September 2016: I’ve updated this post with more information about my requested refund for excessive duties and how the sweatshirt is wearing after four months.
Like almost 45,000 other Kickstarter backers, I saw the Baubax travel jacket as a pretty cool idea that would make the in-transit part of traveling more comfortable. In July 2015.
267 days later, on April 12, 2016, my sweatshirt reward was delivered. That’s 8 months and 23 days, 38 weeks, almost the length of time it takes to carry a human baby to term.
With its original estimated delivery date of November 2015, I thought there was a chance my sweatshirt would arrive in time for my trip to Haiti. Then, I hoped it would arrive in time for my February 2016 trip to New York. At least I have it for the remainder of this year’s travel. Considering what I paid, I’m going to have to wear the heck out of it to amortize the cost to something more reasonable.
What follows is a review of my Baubax product, the advertised features, and my Baubax crowdfunding and customer service experience. I completely paid for this product myself and I will never have to deal with them again, so let’s do this.
Ordering Baubax: Price and what it cost
Baubax is a startup offering four products ranging from an all-weather windbreaker to a sweatshirt with 15 features for travel convenience. I ordered it through Kickstarter crowdfunding, which means I didn’t actually buy it in the traditional sense, I supported the company as a “backer,” and the “reward” is the product package I selected. Together with a friend, I backed the project on July 21, 2015 and the campaign closed on Kickstarter on September 3, 2015, raising USD$9.2 million from 44,949 backers.
Motivated by naïveté, hubris, or greed and unbeknownst to me, they launched a second crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo around the same time, which has raised another USD $2 million (corrected thanks to a clarification of how Indigogo calculates funding). It seems to have encountered all of the same issues with fulfillment, but this campaign is still processing perks (the Indiegogo equivalent of a Kickstarter reward) as of this writing (April 2016).
If you’re keeping score, a company that had never produced anything before, led by people who had never done this kind of thing before, raised over USD$11 million to deliver a product that did not exist yet to thousands of people in every corner of the world. What could possibly go wrong?
In the end, this adventure in startup travel clothing ended up costing us USD$254 – USD$229 for two sweatshirts and USD$25 shipping – which was charged as CAD$346.05 on my credit card in September 2015. We had to pay an additional CAD$97.37 for duty and taxes when it did arrive 267 days later. Update: Baubax has emailed me with information about getting some kind of refund for the excessive duty and taxes, I’ll update this post with the outcome. Further update September 2016: I completed the online form as requested in April, submitted receipts and documentation, and never received a response or refund. so it was a total waste of time. I do not recommend purchasing anything from Baubax.
The price on Indiegogo for the same two sweatshirt package is USD$279 + shipping (plus duty and taxes upon delivery outside of the United States) as of this writing (April 2016). That’s right, it’s even more expensive now.
Bottom line: My Baubax sweatshirt ended up costing me CAD$221.71, which is a lot of money for a sweatshirt with extra pockets.
Review: Baubax women’s sweatshirt
I chose the sweatshirt in a nice, coffee-stain-concealing black. The material is a heavier-weight cotton-polyester blend (60%-40%) and feels warm and comfortable. Overall, a higher-quality material than I was expecting, since the company became less confidence-inspiring and more dumpster-fire-like as time went on.
It is lined to accommodate all of the internal pockets, which makes it quite warm and suitable for airplanes and cold offices – passed the test in my cold always-cold office. Seams are sewed well, and the pockets and zippers are generally well-placed. All of the zippers, loops, and pockets work like the should. The wristlets, partial gloves at the end of the sleeves, are made of the same stretchy jersey as the lining, and are attached well.
I’m 5’3″ (163cm) and usually wear a medium or large to accommodate my football player shoulders, so I got it in size large, just in case. I’m glad I did, the sleeves are a bit on the long side, but the fit is quite snug overall. Update September 2016: The sweatshirt is not wearing particularly well. While it is quite warm, the fabric pills easily and takes days to dry if you don’t put it in the dryer. I do not recommend purchasing this sweatshirt or anything from Baubax.
Bottom-line: The Baubax sweatshirt is a decent quality product, but not great value considering I paid CAD$221.71 for it.
Baubax claims their products have 15 features, but I can only get there if I count the “pen + stylus” – a single item – as two things. They also threw in a flat plastic reusable water bottle for my trouble, so I will give them overall credit for 15 things. Here’s how the features check out:
- Neck pillow in hood: Garbage. Mine won’t stay inflated, despite trying it in the hood, outside of the hood, and looking up how to do it to make sure I was inflating it correctly. I emailed Baubax about it, but have kept my expectations low. Do not buy any Baubax product for this feature. Must be removed for washing.
- Eye mask in hood: Works well, blocks out light.
- Earphone holders: There’s a whole mess of loops around the neck, so you can arrange your earphones however you want.
- Drink pocket: Realistically, I’ll only use this for a drink pocket if I don’t have anything in the sunglasses pocket on the inside and my hands are full otherwise. Holds a 355mL can of soda or beer easily.
- Passport pocket: Conveniently located for going through security. I could fit three passports in the pocket.
- Microfibre cloth: Permanently attached with stretchy parachute cord.
- Sunglasses pocket: My sunglasses fit, but it gets bulky if you’re using the drink pocket.
- Phone pocket: Easily fits my Samsung Galaxy S5. Headphones connect up through loops staying inside the sweatshirt, which is convenient when wearing a backpack.
- Pen + stylus: Pen worked and came with three extra tips. Stylus worked on my phone, work Blackberry, and tablet. I detached it from the zipper pull because it’s quite heavy and gets in the way. Must be removed for washing.
- iPad pocket: My non-iPad tablet didn’t fit, but it’s a good sized pocket with a zipper that can be used for other things.
- Blanket pocket: Open internal pocket, I could put gloves or the water bottle in there.
- Portable charger pocket: Slimmer, open internal pocket and on the same side as the phone pocket. My portable charger cord isn’t long enough to reach the phone pocket, but I’ll probably use the iPad pocket if was going to charge my while wearing the sweatshirt.
- Hand-warming pockets: These are just regular pockets found in any hoodie on Earth. Nothing remarkable about them at all.
- Built-in gloves: I’m always cold, so these are a welcome feature. Right length for me. Light, stretchy, detached gloves are included that are dollar store quality, nothing special. I probably won’t use them.
- Accessory water bottle: This type of bottle is one of my travel essentials, but I won’t use this one. It is obviously cheap and has a terrible chemical plastic smell. So, it probably cost them 10 cents to include, but it still cost me $221.71.
Bottom-line: The Baubax sweatshirt does most of the things it advertises, but it’s still just a sweatshirt with extra pockets that cost CAD$221.71.
Baubax Customer Service
The high price, high cost, and pretty good construction would have been easier to tolerate if my dealings with this company had been more positive. They can’t even seem to get the easy stuff right. While waiting for delivery, I contacted their PR email address for a digital media kit, and it took five days to get a response, which was just a link to the pictures. That is not a media kit.
At best, they are ambitious amateurs
They’re getting through their first phase timelines, especially with unanticipated volume of orders received, but it still feels like they are in completely over their heads. Every part of this process has been outsourced, which makes sense, because neither of the company’s principals have a clothing manufacturing background. This company will likely prove to be a great case study for some startup-oriented MBA program. [Story checks out]
Bottom line: it looks like they’re trying to rack up as many sales as possible through crowdfunding to give the company two strong years of sales on paper before exiting/selling the brand and concept to people who may actually know what they’re doing.
At worst, they’re the worst
Between July and November 2015, the original estimated product delivery date, updates were regular. We saw a factory! We put a sample together! This is a real thing! Product testing to confirm the features! Complete the shipping survey! All positive news.
Product design, manufacturing and shipping updates became less frequent as winter arrived, and, delivery dates more nebulous. By January 2016, it was beginning to feel like a scam. I filed a complaint with Kickstarter for non-delivery of reward. I sent emails. And tweets. And Facebook messages.
I received direct responses through email and Twitter, assuring me this was a real product and would be delivered “soon.” In February 2016, updates resumed that were a list of excuses illustrating how far out of their depth they were. Container shipping delays. An overwhelmed third party logistics provider. Basically, a lot of people burning through a lot of money who quite obviously did not have a clue what they’re doing.
Finally, progress. On March 25, 2016 I received a shipping notification with a DHL tracking number. I started checking daily. No updates. On April 5, 2016, I contacted DHL, who responded within a few hours to tell me the notification I received was for a package that had not yet been delivered to their facility. Another email to Baubax, which resulted in them telling me to contact DHL again. This was infuriating, so I forwarded the DHL email to Baubax. As if by magic, the package was delivered to the shipper the next day. I received no more updates from DHL until the package arrived in my city and was ready to go out the door with Canada Post.
When it was finally delivered to the Canada Post outlet on April 12, 2016, I reached the final step in this journey. Paying duty and taxes – another CAD$97.37 – to get this thing and be done with Baubax forever was unpleasant, but the cost of admission. Like paying at the end of a bad date to be done with it forever. With the bonkers customs valuations, I would not recommend buying outside of the United States unless you’re prepared to pay at least another 30-40% on delivery.
I’ve had almost nine months to weigh the consequences of my decision and I can live with the purchase. I’m going to wear the sweatshirt and I spent most of the money so long ago, it’s time to not be mad about it any more and move on. I will not buy from Baubax again and I will not support another Kickstarter by people who have no experience in their field. Lesson learned.
Bottom line: I received my Baubax sweatshirt but it ended up being ridiculously expensive. I would have been happier paying CAD$100-150 for it, including shipping and customs fees. No, I would not recommend the purchase to others.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve earned a treat. When the sweatshirts were finally delivered, I was going to make an unboxing video, but Rocco the cat had other plans.
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