Indiegogo is a site that lets you give money to people. It is not a site that lets you buy things from people. There is a big difference.
According to their Terms Of Service….
All Contributions are non-refundable by Indiegogo and are made in your sole discretion and at your sole risk based on your sole determination and evaluation of the Campaign. You are solely responsible for determining the tax deductibility of any Contribution.
Indiegogo does not represent, warrant or guarantee:
- Perks will be delivered;
- Perks will be satisfactory to you; or
- The use of any Contributions or the outcome of any Campaign. It is up to you, as the Contributor, to ask such questions and undertake such due diligence as you deem necessary before you make a Contribution. Indiegogo may, in its sole discretion and judgment but is under no obligation to, seek the refund of Contributions.
This means that you should not expect to get your money back from IndieGogo if the campaign takes the money and runs. If you don’t get the perk you were promised, it is up to you to try to sue the Campaign Owner.
This is fine if the campaign is to buy a bus ticket for your best friend’s grandma, and the perk is that she will bake you some cookies. This not fine if you think you are buying an $800 high tech product from someone who lives on the other side of the planet.
I am all for Indiegogo’s “let the people decide who to trust, we just facilitate” strategy. They are like the Criagslist to KickStarter’s curated eBay. I love both Craigslist and eBay, and there is a role for both models. Criagslist goes out of its way to make it very clear that they are only an open listing service and that you are dealing with whoever posted the listing, so beware. Indeogogo does not.
The Indiegogo site is filled with the language and iconography of a product sale. The various “perks” are listed as products with prices and estimated delivery dates just like you’d see on Amazon.com or Gap.com. They even show a “2 of 10 left” inventory – implying that 10 of the perk actually ever existed in the first place. When the inventory of a perk is gone, it is labeled with the words “SOLD OUT”. What was sold here?
Come on guys, this is clearly designed to look like you are buying something and not just giving your money to someone. And the users are clearly fooled. Taking a look at the comments, people say stuff like…
- How does one change from a purchase of the $99.00 25 watt system to the $239.00 100 watt system?
- Missed out on the 1kW deal – is there any chance that you will extend it? Would really like to have purchased 4 units.
- I seperately ordered 2 × 500W panels and one 25W panel. I added the 70 USD shipping for the 2 500W panels to the payment of the 25W panel as I forgot before. Hope that’s ok. Looking forward to the product!
- So if I buy one of the 500w, all I have to do is “plug n play”?
The comments speak for themselves – these people believe that they are buying a product, and understandably so.
And while IndieGogo does talk about the democratic nature of crowd funding and the need for you to ask questions and make your own decisions, you are not allowed to post a question until *after* you’ve committed to give your money. That would be ok, except for the fact that once you have committed your money so you can publicly ask your question, there is no way to then cancel your commitment if you don’t like the answer you get! Kafka! This is not compatible with helping the crowd generate and share information so people make informed decisions, and I can not think of any good business or strategic or legal reason why you would stop people from canceling a contribution any time while the campaign is still running. Can you?
Indiegogo needs to get their act together. At very least make it so people can ask public questions before committing money. And then make it so people can cancel a contribution when they find out something that sours them on it. Then change the user interface so it is clear that you are giving money and not buying something. The only action button on a campaign page should be “I want to give money to this campaign!” rather than a product selection rubric. The next page can show the “perks”, but with plenty of disclaimer language like “These are some things the campaign may be able to send you as a thank you for your contribution, but IndieGogo makes no representations as to the campaign’s ability to actually deliver these goods, and your only recourse if you are unhappy to try to sue [insert campaign lister’s name here] directly.”
Not sexy, but at least honest.