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.

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