The Coolest was the hottest Kickstarter campaign of 2014, but a substantial number of people who paid at least $165 plus shipping for the party device still don’t have their coolers. Now a case filed against the company by Oregon’s Department of Justice has been resolved, and the company has three more years to ship out remaining backer rewards.
The Coolest, a large ice chest with a built-in blender, cutting board, USB charging ports, and a Bluetooth speaker, took in over $13 million in Kickstarter pledges and was originally supposed to arrive on backers’ doorsteps in early 2015. Consumerist began to hear from backers at the end of that year that they were upset that the company had inventory to sell on Amazon, but not to ship to backers.
Backers were also asked to pay an optional $97 above their original pledges to jump the line and receive their coolers first, since the production costs turned out to be more than the original pledge amounts.
The widely-publicized campaign attracted people who were new to crowdfunding, who may not have understood the distinction that they were supporting an idea instead of ordering a cooler.
Just peruse the comments on the original Kickstarter project page to get an idea.
Customers complained to the state attorney general’s consumer protection office in Coolest’s home state of Oregon, as one is supposed to in cases where consumers believe that they need protecting. The AG opened an investigation last fall, which has now been settled.
“The DOJ looked at our financials and despite many frustrated backers the only clear reality is that we can only ship more Backer rewards with money made by selling more coolers,” Coolest inventor, founder, and CEO Ryan Grepper told backers in his post-settlement update.
The company has long insisted that it can’t meet its obligations to backers without selling more coolers at or near retail to fund the production and shipping. From backers’ point of view, though, they paid for something in 2014 that doesn’t have the protections of a traditional purchase.
The settlement creates two classes of backers. For residents of Oregon and people from anywhere who filed complaints with the Attorney General’s office before April 15, 2017, the state has imposed a deadline of October 13, 2017, to ship coolers and accessories.
For everyone else, the company must set aside a portion of its net income that will be used for backer rewards. The company says that there are around 20,000 remaining coolers to ship out over the next three years.
Think about this for a minute. Yes, there are crowdfunded campaigns that never produced physical products at all, but that’s still six years that some backers could wait to receive their coolers.
At the outer time limit, you could back the campaign, meet someone, date for a while, conceive a child, and enroll that child in kindergarten before the cooler showed up.
“Mommy, what’s a Bluetooth?” that child will ask when the cooler arrives. Perhaps.
On the other hand, Coolest is still around. The project is the #2 most funded Kickstarter campaign of all time, and the #1 and #3 spots belong to different products from smart watch company Pebble, which went broke and sold its assets to Fitbit, voiding the warranties of all products out there.
The company has blamed bad online reviews from backers and the Attorney General investigation for its inability to sell coolers or draw investors. Now that the latter has been resolved, will the company thrive, and backer rewards finally ship out?
Backers are not holding their breath.