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In 2018, the company PetNet, which sells an automatic pet feeder, had a malfunction with their Google rented server. The issue caused 10% of their customers’ pets to go without meals. The company has now faced the same issue again but much worse. Instead of being offline for 10 hours, the devices were offline for a whole week. This meant that some pets didn’t get any food for a week.

PetNet’s product is an automatic pet feeder which runs on WiFi, a pet owner can control it using an app on their phone. It allows the owner to be able to either schedule a feeding or feed their pet when they are not at home. The company calls itself “the world’s first intelligent pet feeder that will program itself around your life and the wellness of your pet.” The product runs for $149.

The repeated issues with the PetNet feeder have left many customers angry and dissatisfied. This is the third time that PetNet’s feeders have been disrupted due to technical issues and the company is starting to gain a reputation for being unreliable. 61% of the reviews for the smart feeder on Amazon are negative, receiving either one or two stars. Many of the reviews cite the substandard software as being a reason to avoid the products.

Owners of the smart feeder have complained about the app not working, not having basic features and of not being able to control the feeder outside of the app. One customer called the app “the most terribly written mobile app I have ever seen in my life”. Complaints about the software side of the device are a constant theme in customer reviews. Another common complaint is the lack of customer support from PetNet when customers do have issues. Many customers have complained of never receiving a response from customer support when they have encountered a problem with the smart feeder.

It’s uncertain what caused the most recent weeklong outage; however, it is certain that PetNet has many disappointed customers.

Difficult words

Malfunction (n): When equipment stops working as expected.

Runs (v): Sells for.

Disrupt (v): To interrupt or stop someone from doing something.

Unreliable (adj): Not be trusted.

Cite (v): To refer to.

Substandard (adj): Being below the usual standard.

Theme (n): A recurring idea or topic.

Encounter (v): To be faced with or experience.

Outage (n): A period of time without an important supply (ex. power, water, Internet)

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English: Coming Soon!

American English:

Match the Synonym!

1. Malfunction A. Sells
2. Runs B. Meet
3. Disrupt C. Inferior
4. Unreliable D. Refer
5. Cite E. Interrupt
6. Substandard F. Topic
7. Theme G. Break
8. Encounter H. Blackout
9. Outage I. Untrustworthy

True or False?

1. An automatic pet feeder had a malfunction. T / F

2. PetNet had not rented the server from Google. T / F

3. The pet feeder is linked with a phone application. T / F

4. An owner can use the app to schedule a feeding when they are not home. T / F

5. No pets missed their meals.  T / F

6. PetNet notified all of their customers through a text message. T / F

7. This is the first malfunction for PetNet. T / F

8.  Most reviews for PetNet are negative. T / F

9. Everyone has praised PetNet for their customer service. T / F

10. People no longer trust the automatic pet feeder. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. to / their customers’ / pets / go / without meals / caused 10% / of / The issue

2. faced / again / The / has / the / company / issue / now / same

3. pets / didn’t / This / that / any food / get / some / meant

4. is / feeder / an / PetNet’s / pet / product / automatic

5. complained / of / the / Owners / feeder / smart / have

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English: Coming Soon!

American English:

Avoid Reputation Schedule
Itself Software Automatic
Response Uncertain Offline

In 2018, the company PetNet, which sells an (1)____________ pet feeder, had a malfunction with their Google rented server. The issue caused 10% of their customers’ pets to go without meals. The company has now faced the same issue again but much worse. Instead of being offline for 10 hours, the devices were (2)__________ for a whole week. This meant that some pets didn’t get any food for a week.

PetNet’s product is an automatic pet feeder which runs on WiFi, a pet owner can control it using an app on their phone. It allows the owner to be able to either (3)____________ a feeding or feed their pet when they are not at home. The company calls itself “the world’s first intelligent pet feeder that will program (4)_________ around your life and the wellness of your pet.” The product runs for $149.

The repeated issues with the PetNet feeder have left many customers angry and dissatisfied. This is the third time that PetNet’s feeders have been disrupted due to technical issues and the company is starting to gain a (5)_____________ for being unreliable. 61% of the reviews for the smart feeder on Amazon are negative, receiving either one or two stars. Many of the reviews cite the substandard software as being a reason to (6)_________ the products.

Owners of the smart feeder have complained about the app not working, not having basic features and of not being able to control the feeder outside of the app. One customer called the app “the most terribly written mobile app I have ever seen in my life”. Complaints about the (7)____________ side of the device are a constant theme in customer reviews. Another common complaint is the lack of customer support from PetNet when customers do have issues. Many customers have complained of never receiving a (8)__________ from customer support when they have encountered a problem with the smart feeder.

It’s (9)_____________ what caused the most recent weeklong outage; however, it is certain that PetNet has many disappointed customers.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think about connected devices in the home?
4. Do you have any “smart” devices in your house?
5. Is there a product that isn’t “smart” that you think should be?
6. Are devices like this feeder making people lazier?
7. Do you think people can trust smart devices?
8. What do you think about the internet of things?
9. Is it a bad idea for the internet to control nearly all devices?
10. What devices should remain offline?
11. Do the conveniences outweigh the cons?
12. What do you know about smart cities?
13. Is the internet now a basic necessity along with food, water and shelter?
14. Should the internet be free?
15. Is it possible to live an internet-free life these days?
16. How many times a day do you use the internet?
17. Would your work be different without internet?
18. What jobs would the world lose and gain back if the internet disappeared?
19. Was life better or worse before the internet?
20. What do you think the future of the internet will be?