Back in November, I promoted a Kickstarter campaign for the X-Tra Performance battery, a very cool looking battery product for your Canon and other mirrorless cameras.
In the past, I've generally only ever promoted campaigns by companies that have had a track record of delivering on their promises, the likes Kurvd, Peak Design and Gura Gear have never really let anyone down, outside of minor delivery delays.
This time, however, it looks like we have all been taken, and I would like to apologize for not properly vetting the project because once I dug deeper after the fact, it became apparent that this project was likely a scam from the get-go.
When did I become suspicious?
I was signed up as an affiliate for the project, and I had spoken directly with the claimed CEO “Jeffrey”, and I was offered 20% of all sales driven to the project. Being the trusting readers you are, you folks laid out about $18,000 in backing the project, for which I had earned just shy of $3500. A decent sum to keep the lights on and the server churning.
On January 12, 2021, that payment was due to the Kickbooster platform to be handed out to all of the affiliates, it didn't happen. Which isn't highly unusual, sometimes payments are late. I reached out to Kickbooster and they told me that no one from the project had returned any communications about payment.
The communication from the project during the campaign was spotty at best, again that's not unusual. Sometimes people get tired of answering the same questions over and over. That may not be right, but it is fairly common.
So I started to dig deeper and wanted to know more about the CEO “Jeffery Parker” and the CTO “Arthur Lau”. Now, for photographers and videographers on the apparent cutting edge of things, there wasn't much to be found about these two characters out there, so that lead me to using some tools to see if I could track them down by the photographs.
Well, Jeffrey Parker was quite easy to find, as he looks like a Hong Kong-based model, and was likely hired for this project and may not have known what he had actually been hired for.
Below is an upsampled picture from the Kickstarter campaign of the claimed CEO “Jeffrey Parker”.
Below is what appears to be the same person, he appears in all sorts of publications in that appear to be in Mandarin, as well as stock images for other products being sold online. I ended up finding about 3 dozen images of him, but his reported name differs from site to site.
Once I had found our “Mr Parker”, I realized that everything was probably nonsense from the start. I have reached out directly to the email addresses I have for the campaign and I have obviously heard nothing back. They have also stopped replying to anyone on the Kickstarter page.
Update #1: Thanks DVaNu
It looks like our favourite CEO is peddling another project on Kickstarter. The company running this campaign Sabinetek looks to be legitimate based on past successful projects.
Indiegogo is currently still running the campaign, I reached out to them to tell them that it was a scam and that I was ready to provide my evidence, and all I received in return was a canned response and nothing else. Which is a shame, because obviously Indiegogo and Kickstarter don't appear to care.
Can I get my money back?
This is a tricky question, as there is no black and white solution for a backer getting their money back. I was able to get my money back through American Express, I have the Platinum Aeroplan card, and it wasn't much of an issue.
Getting your money back will likely depend on where you live, your bank and what sort of credit card you paid with. I wish I could give you a more detailed overview of the topic, but there are just too many different scenarios out there. I will say it is definitely worth your time to call your credit card company and explain it. You can even source this article, no one likes scams, credit card companies especially.
Again, I am sorry that I didn't properly vet this project before promoting it. It definitely won't happen again in the future.
If I hear anything more, I will update this article.
Update #2 – February 10, 2021
A few people have suggested I only wrote this article because I didn't receive affiliate revenue that was due.
The collection of affiliate dollars was done by Kickbooster with a due date of January 12, 2021. To be paid out to me the first day of February. Up until this point I had continued to receive project details including my purchase being locked in and a survey from the campaign.
I only noticed by chance when I was poking around Kickbooster last week that funds had not been collected, so I reached out to Kickbooster. I then noticed that all communication from the campaign had also stopped. This campaign wasn't something that was in the forefront of my thoughts, so I was just riding it out like I always do with Kickstarter.
There have been some pretty outlandish comments about affiliate “disclosure”. Yes, there should have been an affiliate disclosure on the post, like it is site-wide now. However, that would not have changed the fact that people got screwed over by a scam campaign. A couple of dozen sites, like me, didn't vet this properly, which lead to their readers buying into a scam campaign.
I have also found 9 other sites that affiliated this campaign without any sort of disclosure of being an affiliate. None of those sites has owned up to this being a scam. It doesn't make things right, but bad practice runs rampant in this industry. However, I don't believe any of these sites or myself had any bad intentions or purposely wanted to deceive readers.
Because I have written this article, many people have been able to get refunds, unfortunately not everyone will be able to, but I highly doubt that any other site would have ever followed up on this campaign being a scam.
Out of all the sites that promoted it, I have only seen two write an article about it, mostly trying to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing for not doing due diligence before posting about the campaign. I repeat, any site that claims they properly vetted this campaign is being disingenuous. It took me less than 5 minutes to figure out that “Jeffery” was BS, which is what frustrates me the most. Had I done due diligence before I posted, all of this would have been avoided.
X-TRA Responds to their lack of communication:
First, we are genuinely sorry for the lack of communication. It's challenging for us to send out the regular update during this moment as our entrepreneurial teams encounter both the quarantine and CNY break in China. We took a risk travelling across continents during the last few weeks to ensure our conceptual design could go-to-market in the coming March.
The battery is critically demanding for quality as it matters to every backers' safety. Any mistake or fallacy on our product is not allowed. So, we did an onsite GEMBA walk to ensure our suppliers' quality is qualified for product manufacture. We locked one potential manufacturer partner in Shenzhen during the travel. We turned down another in Qingdao as we can hardly get to our partner due to the escalating pandemic control policy in Shandong Province. Alternatively, we found a qualified manufacturer partner in Guangzhou who passed our quality check. Those two qualified suppliers in the adjacent location can help us build synergy to fulfill the orders.
It is also time-consuming for us to validate the quality, and we also contact global certificate providers to provide product & logistics safety certificates in the meantime.
Looking ahead, we have several milestones to reach
1) There are still 208 backers who didn't complete the survey yet; if you didn't finish the post-campaign survey, we can't get the final BOM to make. It will be another time consumption for all backers. The survey is still open, and wait for their response.
2) Due to the Chinese new year, the manufacturer's plant already shut down, and we are hoping for their return to work around Feb 26th.
3) Product manufacture, test, and certificate will be done in March. The first batch of X-tra will be shipped in April.
4) We will improve the way we communicate. We will post as many pictures as possible about mass production to backers.
Thanks for your patience and waiting!
The X-TRA team
That's all well and good, and I'm not sure of the motivation behind this communication. We have the internet everywhere, there is never an excuse to go radio silent. I also don't know how Kickstarter releases funding to the people behind campaigns. Was this statement merely to slow or stop the Kickstarter and Indiegogo investigations that have been confirmed to be happening?
Secondly, it doesn't take away from the fact “Jeffery” as represented in this campaign doesn't appear to be legitimate.
They have never responded to my requests for comment directly, which was something that happened on a regular basis at the beginning of their campaign.
I would still continue to advise backers to try and get a refund through their financial institutions.
No funds have been released to affiliates, for those that are wondering. If affiliate dollars ever do roll my way, they will be donated in one way or another and I'll be very transparent about that.
I have backed a number of Kickstarter campaigns and have gotten what I feel are great deals on new products and have been generally satisfied.
But I supposed bad ones slip through....thanks for the update.
I remembered looking at this one and it just didn't happen to tickle my fancy. Thankfully.
The person I spoke to at American Express says they refund all crowdfunding scams. That said, it may depend on your country, card type or even the person you speak to.
If a few hundred people get the refunds, there's no way Kickstarter is going to fill out a few hundred disputes, because they'd probably still lose.
To ease the pain, I would say it's more and more difficult to even simply define "scam", some campaigns can be perfectly legal and still a clear loss for investors. Sometimes, you can't even know who's fooling who (and some are even fooling themselves, probably, or at least a part of their staff).
I do give you credit for stepping up and admitting your mistake of backing and recommending them, though. And to the others that got taken, call your CC company. I have seen them do charge backs/refunds in situations that may surprise you.
I see no reason to kickstarter anything now. You take no risk, and if its a success, you can buy once the first units ship and you'll have a better product because the kinks are smoothed out.
That's a bit reductive, considering multiple successful Kickstarters from Peak Design, Arsenal, etc.
i didnt know that too , is it the norm for such articles on most reputable sites?
actually, I believe it‘s legally required in some jurisdictions. Additionally, if he has a stake, or partial ownership position in the project, he may be responsible for the losses others have suffered.
Yes, it's normal. You can usually tell by the URL of the link. But yes, an affiliate disclaimer is supposed to be on such posts.
Gura Gear, Peak Design, Kurvd are all affiliated as well. It's just standard marketing practice, they only pay marketing dollars out if there are direct sales.
I did put my money where my mouth was and ordered two of the batteries. Thankfully I was refunded, I hope others are successful too.