By Karl Bode
Back in February, $130 “smart” pet feeders from a company named PetNet simply stopped working. When customers reached out to the company to complain, they hit a complete and total brick wall in terms of functioning customer service. Customers say emails and phone calls weren’t returned (or wound up undeliverable), and the company simply refused to answer annoyed customer inquiries on Twitter or Facebook.
Fast forward to late March and April and PetNet customers once again complained to outlets like Ars Technica that the company’s products didn’t work and its customer support was still nowhere to be found. Customers who complained were now being shoveled to a third party contractor with 16 followers on Twitter which, like the company that employed it, didn’t appear capable of offering any help:
“Users looking for support received messages directing them to a third-party site called Tier One Success. Tier One bills itself as “simplified customer support to help meet your Smart Home needs,” but it appears to have almost no online presence outside of the link sent to Petnet device owners. Its only external communication is a Twitter account with 16 followers. The last time any message was posted to that account, in July 2019, Tier One indicated that it exclusively supported Petnet products and had not yet expanded to customer support for any other smart home device.”
Cool. Once the pandemic hit, Petnet apparently saw its exit, and is now informing its customers that the end is nigh. In one email, it lauds the fact that the company shuttered its brick and mortar offices as a result of COVID-19:
We have furloughed 100% of our remaining staff
We have ceased all future product development, including bug fixes
We have turned off all non-infrastructure related expenses
We have terminated our office lease and are working remotely
We have applied for all available CARES stimulus funding
But some readers noted that the company’s office had been empty and available to lease since at least last October.
Meanwhile, none of the “smart” features of the company’s pet feeders appear to be working on either version of the company’s top models, and getting anything resembling customer support is still impossible for many. Given 20 seconds of effort and a $1 metal bowl would work just as well as Petnet’s current offerings, it’s yet another example of how in the “smart” device era the smarter choice is quite often dumber, older technology.