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Sugar's em@iler backlash backfires

His customers haven't really helped

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Sir Alan Sugar's plans to hit back at a national newspaper journalist for daring to include his company's em@iler product in a list of 'techno flops', has backfired. A little.

Sugar was so incensed by an article by The Independent's technology editor Charles Arthur, that he emailed all 95,000 Amstrad em@iler owners and called on them to email enthusiastic comments back to the journalist. He called the article 'a load of twaddle' and included Charles' email address in his letter. He didn't bother emailing the journalist directly.

The scheme has been a partial success. Charles returned to work today after a weeks holiday to find his email post bag full. So far he's had 1,390 emails from em@iler users but, sadly for Sugar, they're not all glowing reports extolling the virtues of Amstrad's product. And the company would probably stop short of using some of the pro-em@iler messages in their marketing.

But you've got to hand it to Sugar - he's got his captive user base spending money downloading his email and then sending their response to Charles.

Here's a nice note Charles received about the product. (All the emails we're printing have been reproduced exactly as they were sent, so any spelling mistakes, typos, misuse of upper and lower case etc., are all the author's own work, or were forced on them by their em@iler.)

"just writing this to let you know i am very happy with my e mailer you get to know offers and lots of other things only thing is i don,t know many people with e mail so i don,t use it much . i can,t think of anything else to tell you ."

And here's the other side of the story. "I agree with you about the amstrad em@iler this is my 3rd one in 6 months i won't be getting another one,I think they're crap."

The em@iler is a phone, answerphone, email, and fax device. It also has a digital screen on which advertisers can pay to promote their products. In February Sugar said that sales of the em@iler were "encouraging," despite having to take a £3.9 million loss on their sales. In his message to the loyal 95,000 users he says the second phase of sales will see the number of users increase to 250,000.

The Independent article doesn't seem that strong to us. It's a piece wondering whether Microsoft's Tablet PC can succeed. The list of 'techno flops' comes in a separate box-out and merely states the em@iler "is not proving the success that Sir Alan Sugar had hoped."

Charles hasn't read all 1,390 messages, and who can blame him. He still thinks the em@iler is a flop and doesn't need "any black propaganda to die a death". ®

Sugar's call to arms - his email to customers

(courtesy Net Imperative)

"I'm sure you are all as happy with your e-mailer as I am. The other day - in fact it was the 11th April - the technology editor of the Independent said that our e-mailer was a techno-flop. I'm not sure where he got his information from, but I guess he just goes with the flow of nonsense written by other journalists who have never ever seen or used an e-mailer in their lives.

"The fact is that the e-mailer is an enormous success - we decided to trial them in March 2000 and so far we have a massive 95,000 people who bought one and are registered. So much so, we have now decided to increase this in our second phase to 250,000 users.

"It occurred to me that I should send an email to Mr Charles Arthur telling him what a load of twaddle he is talking. If you feel the same as me and really love your e-mailer, why don't you let him know your feelings by sending him an email at: c.arthur@independent.co.uk.

"Anyway, thank you for buying one of our units. I hope that it gives you many years of service."

Some of the messages sent to Charles Arthur, technology editor, The Independent

"The Em@iler is a great piece of kit for the money your article is crap and poorly written."

"he has asked all emiler customers to send yo an email saying how good his product is, well i can say for one that this is by far the worst product I have bought ever. problems have occured ever since i bought one from not sending emils to the hanset packng up to the screen falling off. my biggist concern is when they changed thier helplne number to a premium phone number, probelly to deter customers from calling them with a complaint."

"HI IVE JUST RECIEVED AN E MAIL FROM A MR ALAN SUGER PRAISING THE AMSTRAD E MAILER. I WANTED TO SAY THAT IM NOT HAPPY WITH MINE!!! MY INCOMING CALLS MOST OF THE TIME DO NOT RING IN ALL I RECIEVE IS A CLICKING NOISE AND NOT A RINGING TONE AS IT SHOULD BE?? I HAVE NOTICED ALSO THAT WHEN MY E MAILER IS FLASHING AND STATING THAT I HAVE A MESSAGE,I FIND OUT TO MY ANGER THAT I HAVE NO MESSAGES TO COLLECT?? I HAVE LOST COUNT OF HOW MANY TIMES THIS HAS HAPPENED AND HOW MUCH IT HAS COST WITH NO END RESULTS!

I MUST ADD THAT THIS E MAILER I AM TESTING IS THE SECOND ONE AND NOW KNOW THIS PERFORMS NO BETTER THAN THE FIRST ONE. THEY WERE BOUGHT ON SEPARATE TIMES AND FROM DIFFERENT SHOPS.. I.E ARGOS/DIXONS.

PRODUCTS THAT I HAVE BOUGHT FROM ARGOS HAVE BEEN TAKEN BACK SEVERAL TIMES,BUT FOR THERE TO BE A PROBLEM WHEN BUYING IT FROM AN ELECTRICAL STORE IS SO UNEXCEPTABLE. I AM OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS JUST IN CASE THERE IS SOMETHING I MAY HAVE OVER LOOKED,BUT I HAVE FOLLOWED ADVICE FROM AMSTRAD COMPANY AND HAD LINES TESTED FROM BRITISH TELECOM.....

THANKS FOR YOUR TIME"

The Independent's list of 'techno flops'

The Apple /// - introduced in September 1980. Its casing overheated and resulted in chips coming loose. Apple's advice? Drop one side on to your desk from a height of 4 inches.

The Apple Lisa - the first commercially available system to use a mouse. But too costly at almost $10,000.

The Apple Newton - launched in 1993 as the first "personal digital assistant" that would recognise handwriting. Later developed into the successful Palm Pilot.

Napster - website that tried to change how we acquired music - by swapping and downloading for free. That is, until the courts sided with the record companies.

Amstrad e-m@iler - device plugged into your phone that lets you send e-mail, text messages and faxes. Is not proving the success that Sir Alan Sugar had hoped."

Related Link

Independent story which angered Sugar (Minus the box-out referring to the Amstrad em@iler - it doesn't seem to have been included with the main article.)
Net Imperative story

Related Stories

E-m@iler costs Amstrad £3.9m
Amstrad product of the century looks expensive to us

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