Promises, promises, promises. At one time in my life I worked for a small, start up company. For the entire first year the company existed all we did was market. We had no product to sell, only a few working prototypes. We traveled the world displaying these prototypes at trade shows to very interested customers. We had the prettiest booth and the best brochures but nothing to sell. We even promised release dates. But these quickly came and went and eventually our potential customers became upset. They lost their patience. They wanted the product and they wanted it now.
When we finally were ready to launch we’d lost some of our previously interested customer base who had grown tired of our missed deadlines and sought alternate product elsewhere. I understood this. I also understood the company’s need to market itself while it struggled through the initial phase of development and production. But making empty promises to customers wasn’t easy.
You know what they say about Karma right? It seems it’s come back to bite me.
The definition of vaporware: New software that has been announced or marketed but has not been produced. Have you experienced product vaporware?
Back in April of 2007 I read a gadget spotlight article on The Gadgeteer about the Keyport key fob. The Keyport is a custom made key fob that holds six of your own personal keys in a beautifully designed package. It has a sleek metal look and was to come in a few color choices. Each one was to be custom made.
It looked very interesting and after doing a little online research I decided it was something that I had to have. The product wasn’t available yet, but I signed up on the company’s pretty web site to be notified when orders were going to accepted. The company had a fancy web site complete with hi-res pictures, videos and a blog. They mentioned being in Maxim magazine and even showed the Keyport being used.
I received notification from Keyport shortly thereafter, that I’d been selected to be one of the first few hundred or so customers to be allowed to purchase a Keyport. I was told I’d be receiving instructions on how to send my keys to Keyport so they could begin processing my order. The secure instructions came and I gathered my six keys and a check for $300 to be sent to Keyport so they could begin making my custom key fob.
Upon receipt of my keys, Keyport e-mailed me with a special confirmation and assigned a number to my future Keyport. When it was made it would be one of the first few hundred.
I knew the process wouldn’t be quick, so I waited patiently for my order to be fulfilled. Once summer had come and gone and I still hadn’t received my Keyport, I e-mailed the company for a status update. Over the fall of 2007 I received e-mails from Keyport explaining that they were still working, fine tuning their manufacturing process, and they thanked me for my patience. They assured me as soon as they had everything right they’d be making my Keyport.
They had a toll free number listed on their web site. From time to time I’d call to check the status only to be told “just not ready yet but thanks for understanding.”
I was confused at the web site’s display of reviews from people who had already received their fobs. Where was mine?
Then it was 2008. A new year and still no new Keyport. In January of 2008 I e-mailed Keyport once again for a status update.
In the middle of April 2008 I received an e-mail from Keyport explaining that they’d decided to refund everyone’s money.
We wanted to write and let you know that we sincerely appreciate the patience you have shown in receiving your Keyport.
While innovative design and quality craftsmanship are certainly tenets to which Keyport is steadfastly committed, it is our customers who serve as Keyport’s foundation, and your satisfaction is our top priority. Therefore, we would like to refund your money in its entirety and hold on to your keys. Once we have completed the final design modifications, we will send you your new Keyport Slide. After you receive it, you may pay us what you think is appropriate.
We intend on earning your trust and delivering what we have promised. Again, thank you for your patience over this long haul. We look forward to your feedback once you have received your Slide. In the meantime, please let us know if you have any further questions or concerns.
The Keyport Team
So after almost a year of waiting it seemed like my Keyport wouldn’t be coming anytime soon. I still wanted the product and figured they were sending my money back, so what could it hurt to let them keep my keys? I received a check shortly thereafter, and told them to keep my keys.
It’s been over a year since that e-mail and would you believe still no Keyport? Their once fancy web site has been replaced with a simple “contact us” page. The pretty pictures and video are gone – along with the contact telephone number, and I’m left to wonder if they’re even still in business. Can one actually say they’re even in business if they’re not actually producing anything?
I e-mailed Keyport last week requesting my keys be sent back to me but have not gotten a response yet.
It’s now 2009. Two years of empty promises and still no product. And I thought the start up I worked for was bad…………. Shame on you Keyport.
Do you have any experience with vaporware product? Did you once order a “pre-release” product and never receive it? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.
P.S. – I left that startup after a few years. It’s been 12 years, and just last week I heard that they’d been purchased for 10 million dollars. I guess good marketing really does pay off.
UPDATE – Today, 5/18/2009, I was contacted by a representative from Keyport. He very graciously answered all of the questions I raised over just what’s been going on over the last twelve months with Keyport. He agreed to have my keys returned and said I should expect them back shortly. It was a good conversation and I hung up with some renewed faith in the fact that one day I’ll own a Keyport key fob.