit together

Frustrated Samsung customers sound off on Twitter about its recently recalled top-load washers and Galaxy Note 7 phone.

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The second half of 2016 hasn't been great for Samsung. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued September and October recalls of the electronics giant's highly anticipated Galaxy Note 7 phone due to reports of battery fires, ultimately affecting about 1.9 million US phones.

Less than a month after the second Note 7 recall, the CPSC issued a recall of roughly 2.8 million Samsung top-load US washing machines for "excessive vibration," tops detaching unexpectedly and related injuries.

That's 4.7 million recalled Samsung phones and washers in the United States alone between September 15 and November 4 -- a seven-week period.

Reporters and market analysts have weighed in heavily on the fallout from the phone debacle, but few have tackled what, if any, added pressure Samsung's washer woes add to the recall-weary tech company. Samsung has largely dismissed it, too; the company published an apology letter to Note 7 buyers, but we haven't heard anything on the washer front since the Friday recall.

Real talk

One thing's for sure: Customers aren't happy. Some of them took to social media to voice their frustration. Twitter user @Beer__Wolf happened to buy one of the 34 recalled Samsung top-loader models just a day before the CPSC published its recall announcement:

Musician Jamie Grace noted ongoing issues with her Samsung washing machine on Twitter, only to find out it was one of the affected units:

Other recall customers complained about long waits on hold with Samsung service, disappointment over the amount Samsung offered as a rebate, confusion once customers did get in touch with support representatives, and plain ol' irritation about the whole thing.

A whole lotta washers

So, how big of a deal is 2.8 million recalled washers compared to the broader US appliance market? Let's look at some stats from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), a trade group that designs test guidelines for a bunch of consumer products, including washing machines.

AHAM projects 63.8 million major US home appliances will be shipped from manufacturers to customers in 2016. By "major home appliances," AHAM is referring to a wide range of products, including:

  • Electric ranges
  • Electric cooktops
  • Gas ranges
  • Gas cooktops
  • Wall ovens
  • Microwave ovens
  • Front-load washers
  • Top-load washers
  • Electric dryers
  • Gas dryers
  • Disposers
  • Dishwashers
  • Compactors refrigerators, 6.5 cubic feet and over
  • Chest freezers
  • Upright freezers
  • Room air conditioners

Front-and top-load washing machines make up about 14 percent of 2016's 63.8 million total, with 24 percent of consumers expected to buy front-loaders and 76 percent expected to buy top-loaders. Even though most folks are buying top-load washing machines over front-load models, that's still just 6.9 million top-loaders shipping out to US customers in 2016. That makes 2.8 million recalled top-load Samsung washers manufactured and sold from March 2011 through November 2016 seem like a fairly big deal, though, both for Samsung and for its customers.

Note: For added reference, AHAM estimates that about 92.5 million front- and top-load units have shipped to US customers over the last 10 years.

The WA52J8700AP we reviewed back in February is part of the Samsung washer recall.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Buzzards circling

In the wake of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recalls, many customers said they planned to get a new non-Note 7 phone. The timing was especially bad for the phone recall, because Apple's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the LG V20 and the Google Pixel were all launching around the same time, too.

CNET polled readers to see what they thought and 48.5 percent of the 3,329 respondents said they'd be switching over to iPhone.

Things aren't quite as bleak when it comes to the washer recall. The CPSC ended up recalling 34 different Samsung top-load models sold from March 2011 through November 2016 with prices ranging from $450 to $1,500. Given the large price disparity and the wide variety of units, there simply isn't a single competing top-load washer -- like the Note 7's main nemesis, the iPhone 7 -- that stands out among the rest. And that will make it more challenging for other brands to easily scoop up a customer majority.

Not sure if your washer was part of the recent recall? Check here. Samsung is offering three options: a free home repair, a small rebate for buying a new washer from Samsung or another manufacturer, or a full refund (but only if you purchased your washer within the past 30 days).

By the numbers

Google Finance - Yahoo Finance

So, how much money is Samsung losing over all of these recalls?

It's too early to tell on the washer front, but Samsung's Q3 earnings show an operating profit of just $87.9 million (1 billion won) compared to $2.1 billion (2.4 trillion won) from Q3 2015.

Samsung's stock, which trades on the Korea Stock Exchange and is displayed in South Korean Won (KRW), shows a similar story.

See that dip on September 12 in the screenshot to the right? That's when a lot of initial reports began surfacing about the first Galaxy Note 7 recall. Samsung rebounded in early October only to fall again when the second phone recall was announced in mid-October (although not as far this time).

While I didn't expect to see as sharp of a drop in shares related to the November 4 washing machine recall, I thought there'd be some sort of negative stock reaction. In contrast, it barely registered, although the effects might have been muted, since Samsung initiated its own warning about the washing machine issue back in September, 5 weeks before the CPSC made it an official recall.

The outlook

We'll be keeping a close eye on Samsung to see how it continues to deal with the phone and washer recalls. The company is already trying to hold on to Android customers with an upcoming Siri-like AI assistant in the Galaxy S8, but there haven't been any major announcements related to Samsung washing machines since the November 4 recall.

For now, we want to hear from you. Was your washer part of the recall? How do you think Samsung is handing it?