Small interview from today's Boston Globe.
STEVE DOWN GENERAL MANAGER, KRYPTONITE | ON THE HOT SEAT
Crash course in damage control
March 13, 2005
News that the ubiquitous Kryptonite ''U-lock" bike accessory could be picked by ballpoint pens became a flashpoint in September after complaints from Web message boards spilled into the mainstream media. The Canton company eventually offered to exchange the locks at a cost of $10 million to Kryptonite's parent, Ingersoll-Rand Co. of Bermuda. In an interview with Globe reporter Ross Kerber, Kryptonite general manager Steve Down said the company reacted as well as it could.
Q: Tell me how you first heard of the locks' vulnerability.
A: We heard it at a similar time as those postings on the Web were starting in mid-September, right around the 13th. I tried to pick the locks and couldn't, but I've got people in design and development, and on certain locks they were able to duplicate it.
Q: Eventually you offered to replace any lock using a tubular-style key. How did you decide to make that offer?
A: We found it would be very difficult to isolate if we just said an exchange would only apply to a certain family of products, or had to ask the customer, ''When did you buy it?" That would have been very confusing, so that led us to say, if a consumer is uncomfortable with the product, or dissatisfied, then we'll exchange it.
Q: How did the attention affect your decision-making process?
A: From a management perspective, this was totally out of left field, a totally new experience for me and, I'm guessing, many other people. Obviously, information flies around in nanoseconds and is shared very quickly. It was very difficult for us to make our evaluations. That's why we came out with a preliminary statement; we had to understand the size and scope of the problem, and what we could do in response.
Q: The company issued a preliminary statement on Sept. 16, an outline of its thinking on the 17th, and then detailed the full exchange program on the 22d. Why not just wait a week before you said anything of substance?
A: It was important to get something out, and we tried to do that, putting some messages on the [www.kryptonite.com] website, and gave copies to the traditional media. We had to at least show we were engaged in this. It was important to us to have the consumer realize we were taking this seriously. I think if we hadn't put any of those statements out, people would have accused us of just glossing it over.
Q: The publication Business 2.0 said your response was slow, and put it at the top of its list of ''Dumbest Moments in Business" for 2004. A fair criticism?
A: In the age we live in, we all want to have instant answers to questions. The reality is, I don't think you can put together this sort of program in five minutes. When you read those things later on, it's tough and they hurt, but we feel we did the right thing to protect the consumer and the integrity of the brand.
Q: How many consumers have taken you up on your offer to replace their locks, postage-paid?
A: We've had a little over 90,000 registrations on our website, and sent out about 50,000 prepaid mailing labels for exchanges.
Q: What are you doing with all the returned locks?
A: We have actually been asked to sell our locks to companies that would take the tubular cylinder products out of the country and sell in the markets that may not know about this issue.
Because of this, we will be destroying any locks that were in our warehouse or that we get back from consumers, dealers, and distributors. We are taking Kryptonite's tubular cylinder products out of the supply chain globally.
Only 90,000 registrations? There might be 10's of millions of those locks out there, and they're satisfied with the 90,000 registrations so far!