ACBC: A Very Bumpy Yet Amazing Crowdfunding Journey / 長く曲がりくねったクラウドファンディングの旅路


Briefly in English: The idea ACBC had was original and unique. Their crowdfunding-production journey was also very intriguing. But they were really bad at communicating but 6 month and many emails later, now I finally received the right sized shoes. On a whole it was an amazing journey, but if you ever order their cool shoes, make sure to try it because their sizing is wrong, but I hope they would correct it in the future.

The Crowdfunding and Production

It was a long journey for the shoes to get produced. Launched on Kickstarter in 2015 as Shooz and funded successfully. But it was difficult to find a manufacture for Shooz, later changed its name to ACBC, then realizing that a Chinese company was already producing and selling it. So they contacted the company to make an agreement, that if they could have a real contract and make the shoes for us, then we will not sue you.

Isn't that an amazing process for a crowdfunded project? I definitely think so. I have written about it on this blog, as well as on a Japanese web medium FUZE.

Shoe Size Problem

In the end of 2016, they sent me my pair of shoes, but the size was wrong, although the stated size was correct. I wear EU 41, which is 26 cm of shoe size.

Chinese CNS 4800, and UK EN 13402, both states the length is calculated by your toe-to-heel length. At least Japanese JIS S 5037:1998, and The International Standard: ISO 9407 [Shoes sizes Mondopoint system of sizing and marking], also measure the width into an account on top of the toe-to-heel length.

I have been wearing many different shoes from different continents, Japanese 25.5/26cm, UK 7, and EU 41. And surprisingly many of these are made in China. And these all fit and those size are all equivalent of each other. So I can also tell this isn't simply about EU / Asia shoe size difference.

All the above standardized systems states the toe-to-heel length of your feet, not the inner measurement of the actual shoe. For example, ISO 9407:1991 clearly states "Those measurements of a foot that are deemed to be sufficient to provide a shoe that will fit a foot that corresponds to those measurements.". The Chinese National Standards CNS 4800 also states 尺寸(足長:公分), which means "size (foot length: cm)", not the inner measurement of the shoe, but the foot length that goes inside of the shoe.

The ones I have received from ACBC said "EU 41", so a foot with 26 cm of length must be able to fit in, but ACBC's "EU 41" shoes only have exactly 26cm of length inside, so there is no way to put a size 26 foot. It was not made for a 26 cm foot but the inner length of shoe was made 26 cm. If you applied all the above standardized system rules, this is not 26 cm / EU 41.

But the shoes fit perfectly on my wife, and she wears one size smaller, EU 40. So, the real size of the shoes were not EU 41 / 26 cm but a size smaller.

Customer Service Problem

It was obvious that they have made the size wrong. But at first, their customer support was very uncooperative, stating that it was my own fault that I ordered a wrong size. But for above reasons I didn't agree with that. Instead of offering correctly sized shoes, they sent me a discount code. In one of the emails the support person said:

"As in every experience of this kind, there have been bumps on the road to reality, and for some backers the shoes fitness was different from their expectations."

I understand the bumpy road a crowdfunding project has to walk. And as for ACBC it was more than bumy, I know that. I would have just gave up and took the discount code, if she didn't say:

"We are sorry to hear that this is happening to you, but the production related to our fundraising campaign was made tailored to your requests."

Well, the shoes weren't tailored to my request, definitely not. If they make their own rules about internationally standardized size of things, how can you expect to have it tailored?

I guess I sound like an angry monster customer who complains about small things. But I wasn't the only one who was not satisfied with the bad delayed customer service. You can see how angry others were on the project's Kicstarter comment page.

Retribution... Not?

(Screenshot taken from the Kickstarter project comment page)

On 2018 January 23rd, the founder of ACBC made an update on the said comment page.

(As a superbacker, I say it was not a good way to deal with unsatisfied backers, because you don't receive any updates on the project's comment section. It should have done as a project update, so it would reach to every backer. Plus, that way the creator of the project can also limit the ones who can see the update and its replies to the actual backers.)

He states the new website is live, and their customer service is now "more than excellent". He also writes to the project backers who "were unsatisfied with their crowdfunding experience please write directly to me", so he would try his best to resolve issues.

So I did.

Sizes Are Absolute

... Two month later, I still had no reply. Do people call it "more than excellent" customer service? At least the first customer service was more responsive although with auto-reply "thank you for contacting our Customer Care Service, we will process your request as soon as possible".

Then I noticed that ACBC has set up an instagram account and advertising heavily... So wait a minute, they are ignoring me while advertising themselves, having a physical shop, and the founder was on a TV show ? They are thriving while ignoring the backers who provided the money they needed to kickstart their business! That's not cool!

I sent rather angry email to the same email address. Yes this time I was being an angry monster customer, but this time I somehow received a reply on the same day. And the founder has agreed to send me a replacement. But he was still insisting that it wasn't their fault. He stated:

"Do consider though that there is no official shoe measurement in the footwear market, and a size 41 of a particular brand could correspond to a 42 or a 40 of another brand."

Well, anyone who is reading this article already knows that it is not correct. Sure it might not be one single standardization, but all I mentioned above agrees on the inner length of the shoe is the size of feet that fit in the shoe.

"Sizes are relative and not absolute, this is a very common problem and moreover with different fit between Asian and European feet the problem gets deeper."

Sizes are not relative, obviously. The International System of Units (SI) has made it absolute, and it is absolute exactly because this kind of thing would not happen!

I would also disagree on the Asian / European feet differences on this particular subject of toe-to-heel inner measurement, however, I agree that this can be applied on the shape, thickness, width of the shoe. But I'm solely talking about the length here, which the Chinese national standardization system stated that the size shown on a shoe is the length of foot that can be fit inside of the shoe. Besides, I have many EU 41 shoes made in China sold by European and Japanese companies that fit me perfectly.

Anyway the important thing is they said they are going to ship the replacement. That was the end of February.

Replacement without Communication

But they also said that I need to provide them with my personal tax code, I refused to provide it unless they state the reason. And then they stopped replying to me yet again.

I have sent another email on the end of March, but no reply.

Another email on the end of April, no reply.

Another one on mid-May, no reply.

But BOOM! Suddenly without any notification, the replacement has arrived.

The size on the shoes are "EU 42" and the inner length is 27 cm, so it's perfect length for EU 41! The width are a bit tight and if the founder would comment "different fit between Asian and European feet..." on this rather tight width, then I would agree on that.

So in the end they have sent me what I asked for, EU 41 / 26 cm shoes, but with wrong tags saying these shoes are "EU 42".

For me this could be whether ACBC didn't know anything about the fact that there actually are international standardized shoe sizing system and kept ignoring it, or they just kept claiming that their shoes have no problem for the sake of not admitting the mistake they have made.

But either way, if ACBC wants to sell their cool shoes internationally, they have to make it so it would match the internationally standardized size system.

What Can You Learn from This?

It was great that ACBC could manage to find a copycat and made them make products for them. It was a very long journey already then. But ACBC treated the backers who were with them through out the journey poorly.

As for the sizing problem, I still believe that they somehow managed to make it not follow neither international nor Chinese standards. And all the other backers who were complaining about the wrong sizing should get replacements, especially as ACBC's instagram account indicate that now seem to be somewhat successful and even has a physical store, indicating their financial situation isn't bad.

The backers of a crowdfunding project are the very first fan base and at the same time the very first customers a brand can own. But I'm not saying that you have to treat them as gods, all I'm saying is to treat them fairly. If you made a mistake and backers pointed that out, then you should just admit unless you can prove them wrong.

This ACBC project had a bumpy yet amazing journey a crowdfunded project could have, in many ways. But hopefully in the future, they would be more responsible to their customers, and fix the sizing problem. I'm saying this because otherwise they will face the same problem with more people, more customers. I'm saying this because I still love the ideas they started their brand with, and I still might buy their products in the future, I wanted them to thrive, as one of the first fans of the brand.