BikeBiz.com has been following the Kryptonites-can-be-opened-with-a-Bic story since it first broke, see index below. This site urged Kryptonite to get registered with the forum that first posted the lock-cracking video and stem the flow of complaints. In the internet age, corporate responses to rapidly multiplying criticisms need to be made almost as quick as the bulletin-board brand-assassins.
Kryptonite did respond, but slowly. The company airfreighted new locks and launched a voluntary recall programme. But this took over a week and no Kryptonite officials went public on bikeforum.net or other forums being used to rant against the company.
On September 18th, fours days after the brand attacks started on bikeforums.net, Kryptonite's PR manager Donna Tocci told BikeBiz.com:
"The internet is fast. It's quite easy to jot a few words down in an email or on a website. However, it takes a few days to put together the operational end of the program we have set in place. We need to be able to roll out any plan we have in place exactly the way we say we will, when we say we will. We acted as swiftly as we could."
Kryptonite was the company that took the most flak for the Bic lock pick but many others in the security biz were also guilty of using cylinder locks, including gun cabinet makers, vending machine makers and other bike lock manufacturers.
As BikeBiz.com pointed out in September, the vulnerabilty of these cyclinder locks to pen picks was first publicised in a British bicycle magazine in 1992, a fact jumped on by bloggers, bikeforum.net posters, Wired.com, CNN.com, the Boston Globe and a bunch of class-action lawyers.
It's Kryptonite's slow response that gained it the top award from Business 2.0, the Time Warner magazine which is "a playbook for a new generation of leaders."
Business 2.0 has an annual '101 Dumbest Moments in Business' feature and Kryptonite tops the list in the January/February issue of the magazine.
"We compiled this list of the most bone-headed moves of business not only because it is hilarious, but because we do believe one can learn as much from the missteps of others as from their successes," says Business 2.0.
Placing it in the number one spot, Business 2.0 said: "Defrauding investors is sooooooo 2002. These days it's all about hosing your customers....When you're a bike-lock maker whose slogan is "Tough World, Tough Locks," it doesn't get much tougher than finding out that most of the locks you've been making for the last 30 years can be picked with a Bic pen."
Donna Tocci is named in the piece:
"Still in denial four days after the hullabaloo begins, spokeswoman Donna Tocci says that the locks nonetheless provide "an effective deterrent against theft" and that Kryptonite will speed up deliveries of new, Bic-proof locks to stores"
The magazine said 100 000 locks were being replaced at a cost of at least $10m.
"In the meantime, many dealers receive no shipments of new locks, costing Kryptonite as much as $6 million in sales."
Kryptonite disputes this.
BIKEBIZ.COM BIC/LOCK ARTICLE INDEX
Monday 10th January 2005: Bic vs Kryptonite to be case-study in PR textbook
'Cases in Public Relations Management' will be published in the US by McGraw-Hill Publishing and is to feature the online brand mauling suffered by the Kryptonite Corp in Autumn 2004.
Tuesday 28th December: US distributor of OnGuard locks has a dig at Kryptonite
The European lock company has long known about the vulnerabilities of cylinder locks and has shunned their use. Todson, the lock brand's US distributor, has today issued a press release that knocks Kryptonite, even though Kryptonite has voluntarily recalled the locks which could be opened with Bic pens.
Wednesday 17th November: Kryptonite, rejoice, it's now Oxford Products taking the heat
The December edition of Ride, the British motorcycle magazine has an "exclusive investigation" on the Bic lock opening trick that's been exercising minds in the bicycle trade since September. However, the four-page piece fingers tubular cylinder locks from Oxford Products rather than Kryptonite. "It's possible some Kryptonite locks are affected," said the Google-averse writer of the article.
Wednesday 6th October: Kryptonite lock replacements to ship to public before dealers
That's the consumer-focussed message being promoted from the busy Kryptonite booth at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas. Kryptonite launched its recall programme after a US consumer posted a Quicktime movie to a forum, showing how tubular cylinder locks could be opened with Bic barrels. The exchange locks will ship from the beginning of next week via UPS, after being airfreighted from the Far East.
Saturday 2nd October: MasterLock stung into recall action
When Kryptonite's Bic problems surfaced, Master Lock of the US issued a statement saying its top-end locks were immune to pen-attack. The fact the company also produced u-locks with cylinder tubular mechanisms was not majored on. Master Lock did not follow Kryptonite and launch a recall programme: until now, that is. News of this went on masterlock.com on Friday
Wednesday 29th September: Brand attack: how many ways can consumers tell you they're unhappy?
At first, disbelief. Anger follows. Tort lawyers then smell blood and launch putative class actions. Is sarcasm the last stage or merely another point along the road? A US consumer has placed Kryptonite replacement keys on Ebay. They're felt tip pens. "If you really bid on this, you missed the point of the auction, but I will still gladly take your money anyways," said russw19.
Friday 24th Sept: Bike bosses round on round-key lock makers
Gordon Fisher, MD of Fisher Outdoor Leisure, has told BikeBiz.com he and other bicycle trade execs were interviewed by newsreader John Humphries on BBC Radio 4 on 3rd December 1992. The subject matter? Bike locks which could be opened with Bic pen barrels. Prices for locks secured with ACE mechanisms dropped overnight, indicating the Bic method was well known at the time. Nigel Moore, MD of Moore Large, said: "It does our industry no good if the public are ripped off."
Monday 20th Sept: Bikeforums.net hit by upsurge in Bic-fondling visitors
As of late Sunday night, the Kryptonite vs Bic posting on Bikeforums.net had been read 340 000 times, and the movies, hosted elsewhere, downloaded by half a million unique users. Forum owner Joe Gardner, who holds down a full-time job and runs the site in his spare time, is now out of pocket because he had to lease extra gigabytes of server space to cope with the rush on his site following reports on CNN.com, Wired.com, 370+ news-sites, and a front page splash in the New York Times.
Wednesday 22nd Sept: Cycling attorney files class action against Kryptonite
The class action has been filed at the San Diego Superior Court Case, California. Despite the fact many lock manufacturers supply security products which can be opened with deformable plastic tubes - such as Bic pen barrels - it's only Kryptonite mentioned in the class action. Attorney firm Estey-Bomberger bases its action on Kryptonite's failure to change from tubular cylinder mechanisms after the Bic-opening method was first publicised in a British bicycle magazine in 1992. BikeBiz.com is cited as a source of evidence in the class action.
Wednesday 22nd September: Kryptonite does not win 'dilution' case against DC Comics, owner of Superman brand
Ingersoll-Rand's Kryptonite execs are probably seeing more lawyers than they like right now. On top of the Bic wrangle, DC Comics has come out best in the first stage of a long-running dispute over the use of the name usually associated with Superman.
Thursday 23rd September: Kryptonite changes tack; offers free product exchanges
Last week, Kryptonite came out with a caveat-heavy crossbar upgrade programme. This has now been scrapped. Now, owners of Kryptonite tubular cylinder locks - the ones that can be opened with Bic pens - can hand in their locks in an amnesty programme that will see them walk away with free locks. No other supplier of locks using ACE cylinders have announced any sort of exhange programme.
Friday 24th September: $200m locks lawsuit launched against Kryptonite and others
A class action against Kryptonite was filed in California earlier this week. Now, a Canadian lawyer has launched a lawsuit to help gain compensation for "hundreds of thousands" of bicycle lock owners. Significantly, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell of Toronto names not just Kryptonite in the suit but Norco and Bike Guard, too. The company says it will also add "bicycle retailers" to the list.
Saturday 18th September: Kryptonite was not too slow to respond to consumer attacks, says Tocci
Donna Tocci is getting lots of media name-checks at the moment. She's the Kryptonite spokeswoman quoted in hundreds of news-site articles syndicated across the US and beyond. She believes Kryptonite has acted as swiftly as it could, given the circumstances.
Thursday 16th September: Write it down to experience, Kryptonite to offer lock upgrades
Sheath those Bics, Kryptonite is to offer owners of Evolution and KryptoLok locks the ability to upgrade their crossbars to the new disc-style cylinder. The mechanism for this has yet to be worked out, says the company.
Thursday 16th September: The pen is mightier than the....u-lock
In a bizarre case of coincidental product syncronicity, the plastic barrel of a certain type of biro can easily open a certain type of tubular cylinder locking mechanism, popular on u-locks. This was first described in a British bicycle magazine in 1992 but the issue then disappeared from public view. But, in a powerful demonstration of how quick and cruel the internet can be, an American cyclist has rediscovered the Bic-pick and posted a Quicktime movie to a bike bulletin board, showing a Kryptonite lock being popped open in seconds. Kryptonite has responded, but slowly...