WMBF Investigates: Customers upset over delay in receiving growler chillers

WMBF Investigates: Customers upset over delay in receiving growler chillers

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - On May 21, 2018, a man from Virginia contacted WMBF News Investigates, asking us to look into a Pawleys Island company selling a product many people seem to want.

Tracy Patterson's email said this:

Pawley's Island business, Growler Chill, led by Randy Hollister, has been offering pre-sales of it's appliance for about a year. He's pre-sold a bunch of these things, but from what I can tell, hasn't shipped one. His last update to his backers was in early February. Now he won't return phone calls or emails, or respond to posts on his facebook page. From what I can find, he is a real-estate broker and also involved with the local republican party. Sicne [sic] he is stiffing all of his customers, I would love for someone to ring his doorbell and ask him what he's done with the money.

Growler Chill isn't new to our local news coverage. WMBF was there when the product was launched on Kickstarter at the beginning of 2017.

The product, which is advertised as being able to keep three beer growlers cold, fresh and on tap at home, has had a lot of success. Almost 1,800 people have put more than half a million dollars behind it.

However, many consumers are growing frustrated with how long it's taking to receive the product they were promised.

WMBF News Anchor Kaitlin Stansell took their questions to the developer to find out what's holding up his production.

Consumer Complaint

"This is just the litany of excuses that kept coming up," Patterson said as he flipped through a stack of emails he printed.

While he's frustrated he hasn't gotten his Growler Chill yet, Patterson said it's been the lack of recent updates that spurred him to reach out to WMBF News.

He said he was immediately interested in the Growler Chill.

"I went to the website and it was offering pre-orders, and I was all in in a period of about five minutes," Patterson said. "I was very excited."

Patterson said he paid $479 and was expecting it to ship in November 2017.

"There was always some reason for why the product wasn't ready but it started to vary." Patterson said.

He's even called the creator of Growler Chill himself, leaving voicemails for Randy Hollister weekly for the past month-and-a-half.

"Again, just hoping for an update or a refund or when I can expect delivery of the product," Patterson said in a recent voicemail he left for Hollister.

Patterson still wants the product, and he's hoping he doesn't have to push for a refund.

"If I can't do anything through the credit card company, then it's calling the police and saying, 'Hey, someone stole some money,' because at this point I did a pre-order. It's a contract. I paid the money. I did my part many, many months ago, almost a year ago," Patterson said.

When contacted, Hollister was open about what has been causing long delays. He said issues with the supplies he needs to build the Growler Chill have been the cause.

"There's not a cost risk. It's a timing risk," Hollister said.

However, time is what seems to be frustrating people most.

"We went ahead and ordered compressors but when they came in we had to reject the order because they weren't built to the specification and didn't cool properly," Hollister said. "Growler Chill without the chill doesn't work."

Hollister said that specific delay has pushed production back about six months. He said the new compressors should arrive the week of June 11, but that doesn't mean the product will be ready right away.

"You can't fault any of our backers," Hollister said. "We set an expectation and maybe we were unrealistic with how fast we could get to market. People are telling me the delays we are having are not really unusual. The problem was that we estimated wrong. You can't fault the backers. They backed a project they believed in, and they have every right to be disappointed we haven't shipped yet. I'm disappointed we haven't shipped yet."

Hollister said he's just as unsatisfied as anyone else about where his production stands, and he feels he's been clear enough.

"We stopped kind of predicting what the date will be. Instead, we are announcing the milestones," Hollister said. "We are being as open as we can."

Hollister said he has stopped answering peoples' individual messages because he's trying to counteract any misunderstandings.

He also said he had not heard there are 18 complaints filed against Growler Chill with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs. People claim they haven't gotten the product nor their money back.

Hollister said he has refunded some pre-orders, but it works differently for people who have backed his Kickstarter campaign.

"If it's just they are tired of waiting, we're just not in a position where we can do that," Hollister said. "That money is sitting on a boat coming from Brazil in a compressor."

He hopes people can hold onto their patience when it comes to this product, and he believes people will be happy with what they eventually get.

"The product's coming," Hollister said. "It's a great product. It works great. We are working as fast as we can to get it out the door. We can't start selling them again until we can get them out the door. So, we have a powerful incentive to make this thing happen."

However, Patterson said he wouldn't bet on it.

"In this situation, the trust is gone for myself and the other people," Patterson said. "There's no reason to trust it at this point."

Kickstarter's statement to WMBF News echoed what is on the funding platform's website.

The website said anyone who backs a project is accepting the creator's offer, and forming a contract with the creator, not Kickstarter.

"If a creator is unable to complete their project and fulfill rewards, they've failed to live up to the basic obligations of this agreement.," the website said. "And while there are some ways to remedy the situation…ultimately kickstarter says the creator is solely responsible for fulfilling the promises made in their project. If they're unable to satisfy the terms of this agreement, they may be subject to legal action by backers."

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