Successful Kickstarter projects grab headlines as they raise millions of dollars, but the delays and frustrations many backers face don’t get as much fanfare. While Kickstarter projects provide backers with estimated delivery dates, it’s routine for projects to miss their marks by months.
Kickstarter is a platform that enables individuals and companies to raise money for projects ranging from art installations to video games. Since its launch, Kickstarter claims that it’s raised $2.3 billion from 11 million people for 102,548 projects.
Before you throw your hard-earned money at crowdfunding projects, it’s important to understand the risks and frustrations many people experience when backing companies and people with little or no experience. It’s also important to understand that there’s a big difference between shopping for products on respected sites and backing projects that offer no guarantee that products will ever actually ship.
One project that’s coming under fire by Kickstarter backers is the BauBax travel jacket. The campaign closed on September 3, 2015, raising $9,192,056 USD with 44,949 backers. The company, which had never delivered a single jacket before it closed its funding, promised backers that the jackets would arrive in November. Many of the backers purchased multiple jackets as Christmas gifts, including jackets designed for the chilly winter months. It’s springtime and countless BauBax backers are still waiting for those deliveries, trying to get their money, and swearing off ever backing another Kickstarter campaign.
BauBax bills is products as “the world’s best travel jackets.”BauBax designed the kind of jackets that are perfect impulse purchase bait for geeks, travelers and commuters. The company’s jackets offer an array of pockets and pouches to help people pack their gadgets and accessories without having to lug around a bag. Its most unique feature is an inflatable pillow designed to make it more comfortable to snooze on a bus or airplane. There’s a big pocket for an iPad, a slit for a stylus and a portable charging pocket.
If all of the above sounds similar, that’s because I’ve been wearing similar jackets produced by a company called SCOTTeVEST for the past nine years or so. No, the SCOTTeVEST jackets don’t have an inflatable pillow, but they have just about everything else, plus some features missing from the BauBax jackets. When I first saw the BauBax campaign, I wondered who in their right mind would pledge $89 to $159 for a jacket that would show up four months later when they could get a SCOTTeVEsT jacket overnight that comes with a liberal return policy and a friendly customer service department. My guess is that most of the BauBax Kickstarter backers were drawn in by slick Kickstarter campaign and had no idea that SCOTTeVEST exists.
While the $9 million or so BauBax raised on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other sales channels is impressive, SCOTTeVEST has sold almost $65 million worth of apparel. I’ve purchased countless SCOTTeVEST products as for myself and as gifts. The company’s also provided me with review units over the years. I’ve been generally happy with my purchases, especially in its most recent garments, which are much built to much higher standards than the first SCOTTeVEST jacket I bought about nine years ago.
As BauBax closed its Kickstarter campaign, I knew it would be absolutely impossible for a new company to deliver that kind of volume in time for the holidays. Sure enough, I started seeing numerous complaints on social media about BauBax missing shipping estimates and not responding to customers’ inquiries.
Unfortunately, BauBax is far from the only Kickstarter projects that’s left backers disappointed, though the good news is that some of BauBax backers are indeed receiving their promised products. There have been far worse outcomes with seven-figure projects. Pirate3D Inc raised almost $1,500,000 from Kickstarter backers back in 2013 for a simple 3D printer. More than half of its backers never received their 3D printers. Zano raised $3,500,000 on Kickstarter before crashing and burning, leaving backers holding the bag.
While I did not back BauBax, I connected with Kat Dawson one of the campaign’s more outspoken backers to hear more about how frustrating it can be to deal with a campaign that over promised and under delivered.
“I backed for six jackets. Two each for my partner and I. One each for my daughter and my mother as Christmas gifts. BauBax were extremely optimistic in their timelines,” Kathy Dawson wrote in an email. “Obviously too much so. I made my pledge in August of 2015. The cost was $669.00 plus shipping and handling for a total of $709.00. Funds were taken from my credit card on September 4, 2015.”
As campaigns grow far beyond the point of kickstarting companies or products, Kickstart risks losing backers that truly enjoy helping campaigns get off the ground.
“Will he and I continue to back projects? I think so, but we are going to be far more cautious,” Dawson continued. “I will also contemplate dropping out if a campaign becomes too big and it doesn’t look like the creators are addressing, in advance, the complications of too much too soon. We can afford to wait until a product goes retail. That’s the sad thing. It’s fun to back creators and watch them bring their creations to life. We do it for the love of new design. Now, we’ll only do it for the love of new design if we feel like the risks, and the risk of aggravation, are even smaller than stated on Kickstarter.”
Perhaps the most egregious thing BauBax has done to anger Kickstarter backers is to openly sell its jackets on other websites. The company raised an additional $11 million from Indiegogo and shipped inventory to Touch of Modern before its Kickstarter backers.
As with many delayed or failed Kickstarter campaigns, excitement has turned to disgust for many BauBax backers. While many BauBax backers are finally getting their shipments, many are still complaining that their jackets are nowhere in sight. There are some positive reviews of the BauBax cropping up on the Facebook BauBax Reviews page, but the sentiment is negative over all.
“Oh, and I really don’t want their jackets anymore,” Dawson wrote. “I keep joking that I’m going to run my own crowdfunding campaign wherein I offer pieces of all six jackets to my backers, attach their names to the respective pieces and then burn them in a bonfire. I would film it and call it “Burn BauBax Burn!”
BauBax did not respond to requests for comment by email and Twitter.