back to article Scam or stunt? It's looking like the latter... Xiaomi so sorry for £1 smartphone 'promo'

Chinese phone maker Xiaomi is in damage-control mode after an online promotion coinciding with its big UK launch somewhat backfired. The plan was to offer handsets for just a quid in Blighty, when a countdown on its UK website reached zero, with the impression being that if you clicked soon after the timer ran out, you'd be …

  1. MrMerrymaker Bronze badge

    Quite unsurprising

    I'm not surprised by any of this. Neither the offer being fake, nor the sheer clamour to believe it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quite unsurprising

      At least they had T&C's that made it clear only 10 were available and it would appear they were only selling those 10 for £1. The "problems" really start when a SNAFU starts selling phones at £1, it gets posted on hotukdeals adn the "I bought 20 to sell on ebay" crowd jump in - retailer notices unusual sale pattern, sees the incorrect pricing and starts cancelling orders. At this point its popcorn time as hotukdeals explodes with irrate posters who use their detailed (but normally utterly flawed) knowledge of UK consumer law to explain why they have a right to receive their phone for £1 etc etc etc

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Quite unsurprising

      Yes, it was listed in the Ts&Cs, but only the day before the sale, not for the weeks that it was publicised beforehand.

  2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    There's no such thing as bad publicity.

    ...after all, Talk Talk are still getting new customers!

    Any fines incurred by Xiaomi will come from the PR budget and probably be seen as a bargain. They made the front page of the BBC News site.

  3. Semtex451

    "Now some people, technical folks loving a bargain, had set up multiple web accounts to try and get hold of the cheap Chinese kit"

    In my day these were not 'savy netizens' but cheats, or profiteers at best.

    1. Velv Silver badge

      It’s still my day

      They’re still cheats

  4. Steve Graham

    Obviously, they'll have obtained a licence from the Gambling Commission.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Why? Nobody bought a ticket.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am curious what the current law is on this.

      Not so long ago you had to at least answer a really easy question or it was an illegal lottery. Viz took the piss out of this by asking people to name a very obvious sport and then giving the address to send entries to starting "Viz Cricket Quiz".

      1. Ron Swanson

        it's not an illegal lottery. It did not cost anything to enter and you only paid if you won and wanted the product. The reason there used to be easy questions was that it then technically became a Game of Skill rather than a lottery which you used to need a licence for. The law must have changed as ITV fund most of their daytime broadcasting with £2 entry lotteries. I think the only legal requirement of these now it that there has to be a way that people can enter for free, in ITV's case, you can send a postcard to a PO Box address to enter.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It did not cost anything to enter

          Have they changed the wording to be explicitly about money, or clarified the definition of a 'valuable consideration'? It's been a while.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shortly after the promo closed the Nigerian marketing office of Xiaomi rang me to say sorry and that I am still eligible for a £1 phone so I gave them my account and sort code details to complete the transaction and I'm now eagerly awaiting the Postman Postperson to deliver my bargain.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      On that note, have you seen the twitter rant about Postman Pat?

  6. Phil W

    Versus Samsung

    If Samsung can survive phones literally catching fire and exploding I think Xiaomi can handle this. At least this marketing blunder hasn't harmed anyone or cost anyone anything, unlike exploding phones, and doesn't really reflect the quality of their products just the competence of their marketing team.

    I don't know about anyone else but I don't buy my phones based on the quality of the marketing...

    1. DJ Smiley

      Re: Versus Samsung


      This is in fact the first I've heard of it.... almost as if the 'outrage' was also marketed ;)

  7. wolfetone

    Shut up and take my money!

    Oh wait, you can't.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately, we did not realise

    of course they realized _exactly_ what the "flash sale" means, and they exploited it.

    btw, no, I'm not one of those who tried and failed, I'm still not done with my trusty, de-oranged san francisco (gen 1). In the decade or so I might upgrade to a 3rd hand Samsung S2. If the price is right.

    anyway, this xiaomi scam ("an illegal plan for making money, especially one that involves tricking people") is funny in how it created free advertising for the brand, exactly as they planned. Welcome to Chinaways UnLtd, little Englanders!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unfortunately, we did not realise

      "... I'm still not done with my trusty, de-oranged san francisco (gen 1). In the decade or so I might upgrade to a 3rd hand Samsung S2. If the price is right."

      there's a humble brag.

      there's nostalgia.

      there's price-conscious.

      and there's lazyness.

      and then there's bragging that your attempt to piss up the wall is so feeble that you're really just dribbling urine over your testicles. well done.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately, we did not realise

      "of course they realized _exactly_ what the "flash sale" means, and they exploited it."

      I went to the site to buy a new flash drive and all I got was this miserable phone for a quid!

    3. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Unfortunately, we did not realise

      what are you running on it?

      I've got an SF which I got as far as android 4.0 with a lightweight app set as a loaner for guests but I haven't looked at it in a few years.

  9. Shaha Alam


    *not really

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The Advertising Standards Agency"?

    Don't get your hopes up. The industry's token attempt at self-regulation will do exactly what it always does, i.e. saying that the advert "must not appear again in its current form" six months after the campaign had finished anyway, with no further sanctions.

    Every. Fucking. Time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The Advertising Standards Agency"?

      "The industry's token attempt at self-regulation will do exactly what it always does"

      The Iceland (store) Xmas TV ad has been banned by the Clearcast regulator as being too political. A public petition to let it be shown has now exceeded 800,000 names.

      1. Is It Me

        Re: "The Advertising Standards Agency"?

        Everyone keeps saying as it is too political, it is because it was funded and created for a political entity (Greenpeace) and political advertising is not allowed on UK TV.

        This will have been known by Iceland and they did this to get the free publicity (which has worked amazingly as a friend in Hong Kong has mentioned it.

  11. EveryTime

    If you guys in the UK don't have advertising standards clamp down on this immediately, you are going to end up in a situation where no part of advertising needs to be truthful. As an example, just look at telecommunications advertising in the U.S.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Have you read any of the articles involving the ASA here?

  12. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    I withdrew my sad little post about how I clicked the "Buy Now" button and nothing happened. It was too sad to bear because Xiaomi phones are soooo good! So pretty and shiny. I wish I had one. Two even, but no... I'm stuck with phones made by a different bunch of scamming assholes.

  13. Ragarath

    I have the list of winners!

    We can confirm that 10 customers have received discount codes which will allow them to purchase a Xiaomi device for £1.

    There certainly were and the list is below:

    Sam from Xiaomi Sales

    Fred from Xiaomi Accounts

    Sue from Xiaomi IT

    Alex from Xiaomi Warehouse

    Peter from Xiaomi Marketing

    Anna from Xiaomi PR

    Lilly from Xiaomi HR

    Tom from Xiaomi Asset Department

    Nancy from Xiaomi Production

    Liam from Xiaomi IT (there are always more than one in IT, they swingle the database/code)

    And there you have it the full list of winners. Their contracts of course state they cannot say they won.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have the list of winners!

      Has to be fake.

      This early in Xiaomi's UK operation, all these would be Chinese citizens, and although many Chinese pick "Western "names, they very rarely pick anything sane.

      I have a Chinese niece calling herself Sirius.

      Xiaomi are a good brand, but I do miss my "Despot of Brigade" branded packpack

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: I have the list of winners!

        Sirius is a name in the Harry Potter books... Sirius is a dog :-)

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I have the list of winners!

        "I have a Chinese niece calling herself Sirius."

        Does that mean you know how to pronounce Xiaomi?

        With little to no experience in the language, I first went with Zee-oh-me, but maybe it's Chow-me?

        1. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: I have the list of winners!


        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I have the list of winners!

          Pronounciation of "Xiaomi".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I have the list of winners!

            Good link; I did try to post a reply, but it vanished into the ether (seems to happen a lot these days).

            In general in PinYin Chinese, the "X" makes a sound like a cross between "sh" and "zu".

            Dont try writing it as "zh" though, as in PinYin that makes a "juh" sound.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: I have the list of winners!

            Ta for the replies :-)

            My second guess was nearly right. So an El Reg style translation of Xiaomi (Chow-Me) might well be "Bite me" :-)

            Or if the stock shorters play with them, Eat My Shorts?

            (To El Reg SubEd, You're welcome!)

        3. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Re: I have the list of winners!

          X in pinyin is pronounced like SH. Yes, there's a sound spelt with SH but that a different sound pronounced like SH. Language is tricky. Don't get me started on the Chinese and Japanese L and R sounds.

  14. Snowy

    If your going to...

    run a lottery to pick who get to buy one of the 10 phones for a pound then you should state this clearly and not hide this in the terms and conditions!

    Also next time do not call it a flash sale either, as this is not what people think of as a flash sale!

  15. Milton

    There is reason, you know ...

    ... why I tend to refer to a specific form of parastic life as "marketurds".

    As others have pointed out, if it seems too good to be true ... well, then, it is not true.

    Also, remind ourselves that if there is any kind of condition attached to an offer, it is not free.

    "Buy One Get One Free" is not free. It's a half price offer. It would only be free if it were "Just come and collect it, leave without paying". And even then, if it were "Just come and collect it, leave without paying after supplying your email address", it wouldn't be free: you had to surrender something of value; a condition had to be met.

    Not only was Mr Heinlein correct (TANSTAAFL), the world's most widespread technological phenomenon is founded upon a lie: neither Google nor Facebook nor Twitter are free, because you surrender something of value to prying, lying manipulators.

    It is really quite astonishing how utterly stupid so many people can be. But that's what pays the marketurds' bills, and keeps them from rummaging in wastebins (assuming, on the evidence, that they have no beneficial skills).

    1. Fihart

      @Milton Marketurds

      ......."that's what pays the marketurds' bills, and keeps them from rummaging in wastebins".....

      Had to laugh. I'm an ex-marketurd, retired advertising copywriter, and have retrieved two free phones from wastebins in the past 2 years or so (iPhone 4S and Samsung S4) both working and unlocked.

      1. Ken 16 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: @Milton Marketurds

        any tips on which bins to look in first?

        1. Fihart

          @Ken 16 Marketurds

          I live in an area of London with blocks of flats popular with students from Korea, China, Japan. Cost of shipping possessions home at end of stay means a lot of stuff gets dumped. This has included flatscreen tellies, laptops, laser printers, digital cameras etc. Likely some need repairs, but often the kind you can carry out on a kitchen table with basic tools.

          Probably best finds have been a 42 inch Panasonic HD TV (can fail to start in very hot weather) and a Lenovo Thinkpad T410s with SSD and touchscreen (lid was hanging off, screen separated from lid, previous owner evidently heavy smoker).

          Look out for wheely bins in privately rented blocks of flats and behind offices. Bear in mind that, once in bins, stuff actually belongs to the Council refuse dept. My defense is that I'm making a small contribution to reducing landfill.

  16. Adrian 4 Silver badge


    "Understandably, some British buyers were a little peeved: if it was a lottery, it should have said so. People thought it was a first-come, first-served special discount, with a decent stockpile of gear up for grabs, when really it was nothing of the sort. It was a raffle draw."

    I'm not sure if you could call

    'I tried to cheat your system but it didn't work because you misled me about how your system worked' grounds for complaint.

    If it's first-come, first-served, creating fake accounts so you're first, second and third in line is dishonest.

  17. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Cheats, Lies, and Marketing

    Why are so many people surprised? Marketing types count on your stupidity and gullibility with all their promotions, but they make sure that they have legally covered their ass,... mostly.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Suckers suckered

    I have little sympathy. Less for those who are complaining.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

    Free offers

    About a year ago, Anchor Butter started giving away stuffed squeaky elephants as part of their Christmas campaign. They stated in the Ts and Cs that only one per household would be awarded, on a daily basis, with winners selected from that day's list of applicants by random selection. Unfortunately, the advertising campaign started four days after the website went live, so no elephants were won during the first three days, and only eight (I think) on the fourth. At the end of the campaign, the website was still live for part of the day after it was supposed to have closed, but no elephants were awarded for that extra day. I wrote to their winners address and received a complete list of winners. What do you know? Several elephants were dispatched to members of the same family, presumably at the same address, and four other individuals each had multiple awards. I wrote to complain about these discrepancies, and was assured that they would be corrected. How were they intending to resolve a discrepancy once the elephant had been delivered?

  20. Stevie Silver badge


    So a bunch of tech twonks wrote sniping software to grab phones from those using the "fair" method (a mouse in the hand) and are pissed that the company was just as crummy as they were?

    Hard to feel sorry. especially since I'm sure a fair number of them would be spouting "if it looks too good to be true, it is!" in these pages if they hadn't been caught up in the frenzy.

  21. fattybacon

    Marketing foobar

    The thing is, this was for early adopters, don't do a stupid stunt like this while you are trying to get established in a new market. I'm sure lots of people who like good quality, cheap phones have been put off with the brand for a good long while. They should have just stuck with the £20 off a £99+ spend dealio they had at the same time.

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