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August Smart LockHome automation company August launched their flagship Smart Lock today to much fanfare, glowing reviews (well, mostly), and an announcement that the $250 device is now available at Apple Stores nationwide.

There’s just one problem. August, which raised an $8 million Series A funding round last year, took pre-orders on their website from mid-2013 until a couple months ago, but early adopters who committed to pay $199 are still waiting for their locks to ship.

These previously enthusiastic supporters are now being told by August that they won’t have their locks for another four to twelve weeks, despite the fact that Apple Stores across the country are stocked today.

Dozens of upset pre-order customers have taken to Twitter to vent their frustrations, with many receiving the same canned reply from August, along with a link to the announcement:

The explanation given in August’s announcement is that they are “backordered due to demand” and that “many of our early supporters have consistently asked for alternatives to a purely-online purchasing experience.”

a May 2013 August Smart Lock pre-order confirmation email
a May 2013 August Smart Lock pre-order confirmation email

Interestingly, although August claims to have been shipping pre-orders since August 25th, no unboxing videos have yet appeared online (an Internet staple for early adopters of high-end gadgets like these) and the only evidence so far of anyone having an August Smart Lock in-hand before today has been the articles written by influencers at major tech websites who were sent review units by August.

Pre-order customers did lock in a price $50 below retail and they won’t be charged until their lock ships (whenever that is), but August’s handling of the situation leaves much to be desired, and is turning into a bit of a PR debacle for the fledgling smart home company.

August’s official response to pre-order customers (excerpted from their announcement blog post) is reproduced below.

What about preorder customers?

August’s online store is backordered due to demand but our manufacturing line is rapidly scaling to fulfill all orders. Customer orders have been shipping since August 25th, in the order they were received. In addition, for our pre-order customers (those placing orders on or before August 25th), we are also honoring the original price of $199 which is lower than the retail price of $249.99. Based on recent increases in customer demand, we expect it will take up to 90 days for us to fulfill orders placed today, with many shipping sooner than that. Please note that August does not charge credit cards until your order is ready to ship.

Why couldn’t you fulfill all preorders before going to retail?

Candidly, it was a tough call. The main reason we are going to retail is because many of our early supporters have consistently asked for alternatives to a purely-online purchasing experience. They’d like to see the product in person, understand the installation requirements and ensure the look and feel fits with their home. To balance their needs against those of our online store customers, we (a) began shipping early to preorder customers on August 25th, (b) are maintaining the $199 price for pre-order customers and (c) opted to partner with Apple to take this product into a retail purchasing experience.

We’d like to point out that retail is a tough market for a startup to navigate, especially during the year-end holidays. We’ve seen more than enough demand through our online store. If August were optimizing just for margin, online would have continued to be our only channel. It was a difficult decision but our only motive in providing a retail option was to better serve our early supporters.

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