Why Fidget Cubes are stressing some investors

When Antsy Labs introduced the Fidget Cube on Kickstarter last year, it found it had a hit. The product, which aims to calm users by offering various tactile features that spin, roll and click, raised more than $6 million in one of the most successful campaigns in Kickstarter's history. It also earned kudos from the media and kicked off the craze for America's hottest toy category

The startup's fortunes, however, have faltered since then as customer complaints mounted and rivals brought competitive products to the market.

Indeed, demand for the Fidget Cube caught Colorado-based Antsy Labs by surprise -- it had originally sought to raise a mere $15,000 on Kickstarter. In a September 2016 interview with AdWeek, Antsy co-founders and brothers Matthew and Mark McLachlan said they were "working tirelessly" to get investors of their Kickstarter campaign the Fidget Cubes were promised.

In an April 17, blog post on Kickstarter, Antsy said all Kickstarter campaign sales have been delivered "except for the small pool of orders" with unverified shipping addresses. 

Fidget Cube Unboxing by Antsy Labs on YouTube

Antsy wasn't any more specific, and the company didn't respond to requests sent via email and through Kickstarter seeking comment for this story. Backers of the company, however, still complain that they haven't gotten the Fidget Cubes they ordered.

"I got an email about my order being shipped almost a month ago, with a DHL tracking number," one backer posted on Kickstarter Monday. "The number doesn't work, and they're still no Fidget Cubes. I can see that this isn't an isolated case. I don't want to think that this whole campaign is a fraud, so please be professional and give us an update."

Antsy Labs has earned an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau for failing to address 30 consumer complaints. According to the BBB, the company has also ignored two requests the organization sent it in March for information about its business practices. A spokesman for Kickstarter, which is based in Brooklyn, New York, didn't respond to a request for comment.

"They are notoriously hard to get a hold of, and they still haven't even delivered more than 50 percent of the orders that were placed in September on their Kickstarter campaign," said Mitchell Sorkin, chief executive of Stress Cube, which decided to launch a similar product after noticing the success of Anty's Kickstarter campaign.

Sorkin has won over irate Antsy Labs customers who've grown tired of waiting for their Fidget Cubes by offering better customer service.   

Demand for fidget toys cuts across ages, sexes and demographic groups. Gamers have taken a liking to them because they have features that are identical to game controllers. They also appeal to parents of children who have difficulty focusing because of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism. Fidget toy fans are also starting to collect them. 

"It's definitely blowing up in the schoolyard, but at the same time there are tons of sales reps that hate their jobs and love this toy as something to play with while they're on the phone for 14 hours a day," Sorkin said. He added that it was rare to see a toy with such a broad appeal. He plans to release a new fidget toy in the coming weeks.

All of the top 30 best-selling toys on Amazon (AMZN) are fidget toys, though only two are identified as Fidget Cubes. Others are spinners, made of bearings that users spin in their hands to relieve boredom and anxiety.

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.