UPDATED WITH A DIRECT RESPONSE FROM THE COMPANY
Kickstarter is a great way to help new businesses get moving, and in the process get your hands on new products early. Judie and I have both backed numerous Kickstarter projects over the past few years, and we’ve been quite pleased with the process; until now, that is.
The Vere Sandal Company has been my first encounter with a Kickstarter project that just didn’t pan out properly. It’s a long tale that goes back over a year, and it is so disappointing that even if they were to supply the sandals they promised a year ago at this point it would be too little too late … especially after their latest, outrageous, update.
Let me step back a bit and give you a timeline …
I backed the project over a year ago. It sought to raise a little over $12,000, and in the end it raised over $56,000. The project was funded on March 1 of 2011, and the sandals were supposed to go out soon after that.
The survey asking what type of sandal and what size backers wanted went out in March, 2011. I filled the survey out and looked forward to getting my sandals. While I was happy to back a new company, I certainly wasn’t making a donation to them; I was purchasing a promised product. I became a backer to help support a new company, but I also wanted to get a nice pair of sandals for the summer. That’s where the wheels started coming off this bus, or perhaps I should say – the soles started coming off the sandals.
In update number 13, the company promised the sandals by mid May, 2011.
I wasn’t in any rush. I figured that since I spend the summer in the mountains as long as I had the sandals by July I would be able to enjoy them for the season.
But it was not to be.
In update number 15, they moved the shipping date to the middle of June. Again, not an issue for me so long as I had the sandals by summertime. Then came update number 19 on July 22. The shipping date was put after July.
The summer came and went, and there were no sandals. Eventually the Company issued a comment that talked about the challenges of starting the business. They apologized, and I (along with all the other backers) was fine with it. After all, there are a lot of unknowns when you’re starting a new company.
Fall came and went.
Update number 22 did not come until November 3, and then there was another update in February. Interestingly, the last two updates were not available except to those who had been backers of the project …
I suspect that the reason for this was because the company was starting to get some bad press.
They deserved it.
At this point we were a year past the project being funded, and there were still no sandals. Again, while I wasn’t pleased I understood. I did, however, send an email suggesting that perhaps they might want to simply reimburse my backing, and we could be done with the whole thing. I didn’t hear anything from them.
It never occurred to me that I would write a post about them and their overall mismanagement until yesterday’s update.
You see, yesterday they issued yet another
excuse comment and update. This time they noted the fact that they were actually putting stock into some retail outlets before their backers received the sandals they had been promised a year ago. The reason for this? As they put it, if they ‘miss the season in retail the company can’t survive.’
Right, but that means that backers like me — who gave them good hard-earned money in good faith — won’t have the sandals they were promised for two seasons instead of one … assuming we ever actually get them. Not a good call. Not a good call at all, and one that really draws into question the judgment if not the ethics of the people behind the company.
Then it got even worse. In the update the company noted that there are three styles that they have sent out to backers already, and those are the styles that are in the retail pipeline at this time. Well, one of those styles they mentioned is the style that I requested. In other words they’ve taken the size and style that I requested as an original backer, and they have put it into retail, despite the fact that it has now been over a year since I was promised those exact sandals, and I have seen nothing but empty promises, excuses and whining updates.
And then I realized that they were shipping to retail before updating backers. This message appeared in the comments in February. The update came yesterday. Yes, it turns out they have had sandals in retail for over a month and only now, when I suspect they were getting some heat, did they send an update. So while they are continuing to ask for patience and understanding they are not even showing good faith with their backers. Bad form.
I left a comment on the Kickstarter site. I also e-mailed them directly and asked for my money back for a second time.
I’ve heard nothing from either attempt to reach them.
I don’t expect that I will, because these aren’t the kind of people who actually treat their backers — their original supporters/customers — properly. I don’t care if they make the best sandals in the world, I for one won’t ever give them another penny of my money. They’ve had numerous chances to make things right, but putting sandals into the retail pipeline before keeping their promises to backers – that is the last step, and it tells me everything I need to know.
Feel free to order their sandals from the retailers who actually received them, assuming they actually have them in stock to send. If you get a pair of size 12 Louis in blue/black, know that you are likely wearing the pair that I never received.
UPDATE MARCH 19, 2012
Well, it seems my comments on the Kickstarter site and this post got their attention. A short time ago this arrived in my Kickstarter inbox, take special note of their comment about how we each spent the weekend.
Monday Mar 19, 11:10am EDT
We have been brutally honest about in our last two updates about what really is going on. Maybe you are not used to hearing a company offer up information such as admitting that they were undercapitalized and what may appear to be a minor setback to larger companies with better resources, such as a machine down, can compound and be severely damaging for small upstarts.
To insinuate a scam is absolutely false and baseless. We have nothing to hide. We welcome you to come up to the factory and see for yourself.
By the way, while you were on your computer writing about us over the weekend, we went back to work finishing up another batch of Louies, of which one was your customized pair. Being the weekend, the post office won’t process it until this morning. Nonetheless, you should receive it in a few days.
Tracking on USPS.com
Thanks for your backing,
Mike & John
Vere Sandals USA
I replied with the following…
Glad to hear they shipped but that doesn’t change the fact that you offered an update last week A MONTH after sandals were already in retail and it was commented on in the comments on Kickstarter.
I did not use nor insinuate the word scam. What I did say, and I continue to believe, is that you have not done a good job managing this, made a terrible call when you put sandals into the retail pipeline before having the courtesy to let backers know and, when you did let us know, did so in a manner that was too little too late. All it would have taken would have been for you to do an update BEFORE you went into retail explaining why you were doing it. I can pretty much guarantee that 90% of us would have been beyond understanding. We had waited that long and wanted you to succeed. For me it was never the delay but rather finding out you were going to retail weeks after you did. That used up whatever good will you had left.
At this point, even if I love the sandals based on the way they handled this I would never give them my business.