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When customer support goes bad

10 min read

TL;DR: I supported a Kickstarter project in 2014, and never received my product. When I got pushy on Twitter in 2017, the company blocked me, and stopped responding to my emails and tweets. I'm not the only one in this situation, but what can you actually do, except for posting extremely long and overly detailed posts like the below, to warn everyone else from doing business with lattis.io?

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The Skylock sounded like a promising product aiming to IoT'ing bikelocks, making them network enabled, more convenient, and safer. Here's their marketing video from 3 years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gyLPjDakAc. Gizmodo loved the idea (https://gizmodo.com/skylock-is-the-bike-lock-of-the-future-and-its-awesome-1576515407), The Verge was similarly excited (https://www.theverge.com/2014/5/15/5718442/skylock-is-a-keyless-solar-powered-bike-lock-that-just-la...)

As a happy bikecommuter having had a few bikes stolen in the past (and liking gadgets very much), I jumped on it as soon as I was made aware of it (by my friend Keith). In August 2014 I contributed money to back the Skylock, a Kickstarter project by Velo Labs, and I was looking forward to getting my sentient bike lock at the planned date. According to the Wayback machine snapshot from August 2014, it was supposed to ship in early 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20140807032952/https://skylock.cc/).

In the following year, Velo Labs regularly updated backers and beta users about progress, delays (it quickly became at least 1 year delayed), and roadmap. All things expected from a Kickstarter project.

In late September 2016 Skylock became Ellipse, by Lattis. Velo Labs was out, Lattis was in. The CEO explained the reason for the change, with the following paragraph in an announcement email, which also appeared on their website (https://lattis.io/blogs/posts/introducing-lattis):

We start anew as Lattis because this better captures our enthusiasm for simplifying life through an interconnected network of technologies. It’s bigger than just bikes. We’re here to serve urbanites who take pride in their city and understand their role in making it great. People who embrace design, technology, and change. There will be a lot more coming from us in the near future, so stay tuned.

A week later, I was asked to confirm my shipping details, so they could make sure I was still at the same address I had given when I backed it. I confirmed the details. A week later still, I got an email offering pre-orders for the Ellipse. Not relevant for me, but nevertheless exciting, because it meant they were closer to shipping!

In November 2016 I got an email saying that they had run into some more delays, but that they were sending the locks to the fulfilment centers on the 2nd of December, 2017. After that, it would take around 30 days to get the lock to the new owners. Given the amount of setbacks (remember, initially they operated with an early 2015 shipping date), I conservatively expected the lock to be in my hand by February 2017.

On the 22nd of December 2016 a new holiday email update arrived from Lattis. The first batch of Ellipse locks were now on a freighter on its way to North America, expected to arrive in January. It looked like my guess about a February arrival date for my lock might stick. They hadn't mentioned anything about European shipping dates, so just to be certain, I reach out to them on twitter, and asked them: https://twitter.com/voss/status/811732955525746688 - they replied that batches of the locks leaving the manufacturer in January, would be going to Europe. Shiny!

February 2017 comes around, and I write their support email to hear of any news regarding European shipping dates. I'm told, that demand has been so big, that their vendors couldn't cope with the volume. Still, their first European pre-orders will now start shipping in a few weeks, and I can expect 4-6 week delivery time after shipping, and more information in their next update.

Mid February, another email update rolls around. This time with their shipping schedule. Europe and international shipping will now start in March for the grey and blue lock, while the white lock will start shipping in June. I ordered the grey lock, so March it is for me. I then set my sight on April as the arrival for my lock.

Towards the end of April 2017 another email arrives, saying that they've fulfilled their North American pre-orders for grey and blue locks, and that the white ones will still ship in June. The email continues:

"We’re now shifting our focus to ramp up production and delivery for our customers around the world. We've already shipped out the first batch to our earliest supporters, with the balance of international pre-orders shipping out in batches over the next couple months".

Since I'm one of the early supporters of the Skylock, aka Ellipse (at least I think I am), I set my expectations for the lock to arrive in a few months. I set July as my target.

June 2017 comes around, and just to make sure everything is ok, I reach out to Lattis on twitter (https://twitter.com/voss/status/870962753258835969), and they tell me to get in touch with their support team, to confirm my address. I get in touch with their support (who answers very quickly (<24hrs) and is very helpful), I confirm my address, they say that the address they had for me, was incomplete. That's weird, because I had just confirmed it in October when they asked me to do so. They tell me they will make sure that my lock will be sent out in the next batch in July, and that I will receive a tracking number along with shipping notification when it happens.

And then, things started to get strange.

July 2017 is silent, both on email and their website, no updates. August 2017 comes around, and I write support to ask for an update on my shipment, as I haven't received a tracking number or a shipping notification yet. Support now takes 5 days to reply, and explain that their international shipping has been paused until further notice. They are in the process of hiring a new shipping company, and will let customers know when shipping resumes. I'm then offered to cancel my order and get a refund, if I'm not happy to wait. I reply that I'm happy to wait, since I've already waited 3 years for the lock. They say great, they are looking forward to getting the lock to me.

September 2017 comes around with no updates, and September becomes October 2017, still with no updates. I'm loosing my patience, and reach out to them on twitter (https://twitter.com/voss/status/918406033529344000). I point out that I've been waiting 3 years for the product, and that I find it weird, if their European shipping is on hold, that I can still order one on their website, without being informed that it's actually not currently shipping to Europe. They reply that they are still in business, and that my lock will ship "as soon as possible". I reply something snarky, pointing out that my lock has been in "as soon as possible" status since February, and that surely this can't be acceptable by their own standards. I don't think I hear anything back from them on that, so I write an email. 10 days later, they reply. They have a backlog, they are working hard, if I wan't to cancel my order they will refund me. I again say that I would very much like to have the lock that I paid for, and that I will continue to hold them accountable for getting the product into my hands.

In October, a week after I ask them for an update on the shipping status, they post an update to their blog (https://lattis.io/blogs/posts/shipping-update), explaining that they have failed their communications and shipping commitment to their backers, and that they are working hard on fixing it. As a case in point, that information was not sent to their customers via email, they only posted it to their website, as far as I know. So, yeh, they are still not fulfilling their communications commitment.

Guess what, it's now November 2017. I still haven't heard any news on my shipment. I reply to one of my emails to their support, where they offered to refund my order, that my patience is up, and that I would like to get a full refund. Surprisingly, I have heard nothing from them since then. They blocked me on Twitter, which I discovered in November as I tried to get in touch with them there, and couldn't mention them.

Per 24th of January 2018 they have a new update on their blog about new inventory being available, and shipping as fast as they can (but really they are most excited about talking about Bikeshare 1.0): https://lattis.io/blogs/posts/new-inventory-lattis-bikeshare-1-0

I wrote and asked them for an update on where my lock was, and got this reply back:

Thanks for reaching out support@lattis.io

Waiting on your order to ship?

We are shipping pre-orders in the order we received them. Please be patient!

We’ve shipped thousands of units to date, and we continue shipping units every week. 

 

An issue with your Ellipse?

That should be an easy fix 😉. Please try our FAQ with most common questions(link) or if you haven’t already provided that information, please reply to this email with the following information:

 

- Are the LEDs on the capacitive touchpad lighting up?

- Are you using a FB or Phone Number account? Do you still have access to that account?

- S/N of your Ellipse located under the QR code of the box (ex: CSD7100031)

 

Bike to the future!

The Lattis team

I'm not the only one in this situation, which does offer some consolation, but only sofar as I'm not the only one miffed. The last post on their Facebook page ((https://www.facebook.com/HelloLattis/posts/1332022596894346)) is from May, and while it announces that the Ellipse is now available in a store in Santa Monica, the comments bear witness to failing their commitment to their backers and pre-orderers.

Reactions to their latest post on their Facebook Page

Some commentators on that post write that they did indeed receive the product, but that it's terrible, and one person left a 1-star product review on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3O1OJEQGBJO6/ref=cm_cr_getr_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B...)

In general, the reviews on Amazon are less than favourable (48% 1-star reviews: https://www.amazon.com/Lattis-Ellipse-Keyless-Detection-Charcoal/product-reviews/B01NASEQH6/ref=cm_c...).

So, what to do next? They took my money 3.5 years ago, and I don't have the product I paid for. They don't reply to emails anymore (just automated replies). Last time I spoke with a human via email, they offered a refund. At that point they had been telling me for 6 months, that they would start international shipments very soon.

Can I do more than writing this, way too long, detailed, and for anyone not affected by this, boring, blogpost, to let others know that they should not do business with them?

Edit: I updated the title and TL;DR of my post to better reflect that I'm not criticising Kickstarter or crowdfunding platforms in general, my criticism is squarely pointed at lattis.io. Unfortunately I cannot change the URL of the post.

If you are also waiting for your lock to arrive, or have received a faulty lock, and are not having your support requests met, you can contact lockaction.org to provide them with your information. They are collecting victim information against Velo Labs/Lattis, for possible future actions.