On Wednesday, October 15, Andrew Wilkinson was out of patience. He and his business partner had ordered a Robocoin ATM to place in a pub in Canada. The product arrived months late and wasn't immediately operational.
Robocoin got the machine up and running but couldn't come to terms on the requested full refund of the US$20,000 paid for the machine. But before turning to a centralized, government-run legal system (and shelling out the untold dollars and hours that entails), Andrew decided to make one last attempt at getting restitution:
“We’re prepared to take legal action, but we figured we’d give Jordan a taste of Internet Justice first.”
Andrew collected every pertinent email passed between himself, his business partner and Jordan Kelley, the CEO of Robocoin. He took screenshots, compiled them chronologically and posted them on Reddit along with his story, titling it “The Great Robocoin Rip-off: How we lost $25,000 buying a Robocoin ATM.” Within a day, it became one of the highest-voted posts the Bitcoin subreddit has ever seen.
Less than 48 hours later, Andrew had cause to make yet another post on Reddit, but this time for a very different reason:
“The next morning, with the intense spotlight of Internet Justice focused on Robocoin, we got our US$25,000 back along with a hangdog apology from Jordan.”
Andrew Wilkinson is the founder of the interface development company MetaLab, and his partner Rajiv Khaneja works with the app development team Sparklit. On Friday October 17, Andrew duly informed Reddit of the success of his initial post in a second entitled “ROBOGATE 2014 UPDATE: Internet Justice Has Been Served.” He reported, “We weren't sure what would happen, but as things unfolded we learned a few things about the power of the Internet…”
In a community totally smitten with the benefits of the decentralization of money, “RoboGate” has drawn attention to another compelling use case: the decentralization of justice.
Robocoin’s Detailed Response
Jordan has since issued an apology statement and a Q&A about the details of the incident. The effectiveness of Internet justice—that is, the threat of real economic consequences due to a tarnished reputation—is evident here. This statement indicates that Robocoin is choosing to learn and change from this incident. If they make good on these commitments, everyone will be better off, and the Bitcoin community will be even more robust as a result:
“To Metalab and the Bitcoin community:
This has been an incredibly challenging experience and one that I will absolutely grow from. As I reflect and begin moving forward, I want to acknowledge and apologize for my mistakes.
To Metalab: I was way off on your estimated ship date and I failed to keep you updated. When it finally arrived, we couldn’t get it running in a timely manner. I was disagreeable when you requested a refund and stubborn with regard to terms.
It’s easy to see how I should have handled this differently from start to finish. Above all, I should have been more proactive in my communication regarding delays. I also feel compelled to acknowledge that you offered me plenty of chances to make this right. It should not have taken Reddit’s wrath for me to realize the extent of my mistakes and take long overdue accountability. I know the refund came too late and the $20,000+$5,000 extra was not worth your time and headache. I hope you guys feel whole in the end.
To the Bitcoin Community: It’s painful to let my team down, but it’s even worse to let the entire community down. You held me accountable and deservedly so. You helped make this right, and I should have never let it come to that.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons over the last few days - lessons that will make me better as an entrepreneur and leader. Two most notable: 1)Delivering swift action is absolutely paramount. Looking back, there was some unacceptable heel dragging on my part. 2) I need to do a better job of communicating, aligning expectations, and being flexible when challenges emerge. My rigidness was unacceptable.
To our operators and customers who have stood by us during this most challenging time: my deepest gratitude. We are truly passionate about bringing Bitcoin to every corner of the world. We work tirelessly to improve and support all of our Operators and at times fall short. I hope you’ll support us as we move forward, rebuild, and improve. There are a number of changes we look forward to implementing in collaboration with our operators, customers, and the greater Bitcoin community.
My sincere apologies to the team at Metalab, my team at Robocoin and the entire Bitcoin community.
With gratitude and optimism,
- Jordan Kelley, CEO of Robocoin
Q&A with Robocoin
Cointelegraph: What happened with the original delay?
Jordan Kelley: When Canada introduced the new polymer note with a clear strip through the bill, our Fujitsu cash dispensers failed every time. Fujitsu eventually got us an update, but I did a bad job of aligning expectations for delivery time. I asked for a lot of patience from our Canadian operators, without being proactive enough in my communication.
We ultimately started delivering those Canadian units three months late. Looking back, I’m grateful that most of our operators persisted and worked with us through these and other challenges emerged – but I can’t fault the guys who ran out of patience. Thankfully, our Bitcoin ATMs grow value over time and most of our Operators have had positive and profitable experiences.
CT: What were problems overall and technically?
JK: The general problems were related to our delays, my poor communication, and my poor handling of a refund request. The vitriol towards Robocoin from a technical and reputation standpoint, however, was harder to swallow. The technical problems were related to a defective computer component on our side and the customer’s Internet connection limitations at the venue.
Eventually, our support team got the unit operational and offered a replacement for the defective part. Unfortunately, the customer decided it was too late to salvage the relationship and returned the entire unit. I couldn’t come to terms on the return and that rigidity was a judgment error on my behalf. Still, some parts of the post went too far, like publically sharing Robocoin employees’ personal information, spreading erroneous technical information regarding our system, and denouncing our support team.
Overall I’m most disappointed in myself, as my personal mistakes resulted in people questioning the company’s integrity and personal threats of violence and accusations of employees being "crooks.” In the end, I made too many judgment errors, lost a customer and, in retrospect, fully understand why such a negative reaction ensued. My hope is that in the future we can resolve these issues without driving people to incite ill will towards the company.
CT: Was it damaged in manufacturing or do you suspect the problem occurred outside the factory?
JK: All Robocoins are triple checked when coming out of the manufacturer. Nonetheless, when shipping 750lbs kiosks, hardware can break and things can get shifted. In either case, Robocoin is responsible for these problems and does its absolute best to correct them. I fully stand behind the experience, skill, and expertise my support team brings to the table, and their professional conduct in difficult situations.
Their job is not an easy one, and part of my job is to prevent them having to deal with those situations. In most cases we work well with operators and new issues are resolved without conflict. Our team is taking valuable knowledge and experience from this incident and we will be better prepared to prevent these conflicts in the future.
CT: Does Robocoin offer any kind of warranties on its units?
JK: Every Robocoin comes with a one-year warranty. Our support team and our manufacturer are available around the clock to help Operators. We stand behind our product and our manufacturer and have a lot of happy and profitable operators. The biggest change is that we now have a fully dedicated logistics employee who has drastically improved operator-communication, and we will be much more lenient when delays result in refund requests.
CT: What’s next from Robocoin?
JK: We’ve just released the first version of the Robocoin Wallet and debuted it at Inside Bitcoins. Now we have the only Bitcoin ATMs that create Bitcoin Wallets and the only Bitcoin Wallet with a global ATM network. We are going to keep improving the Robocoin Wallet and while proliferating Robocoin Branches around the world - well beyond the 18 countries in which we operate today.
We are going to help Bitcoin reach its potential in the remittance and underbanked, while continuing to serve the Bitcoin community. Internally, we will improve our customer service and remain committed to delivering the best experience in Bitcoin. This bump in the road helps us evaluate and learn how to get better and we’ve started the process.
We listened to suggestions from our Operators and customers and have begun implementing significant improvements to our kiosk hardware, Robocoin Wallet software, and customer support. We invented the Bitcoin ATM, we are still the market leader but we have to find ways to get better every day. The Bitcoin community and the world will all get a good look at Robocoin’s resilience, commitment and resolve.
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