Why Would I Fund A “New” Kickstarter Product If I Can Find It Cheaper Elsewhere?

A product quite similar to the project was for sale on Amazon.

A product quite similar to the project was for sale on Amazon.

That headline is a big fat rhetorical. No one would (or should) pledge to back a Kickstarter product if it’s already for sale — meaning the creator may not have come up with it in the first place — and is cheaper elsewhere on the Internets. In a recent case of a project gone awry, the creator behind a “three-in-one” USB cable that can charge a mobile device, transfer data and read cards found themselves in hot water when a few of the 464 backers noticed the exact same thing on sites like Amazon.com. Kickstarter suspended the project yesterday.

The product description starts out simply: “A small portable 3in1 Cable that goes where you go: Charges your phone or mobile device, Transfers data & USB storage drive/card reader,” before the creator delved into a lengthy tale of woe and frustration with lugging around multiple cables.

Backers were able to pledge up to $1,200 but the base price for just one of the cables topped out at the level of a$25, which ostensibly is what the product would sell for at retail. Except, as commenters/backers noted, something was fishy. See, a basically identical product is already for sale here for $1, here for $24.99 for five of them and on Amazon as well, although the product has recently been labeled “unavailable.”

In response to the outcry from backers, the creator tried to appease people in the comments section with some vague explanations.  The creator claimed basically that the images of the product didn’t come from a competitor, as some claimed, but from the manufacturer.

Which means, according to the creator, that either the manufacturer leaked its product or it was stolen and a similar product was invented and made it to sale while this one was still in the works. But wait, couldn’t the creators have just seen that item on the Internet and decided to sell it as a Kickstarter product? Something which is very illegal, of course.

The creator claims it was the other way around, without providing any actual proof besides anecdotal evidence.

The creator posted in the comments on Wednesday:

Google is a wonderful thing and as some of you have proven with a little time and energy you can find anything on it. We knowingly would not go out and bring a project here if it was already out there, in this day and age there are not too many secrets. We did our research and did a fair amount of google searches ourselves when we started the project to see if there was a competing product on the market, and there was nothing for sale that we found. From the time we started until now it looks like that has changed. Is that the fault of our manufacturer, agreement, their employees or competitor?
We are looking to find out.

One savvy commenter wasn’t buying that, and we like his reasoning.

I’m more than a bit confused about what’s happening, here.
I can see two possible scenarios.
1) Your design was stolen more than six months ago. Whether it was sold by the manufacturer, one of their employees, or stolen by a competitor, you have a legal fight ahead of you. This is going to impact your ability to deliver your product in a timely fashion, win or lose. You have not updated your page to reflect this fact. This reeks of guilt, as does your claim that a Chinese manufacturer is taking an 18-day-vacation. If you are innocent, you need to start communicating, instead of pushing out updates void of information.
2) Your plan is to buy these cheaply from China, and sell them to backers. In this case, what you are doing is illegal, and your project will likely be shut down.
You have been aware of this issue for several days, but have taken no steps to make potential backers aware of it. There have been no updates discussing it, and the homepage remains the same as it always has.

The creator replied that it’s the Chinese New Year in China and so that’s why it was taking so long to figure everything out. Uh huh. While that is true — business does shriek to a halt there during this time — clearly there’s something amiss here.

Despite the attempts to placate backers with promises of “additional info” from the creator’s mysterious manufacturer that he’d pointed the finger at, Kickstarter wasn’t having any of it, and shut the project down. According to the site, once a project is suspended, it’s permanent — all pledges are canceled and the suspension cannot be undone.

Kickstarter told Consumerist it can’t comment on specific cases or why a moderator would shut down a project, but the FAQ says a suspension can happen for a few reasons. If it:

• Violates or acts inconsistently with the letter or spirit of the Kickstarter Guidelines or Terms of Use.
• Materially changes the stated use of funds
• Makes unverifiable claims
• Exhibits actions that are more closely associated with fraudulent or high-risk activity

Yet another reason to do your research before you back any online projects that claim to be new inventions. We’re just amazed the project received so many backers before the cord was finally cut.