Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Were the CWK Girls Straight Plates a Scam?

I have read your concerns about the CWK Straight Plates. Specific questions that you asked included

1. Why were contradictory details being given out?
In CWK Update 17 on July 16th 2014, the moulds (molds) were reported as done and sample plates were produced. However, a few weeks later in CWK Update 21  on August 23rd 2014, the information was that the prototype mould needed to be modified and further testing would be necessary

Images from CWK Straight Plates Facebook - From Update 17/18

 2. Why were shipping details requested if the plates were not fully tested, made and ready for shipping?
Prior to update 21 on August 23rd where the information about mould issues was given, shipping details for investors to claim their rewards were requested by CWK on August 6th 2014. Why ask for shipping details if the plates were not ready for shipping?

3. Why was the CWKgirls  own website shop still operational after the  CWK Update 24 on Oct 22nd 2014 with the ability for potential customers to purchase items?

CWK Update 24 on Oct 22nd stated that due to someone else claiming to have a patent on a device that sounded like CWK straight plates, the CWK straight plate production would be stopped. However the website CWKgirls.com had a live shop with the ability to purchase items.


The story

I have tried my level best to get Kelechi Bradley the inventor of the CWK straight plates on the record to answer these questions but she has not responded to any of my requests for an interview. She did however respond to the email where I told her that the shop was still operational and that she needed to urgently close it. Her email stated that it would be closed over the weekend (weekend ending Sunday26th Oct). I was then alerted to the fact that the shop was still operational on Tuesday 28th by a blog reader and I wrote again to Kelechi and stated to her that as her shop was still open and there was no chance of anyone getting a product, I felt obligated to inform my readers that she may be running a scam afterall. After this email, the shop was finally disabled with Kelechi giving me assurances that she is processing refunds and over 150 have been done (529 backers in total for the kickstarter plus others on her own website).

So was it a scam?

I am on the fence. I  can see why certain decisions and lack of action can give it the appearance of a scam but I really do want to give Kelechi the benefit of the doubt as importantly she has promised full refunds for every backer. Indeed if we all get refunds, it cannot be a scam as we all got our money back!

I think the project has suffered badly reputation wise because of a lack of experience in manufacturing, business, law and PR e.g

1. In manufacturing, it is common to have a working prototype that does not do well as a finished product. The updates should have clearly indicated that the products were in a test phase rather than reflect excitement that a product is near completion.

2. Shipping details should never have been requested until products were in hand. For a customer, requesting shipping details means that the product is ready to be sent. It was not the case in this instance as mould testing was not complete and it is just bad business to dangle carrots in the form of 'Give us your address, we are ready to ship.'

3. Backers were never made aware of patent issues until the final email. If you are not a backer, the information is that someone else has produced a patent application number which was filed two or so months before Kelechi's own application. This patent is said to relate to:

'a device for the treatment of a tress of hair including two plates containing multiple apertures, joined on one side by a spine and secured by plurality of interlocking tines containing grooves with the function of providing an adjustable hold on a tress of hair, so as to allow wet hair to dry in an elongated state when held between two plates'

I think there is reasonable cause for the CWK team to want to see this patent in full. It is not clear if this has been done. A search of the US patents office does not bring up this patent (you can search by patent application date or wording) and therefore there is reason to doubt whether the patent exists. The terms and date of filing of Kelechi's own patent have not been made public so once more, nothing more to go on.

4. Nothing has been done to stem the bad PR- there are active discussions about how the idea was stolen (here) or indeed how the whole project was a scam (LHCF, Lipstick Alley). Right now, a great idea would be start conducting interviews and answering questions frankly so that  the team at CWK Straight Plates put out their side of the story instead of letting wild statements run free and unabated.

I do truly hope that Kelechi and her team begin to take action as I maintain that this innovation has great potential. I certainly would like to see it get to market. I don't want this to be another hair product / tool scam. I want the lessons to be learned and for the whole team to just do better! I'll let you know when I get my refund!

What is your view - scam or no scam?


17 comments:

  1. While I do not think it's a scam anymore (as we're getting our money back) I definitely do not trust Kelechi or her brand. There is no reason why she wouldn't address our concerns. The worst of it is that I feel I will be hesitant to support a project like this in future because of this fiasco. She has a team that posts a million cute fros a day on Instagram...why not do damage control instead?

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    1. I haven't yet got my money back so I can't call it outright but it is such a dismay to me to see a business with huge potential just get derailed by inexperience and disorganisation. I am willing Kelechi to succeed but she needs to pull up her socks and as you say......do damage control.

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    2. She doesn't have a team that that posts on her Twitter. That is a bot. The posts are all the same words and phrases cycled over and over.

      Earlier in the summer she was attempting to hire someone to get her 400 new followers and traffic to her site. Later I saw that she decided to use a bot to make it appear that she or her team are tweeting.

      I have a problem with the way she words things. How she could have kept the money according to KS and she is so graciously refunding her backers in spite of KS.

      She tells little lies in every update. The is no communication. She uses distractations to buy her time to try and fix the mess she created.

      According to her each mold/prototype cost over $5000. Yet, she has had at least 3 molds done. That made me wary. I wasn't sure if she would be able to pay for the orders, drop shipping of the plates from China, packaging and shipping to her backers with less than $10,000 or so dollars.

      I still don't understand why she doesn't answer any questions.

      I wonder why she is only refunding a couple dozen people at a time?

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    3. Anon, I cannot substantiate your allegations and I don't think it is fair to speculate when really none of us know the inner workings of a company. I am however still publishing your comment in the interest of freedom of speech even though some of the things you wrote cannot be independently verified.

      I told Kelechi that I would be writing this article and I hope she will respond to your questions.

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    4. KB stated herself that each mold cost $5000 on the long hair care forum and each revision also cost a great deal of money. Three molds and revisions doesn't leave much left over.

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    5. Here is the link about the plate cost. http://www.longhaircareforum.com/archive/index.php?t-727671-p-22.html

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  2. I feel so badly for Kelechi and the Kickstarters. The logic for the product appeared sound. I wanted to purchase but I was afraid of this happening.

    It remains a good idea and if it were in the stores - she would make a mint.

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    1. It is a good idea, I cannot wait for Kelechi to get her act together, it would be nice to have this product available.

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  3. I was wary but wanted to back and since I'm an international customer...well, $80 seemed a small price to pay to encourage entrepreneurship *shrug* It'd be nice to get the money back, but even when (if?) I do, it's definitely made me less likely to support other people in the future - it was the first Kickstarter campaign that I supported! :/ I'll definitely be a lot more wary after this....

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    1. I cannot agree more with you. It is so damaging for future entrepreneurs to have 500 or so people who think they cannot trust kickstarter. I do hope we get refunds, it would be a big step towards earning that trust.

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  4. Still waiting for my refund here. I'd like to see if anyone else got theirs.

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    1. Me either but if you go to the LHCF page, there is at least one person who said they had received a refund last week.

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  5. While it would be nice to hear from her, it is noted that sometimes in legal procedures one may be directed not to comment until able to. Also, I have received my refund as well as my friend, this morning in fact.

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    1. Thanks for chipping in on the refund part. I agree that there are limitations when legal issues arise but some of the questions from backers are just really basic business procedural queries.

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  6. This is a situation that is not unique to startups. She started a business before understanding all of the implications of owning a business and obtaining funding.

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  7. Now as of 12/5/14 K. Bradley is on LHCF claiming that YOUR article is FALSE but we alllll know the truth...She is so unprofessional and silly. She is pissed that these articles and real experiences and testimonials on her lack of customer service come up first in a Google Search!

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    1. lol I did not know that, let me go over to LHCF.

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