Since October 2019, Sonos has been offering its customers a discount on the purchase of new devices through a “Trade Up Program” if they put their old device into “Recycle mode”. What sustainability and “responsible recycling“Should, however, turns functioning equipment into expensive electronic waste.
Electronic waste instead of resale for a discount
The user ralph waldo cybersyn (@atomicthumbs), who works for a recycling company for electrical appliances in the USA, has sparked a discussion on Twitter about this business model. He shows that customers put their functional speakers from Sonos into the so-called “Recycle mode”, which makes the devices completely unusable after a period of 21 days, in order to get a 30 percent discount directly from Sonos on the purchase of new devices receive. The recycling mode prevents any further use and thus also the resale of the device, which would be the most sustainable and environmentally friendly solution. In this way, functional Sonos speakers are repeatedly turned into electronic waste.
Sonos states on their website that “sustainability is non-negotiable,” and that they design products to minimize impact, but I work at an e-waste recycler and have demonstrable proof this is false.
Sonos “recycle mode” intentionally bricks good devices so they can’t be reused. pic.twitter.com/VJDNhYOxRy
– ralph waldo cybersyn (@atomicthumbs) December 27, 2019
In addition to the discount, the motivation of customers not to sell their device, but to put it in recycling mode, should above all be the protection of personal data, as they do not have to deal with the deletion of any information stored on the loudspeaker.
Sonos cannot stop recycling mode
Once the device has been put into recycling mode, it cannot even be stopped by Sonos itself. In the manufacturer’s support forum and on twitter Customers have reported that they accidentally put their device into recycle mode, but then wanted to cancel it. Sonos could not help them and the only thing left was to buy a new device. Officially, the company decides on a case-by-case basis whether customers can be helped. For Black Friday, for example, some customers wanted to combine the $ 100 cheaper Sonos Play: 5 price with the 30 percent discount through the trade-up program and only realized after activating the recycling mode that a combination of both discounts is not possible.
@SonosSupport I just went to recycle my beloved gen 1 play: 5, in order to take advantage of your $ 100 off Black Friday pricing on a new play: 5 with the 30% discount to soften the blow, but the discount is applied to the full $ 500 price. Is this a bug?
– Jason Sundram (@jsundram) December 2, 2019
Speakers also locked on servers
Since the Sonos speakers are not only made unusable on the device itself, but are also blocked on the company’s servers, they can no longer be used even with new firmware.
Sonos justifies program with “Sonos experience”
Compared to The Verge, Sonos justified the trade-up program by giving customers of older speakers the opportunity to switch to new speakers with improved technology, since the old devices do not always have the necessary computing power for the current “Sonos experience” Offer. In order to prevent these old devices from being resold, which could give new customers who are not aware of their age a false impression of the performance of current Sonos devices, Sonos considered the trade-up program to be the most responsible way. All Sonos devices currently eligible for the discount program are actually over 10 years old, for example the first Sonos Play: 5, Sonos Connect and Sonos Connect: Amp.
The reality is that these older products lack the processing power and memory to support modern Sonos experiences. Over time, technology will progress in ways these products are not able to accommodate. For some owners, these new features aren’t important. Accordingly, they may choose not to participate in the Trade Up program.
But for other owners, having modern Sonos devices capable of delivering these new experiences is important. So the Trade Up program is an affordable path for these owners to upgrade. For those that choose to trade-up to new products, we felt that the most responsible action was not to reintroduce them to new customers that may not have the context of them as 10+ year old products, and that also may not be able to deliver the Sonos experience they expected.
Sonos opposite The Verge
However, there is no guarantee that customers will dispose of their old equipment properly, even if you can request a free return slip from Sonos. It is not part of the program that the devices must be sent to Sonos so that they can be officially resold as retreaded devices.