Unwelcome (Product) Diversions

Product diversion costs manufacturers millions, but often isn't technically illegal. CSOs say combating diversion involves equal parts investigation and corporate politicking.

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Arnt: The diverter line is where they know to go and look for product that is diverted or sometimes stolen. I don't know the address because the diverters, the people that work for us, don't give us that information. But there is such a thing as a diverter's line where they can go and put their requests out there and respond to one another. Some of it's online. Some of it is simply a Rolodex; they can call people and do it that way.

Brenton: I'm aware of a couple of programs that actually will digest and diagnose pop-ups and spam, and then will pursue it by giving you an in-depth report on your product—what's seen, where it is, what it's going for. Then we know the percentage of profit sometimes or the percentage of loss. We do use one, but we really don't want to discuss it too openly. Mostly, it tells us the who, what, where, when, why. Sometimes it doesn't tell the how. If the product is available on the Internet, for instance, the software will tell you an e-mail address where you can purchase this product. Or it will tell you the name or the phone number to call.

Arnt: There are a couple of other services out there. We will do monitoring ourselves, but we also have somebody do that for us. We use an Internet Crimes Group product called iThreat Solutions. In some cases, they're going into the deep Internet chat rooms, and they'll monitor Internet auction and sale sites for you and spit out a list of what's out there. There's another company called GenuOne, which has an Internet service that lets companies punch in a list of their brands or products that they want to monitor.

CSO: Can you enlist customers to help out?

Arnt: Absolutely. We get a fair amount of tips from customers and distributors, like, "Hey, there are things showing up out here that are below our price." So between your salespeople, your customers and your distributors, you've actually got a pretty good intelligence network.

CSO: In spite of that, clearly there's no simple remedy for diversion. You gather intelligence from many sources, you think about tracking and contracts and training....

Brenton: Things that I was never involved in before, I'm totally involved in now. For instance, the package: the look of it, what needs to be on it, identifying marks on or inside the package. Show the value of how security can increase their revenue and give them background investigations.

You're protecting the customer, and you're protecting your investment for your stockholders and for your corporation. But most important, you're protecting the end customer, the patient.

Arnt: I think I was fortunate; the company had a pretty good understanding to begin with. To Max's point, I think that it is something where security can really show some value added. Let's say that you find $10 million worth of diverted product. And believe me, that isn't a huge amount of diverted product sales. If you've got a 15 percent profit lost opportunity, you're looking at a million and a half dollars that you can stick back on the bottom line.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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