You can learn a lot about a company in how it responds to a crisis. In the case of A-list exercise equipment maker Peloton, consider the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recent “urgent warning” about Peloton treadmill injuries and advice for owners to immediately stop using the Tread+ treadmill after one child died and numerous reports of injuries to children and pets.
Unlike other treadmills, the Tread+ features an open tread without skirting to shield access. Children and pets can come into contact with the moving tread and have been pulled under the machines. The CPSC even released a disturbing video showing how easily these tragedies can occur. At least 39 incidents have been reported.
According to published reports, the CPSC made the urgent warning and issued an administrative subpoena for information from the company following delays from Peloton in responding to their requests.
This is a very serious issue, but rather than acknowledge a safety concern and work to provide what would very likely be a simple fix, Peloton has focused its response on minimizing the safety concerns and suggesting that the “small handful” injuries are the result of user error – not a design flaw.
Writes the Washington Post:
Peloton said in a statement last weekend that it had “fully cooperated” with federal regulators and “at no time was Peloton trying to impede” their investigation. The reason it wouldn’t name the family whose child died? Patrons’ privacy concerns. “Government agencies shouldn’t have unfettered access to consumers’ private information,” CEO John Foley wrote. Please. The practical effect was stymieing safety regulators and delaying a thorough investigation.
In the same statement, Peloton reminded everyone that the exercise equipment is intended for adult use and that owners need to keep children and pets away from it. That sounds like common sense — but also flies in the face of reality.
Peloton should not take for granted its loyal customer base, which helped take the company on quite a ride during the pandemic shutdown. The company’s stock skyrocketed during the shutdown thanks to consumers canceling gym memberships and plunking down more than $4,000 for their interactive treadmills and stationary bikes.
This is quite an interesting crisis-response posture, especially for a company that sells high end products.
Rather than acknowledging that there may be a problem with the design – and likely an easy fix – Peloton is instead blaming its customers for failing to supervise their children while they are engrossed in the dazzling interactive video workouts that Peloton provides. Even though Peloton markets an immersive experience, apparently customers are supposed to have eyes on the back of their heads.
Peloton is now aware of this issue and has refused to offer a safety fix. This is the kind of corporate behavior that does not sit well with juries. The next serious injury could cost them dearly, and any settlement will likely require design changes. They can drag their feet at their own peril.