MADISON - The reception of Waterford's new crystal wine glasses has been enthusiastic — too enthusiastic, apparently, to keep it in the hands of drinkers.
After widespread reports of wine glasses flying out of the hands of overly energetic drinkers to cause damage to TV sets, walls and bystanders, Waterford is recalling 3.2 million pieces of its crystalware to replace them with tougher glass.
The company's new wine glasses can be tipped towards one mouth to drink, or poured directly into one's mouth, like a cup. But soon after the new line went on sale last month, the excesses of overzealous drinkers became apparent.
Waterford will now allow customers to exchange the old glasses, which have a 0.024 inch thickness, for a beefed up glass that has a thickness of 0.04 inch, a company spokesman said.
"People tended to get a bit excited ... and in some cases the glass would come loose from their hands," a company spokesman said. "The new glass will be almost twice as thick."
The new tipping movement is one of the unique features of the new glasses, which Waterford introduced as its counter-challenge in a fierce competition with Oneida and Swedish Terrace.
Waterford is hoping the easy-to-drink-from glass will appeal to a wider crowd of drinkers — not just young men.
Customers can exchange the glasses through their local Waterford service centers. The worldwide exchange is expected to cost the company several million dollars.
An industry analyst in New York said the replacement program could have an overall upside for Waterford — the company is being proactive, and problems with the glasses appear relatively minor.
"It helps to spread Waterford's message on the unique interface of the new crystal line," he said. "As long as it doesn't land you in the emergency room."
In any case, the strap problems probably won't affect demand for the glasses. "At the launch of a new line of crystalware, it basically has to be fatal to hurt sales," the analyst said.
A market research company estimated that U.S. consumers bought 476,000 bowls and glasses in the two weeks following its Nov. 17 launch. That beat Oneida's new line, which sold just under 200,000 amid widespread shortages.
Waterford has delivered more crystal so far to consumers than Oneida has, partly because of Oneida's production problems.
Waterford has shipped about 400,000 combined bowls and glasses in Japan and more than 600,000 pieces in North America. Oneida readied just 100,000 for the Japanese launch and 400,000 for its U.S. debut.
Oneida has promised 2 million pieces worldwide by year's end, while Wateford is targeting 4 million pieces in the same period.
Selling crystal in high volumes is crucial because hot-selling pieces attract drink-makers to make new drinks, which in turn boost glass sales.
Separately Friday, Waterford also said it would replace 200,000 bowls in its new line in Japan. Waterford said the move would not affect bowls overseas, and officials expected only a small impact on earnings.