Opinion: Beware of North Aware, a Review

I’m not one to write negative reviews. It brings me joy to share things I love with people. This review gives me no joy at all.

In a way, I’m embarrassed to write about this because I feel like I got duped by the hype.

The first time I heard about North Aware was in March 2016, when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. The headline jumped out at me – “Smart Parka, Raises over $1 Million on Kickstarter with 22 days to go.”

Interest piqued, I clicked on the link and I saw mockups of winter coats, for both men and women, set to be delivered in September or October 2016.

“Perfect timing for the winter,” I thought. “I’ll get a great product for a great price,” I thought. “All the other Kickstarter backers who came before me couldn’t be wrong,” I thought.

I bought two Smart Parkas – one for me and one for my husband.

Well, September rolled around. No Coat. Then October. Then November. Then December.

I mean, we were already halfway through winter at this point.

Finally, in the last week of January, the package arrived.

My husband tried on his coat. It was acceptable. He didn’t love it but he didn’t hate it either. And it was warm. Plus, he’s a guy, he’s just not that picky.

I tried mine on and I was swallowed by the size XS coat. I felt like a child trying to play dress-up with my parents’ clothes. I immediately knew I needed to return it.

I initiated the return with North Aware and paid for the parka to be shipped back to Canada. (They don’t provide a return shipping label or packing slip.)

Then I waited for the refund to be issued. When I didn’t hear from the company, I reached out to find out about the status of my refund. North Aware asked for the tracking information – something I had already provided to them previously. But I sent it to them again.

When I contacted them again, almost two months later, they stopped responding.

That’s when I went back to their Kickstarter page and started reading the thousands of comments from disgruntled backers who couldn’t get a refund even though 1) they had not received their coats or 2) they had received their coats but subsequently returned it.

“That’s okay,” I thought, “luckily, I paid with a credit card.”

I immediately started a dispute with my credit card company.

Well, it’s been another two months and I just received word that my claim failed because, “[b]y making a pledge, the backer is expressing support for a creator’s project, not purchasing an item from Kickstarter.

So I basically lost a few hundred dollars and I have zero recourse. I think the worst part of this experience is how helpless I feel in getting my money back. The only thing I can do is write this review to vent my frustrations.

This is a joke, right?

I am also severely disappointed by Kickstarter that they have not stepped in to help give their backers a better resolution. I have previously been a backer to some really great projects on Kickstarter but I would never risk being a backer again.

As for North Aware Smart Parkas? Run as far away and as fast as you can.

UPDATE 07/10/2017: If you read the comments, you can see that Amanda Thorne, a representative from North Aware, offered to help me resolve my situation. I immediately contacted her and we set up a time to speak over the phone.

Our phone conversation was pleasant enough and I was promised, multiple times, a refund. The next day she e-mailed, asking to “touch base” with me. I immediately suspected that I either would not be receiving this elusive refund or, alternatively, there would be strings attached.

I agreed to a follow-up call but, after she cancelled on me two consecutive times, I did not respond to her third request.

The very next day, I received a “cease and desist” notice from Jamil Khan, President and CEO of North Aware, demanding that I take down this article or North Aware would sue me for defamation and/or violation of copyright laws.

This is, for obvious reasons, a very unsettling situation to be in. After all, I am just a mom running a blog. Not some big corporation with the backing of big corporate lawyers. However, after the initial shock wore off, I realize that I am someone who has always tried to stay true to my readers and a believer in free speech. I refuse to compromise my integrity and/or have my rights curtailed.

It was never my intent to defame and I have since modified the language in my review to ensure, to the best of my ability, that it is based solely on fact and opinion. But I will NOT be intimidated into taking down this review.

And, in the end, I still wouldn’t buy a product from North Aware. (You can read more about the cease and desist notice here.)

UPDATE 07/18/17: In the interest of full disclosure, I must inform my readers that Jamil has recently indicated that he will not be pursuing the matter further. In addition, I finally received a refund!!! I feel grateful for this platform because I’m doubtful I would have received a refund otherwise. Good luck to everyone else still trying to get theirs.

This should, hopefully, be the end of my months long saga.

UPDATE 8/10/17: I am beyond exhausted and irritated that I have to write another update. I mean, sue me for changing my title! (That’s supposed to be a figure of speech but they are taking it literally.)

Anyway, I recently changed the title of my post from “North Aware Smart Parka Review” to “Beware: North Aware Smart Parka Review.”

Well, I was contacted by both Jamil and Amanda, requesting that I take out the word “beware.”

August 6, 2017, at 3:09AM

Hello Lotus,

On June 29th, you changed the title of your article to North Aware Smart Parka review. We accepted to not pursue the matter further and issue you a refund. You then added a word “Beware” which has the same connotation as the word Scam and is misleading. Did anything wrong happen after that time?

Lotus, please let me know what else we can do to make it ok for you.

Jamil Khan

President and CEO

 

A few days later, I received a call from Amanda with the same request. After arguing with her for about 10 minutes that the word “beware” was based on my opinion and my experience, I stated that I would not be taking it down. By now, I was starting to get upset and frustrated. I mean, WHY WON’T THEY JUST LEAVE ME ALONE?

The following e-mails ensued:

August 9 , 2017 at 3:18PM

Hello Lotus,

After the recent call from Amanda, regretfully we will now go into a very long and expensive litigation process that is completely unnecessary.

This is my last email to you requesting you to remove the slander word from the title of your article about our company. We take these issues very seriously and we do not back down. Once the litigation is started, I will not be able to do any settlement so do give it a thought.

Jamil Khan

President and CEO

August 9, 2017, at 6:50PM

Jamil,

I have modified the title of my post to make clear that I am expressing an opinion. I don’t know what else to tell you.

Lotus

August 10, 2017, at 3:48AM

Lotus

The word Beware has the same connotation as scam which was your previous title and it qualifies as slander.

Also, all your concerns were addressed after which you changed the title again, see our previous conversation.

All I am asking you is to remove the word “Beware”.

Jamil Khan

President and CEO

August 10, 2017, at 9:48AM

Jamil,

I respectfully disagree. The word beware is descriptive of my experience. Beware would only constitute libel if I am saying beware and then I state falsehoods.

Ex: Beware – Jamil has an STD. (Libel if you have an STD but NOT libel if it is, in fact, true.)

Truth is an absolute defense to defamation.

Anyway, I changed my title because I wanted a descriptive title of my overall experience. Many of my reviews have descriptive titles. However, since our last conversation, I did remove all references to scam, fraud, etc.

At this time, I’d also like to remind you of my First Amendment right to FREE SPEECH. Please note that the SLAPP statute would apply here if you continue to attempt to curtail my right to free speech.

The SLAPP statute protects defendants against plaintiffs seeking to intimidate people like me from their right to free speech. I’d suggest you consult with an attorney, in this regard. If you insist on pursuing a lawsuit, I will actively pursue any and all recourse under the SLAPP statute.

I have included the relevant portion of the damages that can be obtained for frivolous lawsuits, like your threatened one, that are started in an attempt to intimidate me and to burden me with legal fees:

If you prevail on a motion to dismiss under the New York anti-SLAPP law, the court may award you one or more of the following kinds of damages: costs and attorneys’ fees, other compensatory damages, and punitive damages. To receive costs and attorneys’ fees, you must show that the plaintiff’s lawsuit against you lacked a basis in fact and law. To get compensatory damages (i.e., damages that compensate you for any other harm you suffered as a result of the SLAPP), you must also show that the plaintiff was maliciously attempting to impair your right to free speech or petition. Further, if you can show that if that the attempt to impair your rights was the only reason the plaintiff sued you, you may be entitled to punitive damages.

As a final note, I have modified my title to make clear that I am asserting an opinion about my personal experience. I have made more acquiescences than I feel necessary to appease you.

Now, please, leave this blogger alone.

Lotus

 

And there you have it. NOW LEAVE ME THE F*CK ALONE!!!!

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