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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

S.F. Company Recalls Computer Equipment That Catches Fire

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2011 at 1:45 PM

click to enlarge Now we understand all the excitement surrounding cloud computing.
  • Now we understand all the excitement surrounding cloud computing.

[Updates appended 9/03/11, 4 p.m.]

You've heard of cloud computing.

Next: Smoke computing.

Cloud Engines' PogoPlug, a black desk-top box used to used to provide remote access to video, music and other files, reportedly can get so hot it melts, emits smoke, and even catches on fire.

In response to consumer complaints, the Consumer Product Safety Commission Tuesday announced the recall of 9,500 of the devices in the U.S., and 1,500 in Canada.

The PogoPlug has been touted as a "personal cloud computing" device, which stored information, then sent it to various types of devices over the Internet. It's maker, San Francisco's Cloud Engines, was such a hot property that it received $15 million in venture funding last December. But then -- wait for it -- it got too hot.

If you'd rather your PogoPlug didn't melt into your desk or catch your house on fire, the CPSC recommends you "immediately stop using and unplug the device, and contact Cloud Engines to receive a refund or replacement device.

The company can be reached at

Update, 9/03/11, 2:16 p.m.

It turns out the CPSC wasn't precisely correct. Apparently, Cloud Engines won't be directly giving customers their money back, (except for the minority who bought the devices online directly from the company.) Instead, the Cloud Engines will send customers back to the store where they bought their device. Customers will also be getting an e-mail offering them a replacement touted as better than the previous one.

"It's easy to fixate on the fact we're not giving the refund outright. But we did give a very good offer. I understand if it didn't seem right," said Christopher Louie, director of customer outreach for Cloud Engines. "We're trying to proceed with some kind of efficiency. And if users go to us, it's not as good an experience as if they go to the store."

We asked Louie why it wasn't a better experience for customers to just get their money back. We also asked him how many customers had so far got refunds -- a pertinent question, given it's normal for consumers to give up rather than face the runaround.

"We're not trying to obfiscate or make things difficult regarding a refund," Louie said, adding that he couldn't answer those questions, and would refer them to a supervisor.

We'll update you when we hear back.

Update, 9/03/2011, 4 p.m.

David Speiser, a p.r. consultant with DRS Media, called to explain that it actually may be easier for consumers to take it to the store than go through the rigamarole of submitting on documents online to Cloud Engines in order to prove they really, really did buy a copy of PogoPlug.

"I can reassure you that, under no circumstances do we want to slow down our consumers from returning a unit that's been recalled," Speiser said. "The only priority we have is to get this product recalled, and make sure no consumer that had a bad experience has one again. We have other products with zero issues, and we want to grow that number, and not make people frustrated, and not make life difficult for them."

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