3D Printer Creator Withholding Long-Delayed Shipments To Early Backers Over Supposed 'Defamatory' Comments

from the yeah,-that's-not-how-that-works dept

There are a lot of ways to deal with unhappy Kickstarter backers. Being generally unresponsive to complaints isn’t a good idea. Withholding already-delayed shipments and blaming it on allegedly defamatory comments definitely isn’t.

Cobblebot promised shipments to its earliest backers by October 2014. It’s now April 2015 and some have yet to see the 3D printers they’ve paid for. Worse, other backers of other products by Cobblebot have already received theirs. (Cobblebot started another Kickstarter project shortly after this one was funded, as well as using IndieGogo to raise additional funds.) It’s the earliest backers — at least those who have been critical of numerous shipping delays — who are still waiting for their paid-for printers to be shipped.

Whatever the real reason behind these delayed shipments, Cobblebot has chosen to portray this as a (highly dubious) legal issue.

One customer, who goes by the handle of JeffRandall on the Cobbleverse forum, recently contacted the company via email with the following message:

“Can you please tell me what the status is for my final shipment. I paid the final invoice over a week ago and I am one of the 99 super early bird backers [these backers had an expected delivery date which passed 6 months ago!]. The message from you was that the package had been prepared, yet it hasn’t shipped in over a week.”

Jeff received the following, rather alarming reply shortly after:

“Hello Jeffrey,

Sorry for the delay and an explanation is necessary. Your account was placed on hold by our legal department. Under Texas law, it is unlawful to engage in defamation of another’s character and reputation. The law presumes certain categories of statements are defamatory per se, including statements that (1) unambiguously charge a crime, dishonesty, fraud, rascality, or general depravity or (2) that are falsehoods that injure one in his office, business, profession, or occupation. Main v. Royall, 348 S.W.3d 318, 390.

Several of your recent posts on various internet forums were being reviewed by the legal department for inclusion in our fourth round of upcoming legal actions being filed to protect our company’s reputation from the illegal act of defamation.

All the above being said, we did receive a hold release from the legal department today and will proceed with the shipping of your package. What does it mean when the legal department releases a hold? It normally means one of two things: 1) The legal department has decided the reviewed statement(s) were not defamation under Texas law; or 2) They have decided to issue a warning (Cease & Desist letter) to provide the opportunity to stop defaming the company’s reputation.

Keep in mind that the support department does not have access to the legal department’s records, so we don’t know anything for certain. We are just attempting to explain the type of hold that we saw placed on your account and what that type of hold means.

In any case, the hold has been released and we will move forward with the shipping of your final package.
Thanks for supporting Cobblebot and have a wonderful day!

Cobblebot Team”

All in all, a ridiculous response. Why further anger an already angry customer? Especially when “Cobblebot Team” can’t be bothered to specify what exactly Randall (or others) said that was “defamation per se.” As Popehat’s Maxim states: “Vagueness in legal demands is the hallmark of frivolous legal thuggery.”

This legal vagueness is part of Cobblebot’s colorful history. It’s been complaining about comments by unhappy backers since August of last year. This post in its forums — sporting the rather unreassuring title of “Everything is ON SCHEDULE” — claims people are flooding its inbox with concerns about “defamatory” posts by others.

We have also been receiving a large number of emails concerning some of the negative publicity that we are getting from certain individuals, some 3D printing communities, and people who work for competing businesses. As someone who has been using the internet since back in the 1200 baud modem days, I can say with confidence that the internet has always been and will likely continue to be filled with very opinionated individuals. These individuals, regardless of their ignorance with regards to Cobblebot, our operations and suppliers, are entitled to their opinion. We are aware, as many of you have pointed out to us, that some of these individuals have crossed certain legal lines into things like defamation. While many of you have asked us if we plan to respond to these individuals or what we plan to do – I’m afraid that we cannot answer that question. Any action Cobblebot decides to take or not take to defend its reputation is an internal matter and will not be made public by us. That being said, we do appreciate the efforts that many of you have made to defend against some of the accusations being tossed around, as well as the efforts made to bring these things to our attention.

The most ridiculous claim in the C&D sent to Randall is this: that the “legal” arm of Cobblebot is completely walled off from the “support” side. In all likelihood, they are one and the same. The man behind Cobblebot is Jeremiah Clifft, who’s also an attorney… or at least was one. This makes composing and sending C&D’s full of scary legalese very, very cheap. It also indicates that — even if there are two walled-off divisions of the “Cobblebot team” — one man stands astride both, holding a recently-expired license to practice law.

To date, Cobblebot seems to have sent out more C&Ds than printers, apparently targeting customers unhappy with shipping delays, unkept promises (like the inclusion of assembly instructions/videos) and its general unresponsiveness to legitimate complaints.

Now, Cobblebot has every right to pursue truly defamatory comments, but there’s a process for that and it should be wholly unrelated to the process of fulfilling backers’ orders. By its own statements on the matter, its order fulfillment team is completely removed from its legal team. There’s no reason these two should be mixing in this fashion, and they only appear to do so when it works out in Cobblebot’s favor. Defamatory comments or no, the backers have paid for their products. They should be given what they’ve paid for.

To use this as an excuse to put shipments on hold just gives more credence to the theory that Cobblebot is making promises it can’t possibly keep. Its own Kickstarter pitches suggest a move towards a more triangular business model.

So just how did CobbleBot manage to ship over 1,150 3D printers costing $299, when they themselves stated that the average price for a machine of this size is over 12 times that price, ‘$3,716.57’? Well, they haven’t.

It still has yet to ship more than a handful of these 3D printers, despite three successful crowdfunding campaigns. Now, it’s apparently taking internet orders and shipping those first, all the while claiming defamatory statements by early backers are what’s keeping them from receiving theirs. Something’s rotten in this deal and it’s not the heated comments of pissed off backers.

Additional suggested reading:

Cobblebot’s Google+ page, which contains many more details on Cobblebot’s shipping deficiencies.

A long and thorough explanation of how business models like Cobblebot’s simply aren’t feasible — at least not at this point, as well as a few equations that can give backers a good estimate as to when similar Kickstarters will run out funding.

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Companies: cobblebot

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Comments on “3D Printer Creator Withholding Long-Delayed Shipments To Early Backers Over Supposed 'Defamatory' Comments”

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Anonymous Coward says:

IANAL, but couldn’t these assholes be sued for not non-shipment under various state laws. I know in PA, that if you are charged for a product, the product needs to be available at time of charges made to the account. Given that Kickstarter is a place where you are funding a product rather than actually purchasing, there is still implied consent to delivery of a finished product or a refund. This is sounding like the Butterfly labs fiasco, and I do believe they got in trouble with that… Given I had received a jalapeno from BFL and pretty much wasted that money, but it was just a curiosity.

Beech says:


This kind of sounds like the Bernie Madoff style ponzi scheme…but with 3d printers instead of unbelievable interest rates. Suck in a bunch of investors, deliver on promises to some of them to generate positive buzz, stonewall and delay when people who don’t get what they were promised come knocking, then right before the walls come crashing down smoke bomb into the night.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ponzi

IANAL, but it’s not so much a Ponzi scheme as it is a case of (in theory) using the Kickstarter to generate initial funding and hype but to ultimately have those orders function as a loss leader for the hoped for subsequent sales; eventually balancing the lossmaking Kickstarter sales against future profitable sales.

If the company’s business model isn’t viable, can’t reach profitability and doesn’t have enough money to fulfill the Kickstarter orders, that’s still not a Ponzi scheme per se, just incompetence.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

1200 baud MODEMs.

Who would accuse a lawyer of lying? I would.

He didn’t use the Internet since the “1200 baud modems[sic] days”. Not even a tiny bit.

The “Internet” has evolved many times but commercial access was available in 1993. Prior to that, if you were related to the NSFnet, its educational institutions, or the technology that made it run you could have accessed it as early as 1986.

In 1986 v32 was the standard (9600bps) and it would have been extremely rare to see someone using 1200 baud. 9600bps was exepsnsive. 4800 baud was the price point. 2400 baud was cheap. 1200 baud was obsolete. Nobody used that on “the Internet”. Maybe CompuServe or Delphi or AOL.

Just adding some technical facts here. This pyramid scheme is unravelling, but not fast enough to keep the money out of this scammer’s hands.

P.S. Mr. Cliffts: I intend this posting to be indicating that you are a liar, engage in defrauding those who put money in your hands and did not get a product and that you’re incompetent as a lawyer. I live in Tucson Arizona. Come get some Arizona justice. I’ll waive service if you serve me with a complaint that is neither materially deficient, misstates the law, has no US English grammar nor spelling mistakes, and is printed on 25lb paper.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 1200 baud MODEMs.

So he used a 1200 baud modem, whop de friggin’ do. I used an 800 baud modem for accessing BBS’s and that don’t win me any prizes. Nor should it this yoyo beyond saying he should know better than to play this game, especially since he’s already lost his license to practice law, which gives on the impression that he has done something in the past that resulted in this action.

It is items like this that give kickstarter a bad name and exactly why I don’t feel comfortable with shelling out money for vague promises that may or may not develop into an actual product.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: 1200 baud MODEMs.

“He didn’t use the Internet since the “1200 baud modems[sic] days”. Not even a tiny bit.”

Just to play devil’s advocate… this could have been an accurate statement. When I first started using the internet, I was using a 1200 baud modem as well. Perhaps it was technically obsolete, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t in common use. Modems weren’t exactly cheap back then.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

800 baud modem

You didn’t use an 800 baud MODEM for accessing BBS’s[sic].*

This doesn’t give kickstarters a bad name. Kickstarters are not an investment. They’re a gamble. If you win then you get a late product at a discount before it’s available for retail. If you lose you get nothing. If you wait you can buy it retail — with guarantees.

* No telephone MODEMS manufactured ever did 800 baud.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: 800 baud modem

Something is askew here. 800 has never been one of the standard baud rates, so if you had such a modem it would either be unable to talk to any non-Magnavox modems or would fall back to 600 baud. Perhaps you’re misremembering and actually had a 600 baud modem?

I was curious so I did a bit of Googling, but could find no references to Magnavox products that had an 800 baud modem.

Another possibility is that you’re confusing baud and bps? 56kbps modems, for example, run at 8000 baud…

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

800 baud x2

Rabbit hole…

No, it’s not possible he used a 1200 baud MODEM and got 800 baud. Back then (2400 baud and below) there was no memory in the MODEM except for a few bytes and no buffering.

You had to set the serial-port speed the same as the communication channel because of that lack of buffering.

He never had an 800 baud (or 800 bps) MODEM. Ever. He lied. That’s ok though but the problem is when you lie the credibility for the rest of the illiterate rant is reduced…

time for me to head out.



That One Guy (profile) says:

Subtle as a sledgehammer to the face

I’d say the message being sent here is pretty clear, ‘Criticize or question us, and we will find all sorts of excuses to delay fulfilling our half of any bargain you made with us’.

Someone said some undefined ‘bad things’ and that in some way prevents them from shipping out what people paid for? Please, that doesn’t even come close to passing the smell test.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Several of your recent posts on various internet forums were being reviewed by the legal department for inclusion in our fourth round of upcoming legal actions being filed to protect our company’s reputation from the illegal act of defamation.”

“Keep in mind that the support department does not have access to the legal department’s records, so we don’t know anything for certain. We are just attempting to explain the type of hold that we saw placed on your account and what that type of hold means.”

These statements seem to exclude each other. On the one hand, the “support department” only saw a hold on the account, placed there by the “legal department”.

And yet they knew that the legal department (in the 4th round of legal actions, no less) were reviewing recent posts. Hmmm….

Perhaps if they had shipped close to when they said they would (which seems to be long before “recent posts”) they could apply their crowdfunding monies to product, instead of their “legal department”.

Anyway, I damn sure was using a 300 baud modem in 1986 (couldn’t afford the ‘blazing speed’ of a 2400). Used it for Q-Link and BBS. But I don’t claim any virtue from that.

Crazy says:

Re: This sort of response

wow, I agree. If they were getting comments anything like what I see on here then I completely understand. Hell that Ehud guy actually said “Come get some Arizona justice”…here in NV that passes as a threat – had a friend that got criminally prosecuted for a similar statement LOL.. Dude better hope Cobblebot doesn’t stumble on this discussion or he may end up someones bitch in the local AZ pen getting some of that AZ justice himself ROFL

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