Close to a year ago I wrote about an amazing Israeli invention that would revolutionize bicycle riding: the cardboard bike. Costing only $9 in materials that would support weights up to 180 kilos, it was supposed to retail for the ridiculously low price of $20. In my mind this was a can’t miss product.
However, lessened interest on funding for the bike’s research and development on Indiegogo (it only earned $40,000 of its $2,000,000 goal) caused inventor Itzhar Gafni and CEO Nimrod (I know, what a name!) Elmish of recently-dubbed Cardboard Technologies to cancel the campaign. The biggest problem was that they acted, well, Israeli in terms of Chutzpah and business. After gauging the popularity of these bikes at a recent unveiling in Tel Aviv, the inventors decided to mark up the bike’s price from $20 to a whopping $290, and $390 to choose a color of ones choice! At that price one might as well put a few extra dollars and buy a Schwinn!
That’s not the end of it. It’s bad enough that they left initial buyers with a bad taste in their mouths. So what did these marketing “geniuses” do? They told everyone that they will allow for flex-pricing in different parts of the world they perceived as more and less wealthy. In places like San Francisco, they would charge the full $290, and in third-world countries the bikes would be given away for free.
Before I go into the myriad business flaws with this “model,” I just want to add that this is typical Israeli style of business. First they try to gauge and smell how rich the customer is and then fleece him or her for what he or she is worth. Ironically, this cheaply-made bike was designed to reduce bike thefts, if anything.
Business Flaws in the Execution of Selling these Cardboard Bikes
The number one flaw I see here is that in business, you need to set a standardized price point. Later, if you want to be all kumbaya and donate these bikes to third-world countries, then that’s fine too. But to gauge how wealthy the person is and then fleece him, then I’m sorry, but how do you know what additional expenses someone has or doesn’t? To ask for so much more from someone perceived as “rich” implies that it’s your business to find out how much that person is making, which in itself is an insult. To me, paying $20 for a bike with a $270 baksheesh on top of it really makes me really want to say “sheesh!” It turns me off in so many ways where thinking about it again nauseates me to no end. You need to standardize a price and stick to it, not the “we’ll gauge how rich someone is and fleece him” model. This is a very backwards, unprofessional way of doing business, demonstrates the level of greed on the owners’ parts, and makes one question how authentic, straight-and-up, and Yashar they are. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You can’t assume someone can be easily had as a “frier” (sucker) because he’s western. There’s a reason why the U.S. is a world power, and it’s not because everyone eats hamburgers, smokes pot, wears cowboy boots and weighs 400 pounds. Most Americans I know are not like that at all.
It’s therefore no surprise to me that only 24 cardboard bikes were sold. You can’t apply the Israeli “every price is negotiable” model on a society/culture that works on the model of “what you see is what you get,” and that “the price is the price, no $270 strings attached.”
What’s more, I don’t know what’s proprietary about this bike, meaning I don’t see anything here that another company wouldn’t take “as a gift” to distribute their own line of cardboard bikes. In a word, they blew it, and big time.
Then again, I only heard about this Nimrod Elmish character recently. I guess that just like the biblical Nimrod thought he was a god after he gained a following, it takes a real Nimrod today to think that such a product is so godly, and then sour a business that started out so sweet. But there’s probably more to the story that I don’t, nor do I personally care to, know about.
I’m passionate about what I get, and value a quality product that will last long-term. But, I also try to watch what I buy. If I can’t even pay rent, I won’t spend on a bike. A $20 bike would have been ideal for my situation. Let this be a lesson in that if you don’t think about the customer and only yourself, you lose the customer. Now I’m hesitant to consider buying anything from these characters and this company Cardboard Technologies. One bad experience is all it takes.