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The Space Monkey Upgrade Scam (recursiverobot.com)
36 points by emil10001 on Jan 1, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments

Hi there, I work for Space Monkey. Let me shed some light on all this.

The vast majority of our Kickstarter backers have responded overwhelmingly positively to the offer. In fact, we extended the offer in large part because Kickstarter backers asked over and over again "can you make it so that we can own the device instead of lease it?"

The percentage of backers that have already converted from the $120/year plan to the $49/year plan is huge. We take this to mean that we did the right thing.

Having said that, we aren't forcing anyone to upgrade. If users want to stay on the $120/yr plan, we're happy to let them do that.

All users who are unhappy with this, or who were confused about device ownership are welcome to a refund. John included.

What is your definition of 'responding positively'? Does that mean taking the offer? Because for some people, they might take the offer, but still be annoyed about it. They might also not have realized the issue that I'm pointing out.

I'm also leaning towards getting a refund at this point. I spent a fair amount of time going back and forth with your CS, hoping that the situation would improve, but instead of admitting that you screwed up on Kickstarter and didn't make your intentions clear, your CS reps dug in their heels and are claiming something that is simply not true - that you own these devices.

Having read the post, I honestly do not see anything that remotely approaches a "scam". You need to be more careful with words, or maybe just to learn to take disagreements or disappointments more in stride, and to maybe try to see things from others' perspectives.

What you have here is some kind of disappointment in an upgrade offer; Space Monkey, as far as I see, is a) still honoring the offer it gave you on Kickstarter, and b) is willing to refund you the whole sum in any case. That's not a "scam". I kept reading this article and waiting to see how Space Monkey stole your data and sold it to advertisers and identity thieves (that would be a scam), but, instead, you're basically displeased with them and their phrasing was possibly unclear.

When you raise that to the level of "scam" and spend who-knows-how-much effort on writing 13 long back-and-forth emails and a blog post (at what rate do you value your time that you find this worthwhile for a $10/month service?), you just make yourself sound like a spoiled child.

FWIW, I have nothing to do with Space Monkey and have never even heard of them before 10 minutes ago.

The "scam" is that in their upgrade offer, they're claiming to own my device, and then trying to sell it to me a second time. I think that "scam" is a fair word to describe this particular situation.

I have read their comments as to how it's a lease, but they did not make that clear in the Kickstarter campaign. They are relying on some things that may have been implied by what was written as opposed to any sort of explicit statement that the hardware was being leased. I also believe that it was an honest mistake on their part, but that it was a mistake. I think that they're relying on gullibility, and the actual discounts that come with the upgrade to sneak this by people.

I felt like it was important to point this out, since I don't think that there is any sense in which Space Monkey could be considered to be in the right here.

i don't think it's about the money. it's almost never about the money.

if you had a ten dollar bill on a table, and you saw an acquaintance take that money and put it in their pocket, you confronted them about it, and they told you it was theirs and that they didn't take anything, would you be a spoiled child by ending the relationship or asking for the money back?

But they offered to give the money back and he didn't take it.

They could always just go ahead and give him the money back.

Space Monkey said they would give refunds with shipment at their cost to anyone who requests them.

If they are completely straightforward, it would have saved someone a trip to the post office.

companies cause stress when you can't trust them. You don't have 100% confidence that you'll even get a refund. You don't know what they're capable of if they are even misleading you by accident.

When the company gets annoyed or mad, then how do you trust them when you send back your data? You can't.

the worst feeling is that you feel that you are taken advantage of, even subtly.

Here's what Space Monkey promised on their kickstarter page[1]: "Space Monkey is the next generation cloud. For $10 per month, you get a full Terabyte (1000 Gigabytes) of storage you can use anywhere, any time."

No device is promised, and even after re-reading his blog post, I'm not sure what emil10001's argument is. He feels he owned his Space Monkey, because what? Because he felt that he should own it? Because there wasn't a big red font on the kickstarter page that said "YOU DO NOT OWN THE DEVICE!!!"?

Maybe emil10001 has a point and Space Monkey is running a huge scam. That, of course, is premised on the assumption that Space Monkey sold him a device, then insisted he didn't own it. Emil10001 has provided no evidence that this is the case. That's not hyperbole, go reread his blog post. It's like a kid throwing a temper tantrum because he isn't getting his way. I can't believe this is getting upvoted on HN.

[1]: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/clintgc/space-monkey-tak...

> No device is promised


"Early-bird special. 1 Terabyte of Space Monkey storage for 12 months (device included in your subscription)."

Obviously there are two ways of taking that -

1) You don't have to buy a device to use the service


2) that the purchase of the device is included in the subscription.

Considering the trivial nature of claim 1, claim 2 is not an entirely unreasonable interpretation for someone to have come to.

Unfortunately, the Kickstarter platform does not allow you to change the descriptions for reward levels once you've pushed the project live (you can add new rewards, but cannot remove or modify old ones).

This KS policy makes sense: they don't want people doing switch-n-bait on rewards.

But the very real consequence is that if the wording on a reward was not 100% clear, the only option Space Monkey had after publishing it was to add text to the product description on the main page, in the forums, or in updates. This is how Kickstarter works. Our hands were tied from changing that text, even though we wanted to.

Of course it's not unreasonable. Space Monkey said many times that they are unhappy about the clarity of the issue and thus offered a full refund with shipment at their cost to anyone who wanted it.

* Who owns the device?

They own the device until they say you own it. Period. As with anything you buy these days. You have a use-license to things until you are told you own it. Most EULAs for hardware explicitly state this somewhere or another.

* Is the offer reasonable?

Totally. They are giving you a bonus on top of the better deal that they give new customers.

* Should I be upset about this?

No. I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill.

* Should I just send it back and ask for a refund?

If you feel like this is a real issue to you, then yes.

* What should I do???

Making a big deal out of this is really sort of knee-jerk, it seems. You misunderstood what you were getting and now you're asking the company you got it from to do something they clearly aren't prepared to do (give you stuff for free). Just because you make a fuss on the Internet doesn't mean you always get your way.

SpaceMonkey seems to be an honorable business with good intentions. I have not backed them, nor am I a customer, but it seems to me that you've changed their good deal into something that it's not.

I was an early backer on Kickstarter and had certainly been working under the idea that I "own" the device - with the understanding that it would be useless without an ongoing subscription.

I never actually read into any of the upgrade emails, so seeing this is a surprise and a bit of a disappointment that such an offer would be time-limited, but I can't say I feel scammed.

Perhaps I'm naive, but I do actually buy into the idea that Kickstarter is place to support good, wouldn't-exist-otherwise ideas with an expectation of some friction along the way.

SpaceMonkey is something that immediately impressed me as one of those ideas with an exceptional backing price relative to what I pay in total for similar functionality. What I got was in many ways better than expected, very slick, device, clients, apps - end to end.

Sure, as a backer I'd prefer to be "given" the device outright in light of the pricing model for new buyers, but who knows how feasible that is? It's a $350,000 Kickstarter I'm dealing with, not some multinational. I have to expect that the $200,000 that these upgrades might generate are a calculated if not necessary ask - not some kind of scammy money grab.

In the end, I'll probably buy into the upgrade deal if/when it comes around again.

This is a great example of a startup not running their numbers due to the lack of a business plan, running the numbers post-Kickstarter campaign after thousands of people have pledged and millions of dollars raised, and finding out that their economics do not add up.

Now they are backpedalling on their promise, leaving 95% of their current/future customers with a really bad experience. Had it been a SaaS business, I don't think this issue would have escalated as much, but given a sense of "ownership" is involved, users are not that happy; and it's understandable. Add to that that users don't have their encryption keys, but SpaceMonkey, a US company, has them... both issues mixed make a great backlash cocktail.

I personally see this business opportunity as one BitTorrent Inc. should make the most of it. They know the protocol, they have the distribution, surely there must be an off-the-shelf a la RPi solution, with great reliability/redundancy that could be taken mainstream.

We haven't backpedalled on anything. The original rewards offered on Kickstarter stand. We will honor all backer rewards as originally offered.

We simply believe that the offering we are now giving to new customers is better in most ways than the one we gave to Kickstarter backers, so we wanted to let them in on the sweet action too, at their choice.

And to say thanks for backing us early, we threw in an extra 6 months of service ($60 value under their current plan), free, if they took us up on the offer.

We thought we were being cool about this, and the vast majority of our Kickstarter backers do think we are being cool about it, voting in support of this offer with their very real dollars by upgrading.

Those who are upset by this offer are very few in number, and we've offered refunds to all of them.

What else do you think we should do?

Not mentioning on the campaign that the device is a lease, rental, etc., and now saying it is, to me, is backpedalling. Add to that the fact that SpaceMonkey never mentioned the cost of the plan post-1 year during the entire campaign, and months after. From the outside that comes across as if the entire cost structure was to be determined, and it sure seems to me that that was the case.

The very first sentence of the Kickstarter page says, "Space Monkey is the next generation cloud. For $10 per month, you get a full Terabyte (1000 Gigabytes) of storage you can use anywhere, any time."

I know the Space Monkey guys from working together at Mozy and I can vouch that they wouldn't be deliberately misleading about this.

Having a $/month service on top of hardware does not change the nature of ownership. Mixing hardware and network seems to be a constant with SpaceMonkey's communication strategy. I'm sure that a law student could show how none of the KS campaign qualifies as a rental/lease offer.

Yes but that doesn't clear up the ownership vs lease issue.

Your argument is that the lease is implied, @emil10001's is that ownership is implied - I can read the page both ways.

The whole problem seems to stem from the lack of an explicit statement on this - perhaps it should have been in the FAQs?

Yep, at this point, I'm wondering about my ability to wipe the device before I send it back for a refund.

1. Is there some open protocol for a distributed storage of this kind ?

2. Or a plan to open the space monkey protocol ? À la dotcloud giving us docker. I don't believe you can change "how the world stores data, forever" without opening it.

I kinda like the idea but for it to really shines, I would like to see it survive the Space Monkey company. I would also see this more in line with the Internet design philosophy mentioned in kickstarter.

ie. being able to plug whatever hard drives I happen to have, share a portion to backup peoples data and in exchange have the rest of the available space backuped, remote accessible, being able to bring and plug my ssd to work for fast access if needed (no doubt about who-owns-the-device there), etc.

3. How big is the space monkey HDD to store your 1TB plus bits of a resilient backup of the other devices ? How does it compare to a local RAID setup ?

4. How are reliability, availability, performance and capacity balanced ?

1. there have been several attempts (including two of my own!), but it's an ambitious project

2. yes, we're actually very interested internally in opening up large parts of the system long term. We're also very interested in creating a system that could outlive the company.

3. internal drives are currently 2-4TB. It's better than RAID. RAID is susceptible to correlated failures, does not survive fire, theft, or flood, and is much more labor intensive (swapping out failed drives within short windows, rebuilding arrays, etc).

4. Reliability/availability: all chunks of data are encrypted, chopped up into dozens of pieces with parity data added, and spread to dozens of locations (currently 40), only half of which need to be present for complete recovery. When availability of those pieces drops below a certain level, a self-healing process automatically recreates the missing bits. Performance: data can be streamed from the network at a high data rate, and we're currently at more than 10x the speed of competing cloud services for getting data into Space Monkey, but there's lots of room for improvement (we're not as fast as a local NAS yet, but soon will be)!

Thanks for your detailed answer! I wish you a Happy New Year and good luck with your project, definitely one I'll be following this year.

Please have a read and then help me out by giving me some advice, because I’m completely sick of thinking about this:

* Who owns the device?

* Is the offer reasonable?

* Should I be upset about this?

* Should I just send it back and ask for a refund?

* What should I do???

Space Monkey employee here, although I wasn't the one that created the subscription rules(I'm a software dev).

* For people who bought the Kickstarter, Space Monkey technically owns the device. We realized this isn't what most people wanted or expected, so if you buy on the site today, YOU own the device.

* In my opinion, yes.

* From a statistical standpoint, most people understood they were leasing the device and were happy we offered an upgrade. The ones who thought they owned the device are upset. We're trying hard to do everything we can to make our customers happy (while still staying in business)

* We want our customers to be happy, if that means refunding you.

* I can't answer that for certain, but I would say do whatever makes you happy.

It would have made more sense for KS backers at the $99 level and up, simply own the device now. As it stands, I can visit the site and pay $199 for said device (ownership) and it comes with the 1 year of service. Quite honestly this whole debacle has left me with a sour taste in my mouth and I highly doubt I'll be renewing when my year is up, especially given that I have to pay $149/year I believe..

$99 KS is a great deal. Device ownership costs more upfront, but cheaper long term. There's really three options for you:

1. $99 + $120/year (not $149). First year is free.

2. $99 + $79 (upgrade) + $49/year. First year is free. We included 6 months additional service with this offer.

3. Return $99 device, pay $200 up front + $49/year. First year is free. This is basically #2, but more expensive, and no 6 months free.

There is a huge gap between the yearly fees of option 1 & 2. I might miss something but if the business model was based on ~ $10/month/user how come it is still viable with ~ $ 4?

When you lease the device if the hardware fails then Space Monkey replaces it. If you own the device and it fails outside of the 1yr warranty, then you have to replace it. The difference is about recouping hardware costs over the lifetime of the device.

This should be written in the email they sent out! Thanks for clarification.

You'll either be paying $10/month or $49/year. Those are the only two subscription models the company has ever offered for a 1TB device.

I was wondering why people wanted to own a device that would be useless without the rest of the solution.

We (Space Monkey) intend to make the device usable on its own, without the Space Monkey service, for people who purchase the device and don't want to continue the service. It's unclear as yet how close we'll be able to get it to a turnkey NAS solution, but at least it'll have Linux installed and you'll be able to SSH to it, use the drive, install whatever software you need, etc.

Great answer. It drives me (midly) mad to see overspecialized gear being produced such as asics miners and such. Promoting reuse is a good approach.

Whenever I don't need something, I actually do pack the item back up and drive down to the UPS store and ship the product back to the company. It is a waste of resources and rare metals and stuff like that. Everything should be recycled.

If I leased some security technology, I wouldn't mind getting a used one if it were cleaned and worked well.

I remember when this first appeared on Kickstarter and I almost backed it. However I didn't because the the device is not yours; it's a subscription model where the hardware is part of that subscription and you had to pay to ship it back to them.

If you read the FAQ on their kickstarter page it states;

"What if I cancel my subscription? We'll give you a pro-rated refund on your subscription once the device is sent back."

There's nothing on the Kickstarter page that appears to imply a return policy. I'd say if someone sends you some hardware in this early stage of a company, then it's a reasonable assumption you would get to keep it. Whether keeping it is the right thing to do or not is another matter entirely. Startups.

Ideally, you shouldn't change the rules after engaging with someone who pays you money. If the company is making a bunch of rationalizations about it with you, you may want to point out to them how frustrated you are with the process and hope they hear you. I really can't tell if that is the case here or not as you haven't posted the correspondence!

I didn't post the correspondence because it's extremely long. I've been back and forth with them over 13 very long emails. My prodding them for some evidence that what they're saying lines up with reality, and them rationalizing it without providing any evidence. I really wanted to work this out with their customer service, but instead, they dug in their heels and made the situation worse.

I waited a while after my last round of questions before writing this up. It was pretty clear that they had no intention of responding, or at least not within their own deadline.

Evidence we've already provided you in our numerous correspondences:

- Kickstarter project called itself "Complete Cloud storage subscription service"

- Kickstarter project added a $349 level after a few days that included "device ownership". Update #1 on KS highlighted this new reward level. Discussion in forums about ownership option and how it differed from the pure subscription model where you don't own the device.

- Kickstarter FAQ for our project says, in response to "what if I cancel my subscription?", "We'll give you a pro-rated refund on your subscription once the device is sent back."

- Numerous posts in the comment areas about device ownership vs. pure subscription.

- While there are a small handful of others who, like you, didn't understand the subscription model, these are in a tiny minority of all backers. All of them either upgraded after talking with us about it, stuck with their current plan, or were offered a complete refund. None launched public attacks calling us scammers.

Lastly John, our last response to you via our customer support system was yesterday at 12:59, but you just said, "I waited a while after my last round of questions before writing this up. It was pretty clear that they had no intention of responding, or at least not within their own deadline."

Does it seem fair to you to keep asking the same questions over and over again of our support staff, and then launching a public attack like this on a holiday because we didn't get back to you for the 14th time within 24 hours?

Right, none of those things are explicitly stating that the hardware was a lease in the flow of someone backing the Kickstarter.

As far as my questions to your staff, there was a consistent back and forth until that point. I'm completely sick of dealing with this issue, and it was pretty clear that I was not getting anywhere. I also didn't want to be dealing with this over the holiday, but I didn't set the upgraded deadline as the end of December! It is pretty frustrating and stressful going back and forth and getting absolutely nowhere. I was hoping to get some perspective by posting it. I think that I've gained that perspective, and have decided to ask for a refund. I didn't want it to come to this, as I had previously been very excited about your company and product.

I feel that the "public attack" is more pointing out to people the sleazy thing that you did in inserting a new claim of ownership into an upgrade offer. I felt like this was something that your company was completely unwilling to acknowledge and that it needed to be pointed out.

So it sounds like you are mostly upset with our support staff? Could you help me understand what you believe would have helped to resolve this for you? What we did wrong?

Going back through the exchange, it looks like our staff offered you a complete refund very early on.

Maybe send me an email outlining an example of how you think the exchange should have gone? alen@ I'm sincere -- I'd like to improve the experience if you have insights to share.

You're correct I was very disappointed about this experience, and it was mainly with the support. I will send you an email.

I'd also like to stop real quick and let you know that I do think that you have a great service with tons of potential. The technology is really cool, and I don't even know of anyone at this point who would come in as a close second. I've also been following your company since you won some startup competition a couple years ago, and was anxiously awaiting the service. I backed the project very quickly after getting the email from you guys that it was available.

Then return get device for a refund, they are offering you that, which in my opinion is pretty awesome. You thought you were getting one service, you were wrong (as it wasn't made clear to you), and now they are saying you can have a full refund. Life's to short to stress out over things like this, especially when there is a simple solution being offered.

I backed the project and thought I own the device because of: "device included" in the reward levels on KS. Also why the hell I should check forums, comments & discussions when I knew that the device is mine?

This sounds a little like those services that say you're signing up for something free, but on another page outside of the signup flow that users easily miss, it says they'll be charged $X immediately. Those services are deemed a scam, so I would recommend against claiming any points about the necessary information that's outside of the backing UI flow.

The Kickstarter FAQ mentioned the return policy, and explicitly said that pro-rated refunds would occur once the device was returned.

I went back and looked, and the FAQ mentions that if you cancel your account, and return the device, you'll give a pro-rated amount. You have to click the link about canceling your account to see it:

> We'll give you a pro-rated refund on your subscription once the device is sent back.

That statement could be taken to imply a prepaid amount for a service could be refunded if the customer was willing to part with something of value - the drive. What it doesn't imply is that the device is leased. If anything, it seems like a simple incentive to get a canceling customer to return the drive - if they don't, you don't give them their money back.

I think you are continuing to make rationalizations about this whole thing. The indication is the slew of blaming statements in your response above to emil. See "launching a public attack like this on a holiday" for reference of said blaming statement. I think emil deserves to be heard here.

Simply acknowledging that the device was intended to be leased and clarifying that on the KickStarter page should do the trick.

Forgetting legalese and merely applying common sense: it was abundantly clear from the KS [1] that the device was leased or otherwise returnable.

That was the selling point!! Dirt cheap physical storage + cloud backup, with the trade off that you didn't own the device.

I hate to criticise, but your post seems quite entitled. It's fine if you misunderstood the produce, and perhaps SM should have shown goodwill in letting you have the device after all (rather than this ruckus).

The example that I gave was that if I were to walk into Verizon and get one of their free phones that accompanies the service

That's not true though is it. Your contract leases the phone to you - if you tried to cancel that service you would still be charge some sum X, where X is basically what is left to pay on the phone. For the period of that service your contract fee is extra to pay for the phone (when your service period ends, if you want to keep the phone you'd be crazy not to switch to a cheaper service without a free phone!! When my contract runs down I can switch to one half the price without a phone upgrade).

What SM appear to be saying is that they leased the device, but crucially without quantifying the cost of the device. That they are now able to do that might mean it is no longer cheap enough for you or others, that's their risk. But I think you've overreacted to the situation.

1. which I thought about backing then decided it wasn't something I would use as my backup needs are an order of magnitude larger)

Space Monkey's wording maybe could have been better, but I understood it as they intended and they appear to be dealing with a customer issue in a very reasonable manner.

It's a little discouraging that public "exposés" of startups seems to be the cool new thing on HN and that this is so high up on the front page.

Did you sign a lease or contract for said device?

Nope. There was no lease or contract. I asked them about that too, they ignored that question.

There was also no stated warranty at the time you backed (there is now), yet we replaced a device for you that failed, free of charge and without any hassle.

We have acted in good faith with you at every step of the process. I'm sorry it didn't work out in the end, but I'm at a loss what more we could have done. I think we've spent more money paying people to try to answer your questions than we ever took from your Kickstarter pledge.

That was something you chose to do, just like sending out devices without leases or contracts was a choice you made. I don't see how you have any legal grounds to request that he give the device back to you.

Then it is yours to keep.

FWIW I didn't either. I backed their KS campaign at the $99 level also.

What people here think about actually leasing a device (clearly stated that this is happening) along with a plan like this? Would it make sense?

Of course switching what happened from "you get a device with your subscription" to "you're allowed to use our device while subscribed" is a huge clawback. That's not what I'm asking - if they had started with the latter model, what do you think, would it work in such cases?


Change the title.

That is completely unacceptable. That's very click-bait, and very disparaging to Space Monkey, who as far as I can tell, is operating in good faith. There is going to be a whole lot of people who are going to get the wrong idea without actually reading the article.

Your problem is a kind of philosophical issue between owning and leasing, and while I sympathize on that front, that is not carte blanc to accuse someone of scamming.

This is not a philosophical issue. The 'scam' in question is them trying to sell me a device that I already own, and is already in my possession. To me, that is a scam!

your case isn't air tight at all, several levels of the society I exist in ( and I suspect the society you exist in ) has solid precedents on the concepts of a lease.

It's a scam to you, and only you. No one would consider this a scam, and dragging a company acting in good faith through the mud because your philisophical issue with it is beyond childish. Grow up. If you want to argue, do it maturely.

The premise of your argument (that you own the Space Monkey device) is totally unfounded. In order to win this debate, you're going to need a stronger claim to ownership than "I thought I owned it, so I own it!"


Create account just to post this comment? Hmm.

So if it breaks, replacement will be free right? (As long as sub is valid)

Yes, under the subscription plan, the company is responsible for reasonable device replacement when they fail (if not due to abuse, etc).

That's why the subscription plan costs more: pure subscribers are subsidizing device replacement costs (perhaps for users other than themselves).

Under the ownership model, devices come with a 1-yr minimum warranty (we may service other components for free longer, e.g. harddrive has a longer warranty from vendor -- we're still sorting out how to apply that).

Under the lease model ($10/mo) or under the 1yr warranty for the ownership model, yes.

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