The Galaxy Note 7 appears to have significantly dented Samsung’s position in one of the most lucrative smartphone markets on the planet. At first the company insisted that the Galaxy Note 7 recall did not affect customers in China. It only issued a formal recall in the country after halting production of the handset, no wonder China’s state broadcaster had some choice words for the Korean company. Samsung held an event in Shijiazhuang, Hebei a couple of days ago for local distributors and in order to thank them for their continued support as well as tender an apology for the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco about 20 Samsung executives from China and South Korea took to the stage and knelt in a solemn show of gratitude and sorrow. Little did the company know that this was only going to make customers in China furious.
According to a report out of China, at least 23 executives unexpectedly took to the stage and knelt en masse on the stage facing the audience. It was meant to be a gesture of gratitude and apology but as a picture of that rapidly went viral on Chinese social media, it garnered a strong reaction from the public. Some took to Weibo to express their feelings, saying that Samsung had shown disrespect for Chinese culture by having its employees kneel.
The Chinese take their kneeling very seriously. It’s a gesture that’s reserved for those praying to a deity in a temple or as a mark of respect for elders and that too on special occasions like their birthday or during the Spring Festival. In rare cases, they may also get on their knees when they’re desperate. Perhaps that’s what Samsung was going for here but the move has clearly backfired.
Samsung’s intention behind this might be noble but many Chinese customers are livid with what they perceive to be cultural misappropriation. Customers point out that Samsung claims to be a global company but does not recognize the importance of cultural differences.
The company has responded to this debacle by issuing a statement to Chinese publication The Paper. The statement implies that its executives in China kneeled on their own and that they were not told to do so by the management. Samsung said: “This was regional stock ordering event for distributors, PR had no knowledge of it beforehand. As we understand it, despite the influence of the Galaxy Note 7 explosions, distributors continued to support Samsung, and booked many orders at the event. This was extremely touching for Samsung’s top executives, and in accordance their customs they kneeled to express gratitude towards these distributors. Samsung’s China executives were also moved, and they kneeled too.”
Samsung just can’t seem to catch a break in China.