Kickstarted

Caveat Backer! Vere Sandals, Overfunded Kickstarter Project, Fails to Deliver

vere sandals Caveat Backer! Vere Sandals, Overfunded Kickstarter Project, Fails to Deliver

A pair of Vere Sandals as advertised on Kickstarter.

Back in March, a project on Kickstarter for American-made flip flops “with an eye on the environment” raised $56,618 of its $12,000 goal in order to build a sandal-making factory in the small town of Geneva, New York. The creators of Vere Sandals—John Eades and Michael Ferreri, who describe themselves as childhood friends—said they had the equipment and the experience, but needed the money for production costs. The project has had repeated delays with sporadic updates from the founders. Almost 10 months later, many of the 1,091 backers are steaming. 

The last update from the project creators, who did not respond to a request for comment, whose full response to Betabeat is below, was in November: a long list of mechanical problems they’d run into from a broken tacker to an issue with the adhesive. “None of this gets your sandals to you any faster, and won’t clear up the frustration that some of you feel.  There’s no putting lipstick on this pig, it’s November and many of you still don’t have sandals.  It’s true that we underestimated the complications that we’d run into, and building a fully functioning sandal factory from scratch in less than a year was a pretty ambitious undertaking,” Mr. Eades and Mr. Ferreri wrote.

“We were given an estimate of mid to late spring to receive our sandals,” backer Cody Carse, who put $50 toward the project, said in an email. “The vast majority of us haven’t received anything yet. This was a project featured by Kickstarter in their weekly email. I am beginning to believe for many reasons that we may never receive anything from Vere… I think it would make a great article on the basis of ‘how not to run a Kickstarter project.’”

From the comments on the project:

Brian Brown, Dec. 20:

Looking back at the intro video now just makes me want to throw a brick into my screen. Look, they have a factory! Look, they have machines! Look, I have * absolutely nothing* to show for my fifty bucks. They money should have been returned months ago.What a Kickstarter horror story.

Baiken Mens, Oct. 21:

Are you there?
The summer is over without your product.
Send me sandal or money!

Chris Keenan, Nov. 10:

Am I the only one who thinks you completely misled us? In the Project Home write up, 4th paragraph you said you had the equipment and just needed funding to start the 2011 production season yet in your most recent update you tell us you were waiting on delivery and installation of the equipment. Seems misleading yet interesting that if you have an idea without really thinking it through you can put it up here on Kickstarter, raise money and really never have to have any kind of deliverable.

I look forward to my Vere Sandals if I have them by next summer, but I highly doubt I will care as I have already purchased a new pair of Rainbows.

Other backers voiced their support for Vere. “Sucks you’ve had so many issues, and even more so that you are having to deal with the negativity, but keep up the good fight!” wrote Ryan Smith.

Kickstarter vets campaigns for violations of its community guidelines, but it doesn’t watchdog creators. “At the end of the day, use your internet street smarts,” the company says. But as the site grows—more than $100 million has been pledged to campaigns—so do stories of dishonest or incompetent creators, and complaints from grumpy backers. “Vere has made me quit using Kickstarter,” backer Morgan Engle wrote today. “I don’t trust anyone on here anymore. and to make it worse there is no mechanism on kickstarter to keep anyone accountable for their actions. well, lesson learned I guess. Looking forward to Vere delaying my shipment AGAIN.”

Kickstarter’s media man Justin Kazmark, who just launched a Kickstarter campaign to open-source his great uncle’s glögg recipe, said this is just how Kickstarter works. He pointed out that the creators have surveyed their backers, issued 22 updates, responded to comments (most recently three days ago) and been transparent about their obstacles.

“What this story illustrates is that Kickstarter projects are works in progress,” Mr. Kazmark wrote in an email. “Creators are sometimes more successful than they imagined. Reward fulfillment sometimes takes longer than anticipated. When backers pledge support to a project it’s as much about enjoying access to the journey the creator takes to get their idea off the ground as it is pre-purchasing something that doesn’t yet exist. Backers share a sense of ownership in being part of the creative process. Sometimes that can be frustrating but more often than not backers appreciate that experience.”

UPDATE, 1:42 p.m.: We received a note from Mr. Eades:

Our delays have been primarily because of mechanical issues and the fact that there are only two of us making them.  Our raw materials didn’t arrive until July, and we were off and running then.  We’ve had sewing machine issues, adhesive issues, and hydraulic press issues.  We’ve resolved the adhesive and press issues, and had resolved the sewing issues.  Currently, our “tacker” sewing machine is down, making it impossible to sew more straps.  Being a small startup and having to rely on old, used machinery has been a headache.  The hope is to upgrade to better, more reliable machinery when funds are available.

Today we are sending out size 11 Black/Grey Louies, as we have the straps completed for those.  Louie’s are in the pipeline.  The tacker will be fixed “sometime toward the end of January” according to the repair shop, and we’ll begin sending out Angie’s immediately when that returns.  We’ve been making the remaining parts for those in advance so as to be ready when the tacker does return.

It’s been a long, frustrating process to say the least, and we’ve hit more roadblocks than even we expected.  Kickstarter orders were overwhelming, and if we were to do it again we would definitely have put a limit on the number of backer awards available.  We’ve done our best to update our progress on the kickstarter site and through the updates and FAQ location, but at some point people are not interested in hearing why their sandals aren’t there anymore.  They just want their sandals.  I can understand that, I just can’t fix it yet, so we keep working to get them out as we can.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com

Comments

  1. Bob says:

    Making things is hard. Entitled little shits.

    1. Brian Brown says:

      Yes, I am an entitled little shit who gave them money in return for a product. They got my money last March. They still can’t say when I’m getting my damned sandals.

  2. Bob says:

    Making things is hard. Entitled little shits.

  3. Cody C says:

    Sorry Bob, but yeah we are entitled. We paid therefore we’re entitled. We’re entitled as a group to the same respect you’d give any investor in your company. 

    The reason I backed this Kickstarter project was not because I wanted a pair of sandals (that was a nice bonus) it was because I wanted to be a part of a new US manufacturer who seemed to be interested in making a good product in a responsible way.  I was hoping when I backed this project to better learn what is involved in starting up a manufacturing business in the USA but we’ve only been informed when something goes wrong and even then we’re only told limited details, weeks after it happened. 

    I and other backers I know just want the respect anyone would give to a paying investor. We’re the reason they’ve been able to fulfill this dream. 

    It seems we always have to find out about delays or new issues through sources other than directly from Vere. For example this is the first time we’ve been given an estimate for when production would start back up. Some of the backers have asked for weekly or biweekly one paragraph updates just to know where they stand and they refuse. There’s no reason they couldn’t post short video updates for us every week or two. Let us know what they’ve accomplished, what has failed, what they’ve learned. Instead they continue to keep us in the dark. I’ve backed other projects that had other project creators post videos of production, videos explaining delays, etc. 

    If this is how they treat their investors then how do you think they’ll treat their customers?

  4. Brian Brown says:

    “They just want their sandals.  I can understand that, I just can’t fix it yet, so we keep working to get them out as we can.”

    Actually, I don’t want my sandals. I want my money. I appreciate the issues they’re having, but at what point do you just say it’s not going to work and let people opt out?

    1. Savvy says:

      A refund on your investment?  You have much to learn kid.

      1. Cody C says:

        Well according to Kickstarter, 

        If I am unable to complete my project as listed, what should I do?
        If you are unable to fulfill the promises made to backers, cannot complete the project as advertised, or decide to abandon the project for any reason, you are expected to cancel funding. A failure to do so could result in damage to your reputation or even legal action on behalf of your backers.

      2. Brian Brown says:

        What “investment”? I bought sandals, that’s it. I didn’t become their business partner.

  5. JW_RockCap says:

    The title is absolutely correct, but I would argue how “many of the 1091 backers are steaming” on this project.  There’s a small pocket of 10 or so backers who are constantly making noise on the message boards of this project.  They are obviously unsophisticated when it comes to investment, and in some cases have confused Kickstarter with Zappos.  Most everyone else “gets it”, and are just not going to be as vocal with support. 

    I’m a backer of several projects including this one.  Sure I hate it that I
    haven’t gotten my three pair of sandals, but that’s the ‘risk’ I took
    in backing this company.  I don’t know how many projects other people have backed, but only 2 of the 9 were on time, and some have already gone much longer than a year with hardly any updates.  I’m backing one that funded in November of 2010 and I’ve gotten 4 updates.  At least Vere put out 22.  Amazingly there isn’t as much tension on the message boards.  Not even close. 

    As someone who has also invested much larger amounts in various funds and small businesses, I would not want 22 updates in 10 months.  Yes I would like to be made aware of any issues that might diminish my investment, but I don’t need some short video clip every 2 weeks just for the hell of it.  You have invested a few weeks worth of Lattes.  You are not that entitled.

  6. guest says:

    Make that 1,090.  I requested a refund way back in June and a check was mailed to me withing 1 month or so. “Entitled” or not, I “pledged” this project based on the information presented to me.  Any way you slice it, expectations have not been met. So glad I got away from this mess when I could. I bought a pair of nice Reef flip flops (sandals?) with the refund. Made in Indonesia? Probably. Do I have them and am I able to wear them now? Yes. I think they were cheaper too. All I wanted was a pair or flip flops.

    1. David Binns says:

      If all you want is a pair of flip flops then what are you doing on Kickstarter?  Go to Payless or Walmart, they have a variety of styles, colors, & sizes.  Kickstarter is not an online shopping mall.  It is a place to find real people who have plans & ambition to do something new & different, but lack the critical funding to do so.  I guarantee that none of the complainers here have ever attempted anything as complex as the project John & Michael are attempting.

      They may ultimately succeed (I sincerely hope they do), or they may fail.  But remember this: the investment they have put into this endeavor (time, money, energy, emotions, spirit) far exceeds anything that you have invested in them.  If they fail, you are out a few bucks, but they will be out far more.  No one wants this project to succeed more than they do.

      For the record, I have no affiliation with Kickstarter, or John & Michael, although I have exchanged personal emails & even a phone call with them.  I have $150 invested in a pair of the leather sandals + a pair of cover-alls, that I have not yet received.  I own a small business, and I can empathize with their situation.

      1. smart person says:

        They’re still just making sandals. And when they give you your pair of sandals for all the capital YOU put in, they get to keep all the future rewards from the factory (output, profits, etc).

        So yes I’d say at the very fucking least they owe their investors the attention they would give to “real” investors, or at the very least a fucking pair of sandals.

        I’m so sick of kickstarter hipsters going around acting like they’re savvy.