Updated April 11, 2017 - see end of article for new information added
The Prepd Pack Journey
This is an account of the journey of my first crowd funded project. Well, I was not exactly part of the original crowd funding campaigns on either Indiegogo or Kickstarter, but I've been eyeing and following the Prepd Lunchbox project since I first learned about it back in March 2016.
I am always on the look out for products and services that will enhance my quality of life or help alleviate my hectic schedule by making life necessities more convenient, such as food preparation and eating healthy. For example, we are subscribed to food delivery services such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and now we're giving Terra's Kitchen a trial run. I even have boxes of Soylent Drink 2.0 for those moments when I have absolutely zero time to get in nutrients, like working overtime hours at the office during crunch time.
The minute I saw the Prepd Pack promo / impact video at Indiegogo and got a firm grasp of the concept and app idea, I was 110% sold. I've lost count of how many Tupperware and lunch boxes I've bought in the past and thrown away. My oversized gray lunch bag is old, dilapidated and needs an upgrade badly. The entire concept of the Prepd Pack, essentially a hybrid bento-lunchbox setup, completely solves one of my (first world) problem and I was engaged.
I feel I had to write about it since the Prepd Lunchbox is the subject of several "controversies" on Indiegogo and Kickstarter. These "controversies" are the result of unrest from early backers stemming from the consistent delays and the then lack of updates or communication from the campaign creators. This article attempts to shed light on the journey my Prepd Pack took from start to finish.
I placed an order on December 16, 2016 for two Prepd Packs, 1 set of Cool Sticks and 1 blue Neoprene sleeve directly from the company's web site (use this link to receive a $15 discount) for the same price as the rewards offered at both Indiegogo and Kickstarter with the clear understanding that I would be receiving the product in 4-6 weeks or longer, given the consistent manufacturing and logistic delays experienced by the Prepd partners as documented on their monthly updates at aforementioned crowd funding sites.
The Prepd Pack "Controversy"
To my surprise, I received the Prepd products on March 3, 2017, delivered to my residence in Southern California roughly about 11 weeks after placing the order in December 2016 and at the same time when the USA backers of the Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns were starting to receive their rewards. The only difference is I was not out of $160.00 for an entire year or more ($140 for the goods, $20 for shipping) as experienced by early backers. I mean, I literally got the exact same products at the exact same pricing as the crowd funding rewards and waited less time to receive the goods!
To be fair however, the day after I placed my order, the official Prepd web site was completely redesigned, and their Prepd Pack packages were updated. No longer did the Prepd Pack include a set of magnetic cutlery, but instead a pair of chopsticks are included instead while the cutlery set can be purchased separately for $10.
Pretty dumb move in my opinion since everybody knows how to use a fork, spoon and knife but not everyone knows how to use a pair of chopsticks! I figured the Prepd Team realize it will cost them more, material wise, to include the cutlery set versus the chopsticks. Still a dumb move nonetheless.
The price of the Prepd Pack has also increased by $9 and no longer includes the rectangular medium Prepd Container with sauce pot. I was curious if I got in on the "old package" deal so I contacted Prepd directly by email. Laura responded within 24 hours and confirmed that I will indeed be receiving the "old package," and sure enough, I did! I jumped in on the deal at the very last minute and at the perfect timing to say the very least.
So a few weeks have passed with no updates, which is expected, until I received an email update from the Prepd team on January 18, 2017:
Thank you again for your patience while we perfect and prepare your Prepd Pack.
Today we have some good news to share - shipping is now underway! The first pending shipment notifications were just sent out this week. It has been taking a little longer than expected for each batch to clear customs and checked in to the warehouse, however we will have the majority sent out within the next 4 weeks.
You'll know to expect yours when you get the pending shipment email, followed by your tracking information once its shipped out (also by email).
We really appreciate your patience and understanding during this hectic time.
Will, Chris and Laura
And a few more weeks have passed with no substantial update from the Prepd team until February 11, 2017:
Thanks again for your patience over the last few weeks. Apologies for being slow to update you, however we have been waiting to get an accurate schedule to share. It has been great to see the first Prepd Packs have arrived and it has been amazing to look at the creations that have been made already!
Some of the photos that have been posted on social media over the last week
As mentioned in the last email we had expected that most orders would have shipped by now, however we experienced some additional delays in customs during the Chinese New Year period. To catch up we have been working closely with our logistics team to pack as many orders as possible over the last week. We sincerely apologize for this final delay.
Now that customs has reopened your order is ready in a queue to be shipped to you as soon as possible. Our fulfillment partner has informed us that they are on track to dispatch all product by the end of February and delivered within the following 7-10 days. As soon as your order has been dispatched you will receive an email from us with your tracking information.
Thank you again for your support and patience. We are so happy to finally get your Prepd Pack on the way to you. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email at email@example.com
Chris, Will and Laura
Two weeks later on February 25, 2017, I receive a shipping update from the Prepd team telling me my order was on its way and a United States Postal Service (USPS) tracking number was included in the email.
It’s [sic] been over two weeks and no movement on my product!!!111one
When I tracked the shipment, it indicated the shipping label was created 5 days prior on February 20, 2017 but the goods were not handed to USPS for actual shipping and hasn't moved for 5 days.
THIS was the source of many confusion, headaches, anguish, low self esteem and self destructive behaviors in the comments section at Indiegogo and Kickstarter.
In a nutshell, here's an explanation of what this really means for those that are not familiar with how shipping and fulfillment works:
- Prepd hired an overseas logistic company to pack the Prepd Packs into the nice brown boxes that they arrive in, based on work order flow. As soon as your order or backer # has been fulfilled and boxed up, a local courier shipping label - USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, Canada Post, etc. based on your country - is then created and a corresponding tracking number generated.
- The label is then slapped onto your Prepd shipping box before being loaded into a freight with other Prepd Packs for exporting to your country, in my cause, the USA. While your Prepd Packs and others are on a plane en route to your country, the tracking number that was generated a few days earlier doesn't get updated even though your package is moving. The fulfillment center then issues an email blast with the tracking number to the customers.
- Once the Prepd packages arrives at the port of entry and cleared by customs, it goes directly to the hands of your designated courier, again, my case is the USPS.
- Once in the USPS hands, they will scan the tracking number and it will then "move" when you track the package on their web site.
So no, Prepd didn't create a fake label nor did they just "forgotten about" your Prepd Packs. For Christ sake, they are not "covering up yet another delay." It's just how fulfillment works, plain and simple. Just knock it off with the conspiracy theories already, ya? Want examples of failed or fraudulent crowd funding projects? Just search for "The Doom That Came to Atlantic City by the Forking Path," "Jibo Family Robot," "Aido Robot," "Asylum Playing Cards" or the notorious original "Vessyl" beverage gadget that was suppose to detect what drink is in your Vessyl cup and determine its nutritional value on the fly (I mean really? People actually believed in that claim?!)
Chances are, if you received a tracking number from Prepd, it can be anywhere between 2-3 weeks before the Prepd Pack gets to your hands, again, contingent on how fast customs in the destination country is inspecting and taking care of the import.
Now that you have a better understanding of how bulk shipping and fulfillment works, you can sit back and relax. True to the Prepd team's words, I received my Prepd Packs on or before March 8. Now let's unbox the thing!
Unboxing the Prepd Pack
The Prepd Packs and accessories arrived in a standard brown shipping box with no padding material.
The individual Prepd Packs were packaged in foam padded and neatly well appointed Prepd boxes designed to minimize movement during shipping. Each Prepd Pack includes a fold-out instruction pamphlet, a "P" sticker and a refer-a-friend promo card.
The small and large Prepd Containers are placed inside the Prepd Packs, as are the magnetic cutlery set and chopsticks while the medium Prepd Container with sauce pot sits in the blue holding cell adjacent to the Prepd Pack.
The Cool Sticks and Neoprene sleeve :
The Neoprene snugly hugs the Prepd Pack:
The Cool Sticks clips onto the sides of the Prepd Pack:
The eating mat rolls out neatly and does not snap back as experienced by some users:
Thoughts and Future
Overall, the Prepd Pack is a very well built, balanced and beautiful lunch box that is worth the crowd funding wait and investment. For the serious make ahead lunch preparer and packer frustrated with their lunch box and looking for a sleek, elegant and most importantly, functional replacement, the Prepd Pack is worthy of your consideration. The magnetic clasps on the sides of the bamboo lid is actually quite strong, to my surprise, and requires at least some minimal force to separate from the Prepd Pack body. Because of this, I fear premature failure of the blue lid lifting strap. And because the lid strap is made of fabric material, it will no doubt stain from all the pulling and tugging, if not from fingerprint oil alone. The lid unfolds into an eating placemat. I recommend placing a napkin over the mat area for added protection as the rubbery mat material can stain from food particles or liquid if not careful. The magnetic cutlery set works and clings together as advertised and secures onto the Prepd Pack via a color matched blue elastic band.
The Cool Sticks snugly slips into the side compartments of the Prepd Pack and does not move around. They are easy to attach and remove, simply align the notches on the Cool Sticks with the corresponding notches on the Prepd Pack and push in. To remove, grab the O-ring and pull outward. A word on the Cool Sticks: they are not meant to refrigerate your prepped meals. If you expect the tiny Cool Sticks to keep your food refrigerator cold from 8 AM until 12 PM, then you are in for a rude awakening. They are designed to keep the food in the Prepd Containers cool just long enough during travel time; enough time until you can access a refrigerator (i.e. at work) and transfer the Prepd Containers in there. The Prepd Pack should not be refrigerated since it has bamboo wood elements on the lid, which when exposed to cold temperature as all wood do, will cause contraction, expansion and condensation upon warming which ultimately lead to ingress of water. As we all know, wood + water is a big no no. With the addition of a Prepd Neoprene sleeve, the cooling effect of the Cool Sticks is extended for an extra hour or so, but still, don't expect your food to be refrigerator cold.
The Neoprene sleeve, while nice to look at and feel, serves two purpose: to keep your Prepd Pack protected from inadvertent scuffling during travel and to extend the Cool Sticks effect. It has a single sling strap that you can use to carry the Prepd Pack with one hand. The drawback with this is that if you have a nice picture perfect prepped meal in the Prepd Containers, holding the sleeve by its sling strap will immediately destroy your presentation. So if you want to preserve the nice presentation of your lunch and impress your co-workers, the Prepd Pack must be transported horizontally. Another nice thing to have is a zipper. The sleeve is just a large lidless pouch.
There is a 2 mm beveled groove at the bottom of the Prepd Pack where the containers sit to perfectly accommodate a fully loaded Prepd Pack. This is designed to keep the Prepd Containers from sliding and slipping into the hollow Cool Sticks compartments when they are vacant. The Prepd Containers are leak proof - but only if you follow the direction on how to secure them in place as denoted in the included user manual. That is, place the lid flat on top of the respective container, then press down on each corner, locking 4 pairs of security clips into place. Some users did not bother to read the manual and attached the lids to their containers incorrectly and creating an insufficient seal, causing leakage and stains to the eating mat.
Since the Prepd Pack is quite an investment for a lunchbox, you'd want to do everything you can to extend its life and prolong its usage. The Prepd Team has created a nifty care guide for the Prepd Pack just for this purpose. I like to point out that the Prepd Containers are not scratch proof and get scratched easily! I've already scratched my large Prepd Container pretty good using the included metal fork while digging into my meal. Using the fork and knife from the Prepd Pack cutlery set, say for the "Steak It Away" recipe in the Prepd App, is out of the question. Only solution right now is to use reusable plastic utensil alternatives to overcome this design oversight.
The free Prepd App available in the Apple App Store and Android Play Store adds a nice versatile dimension and "Smart" aspect to the lunch box by providing specific Prepd Pack portioned recipes that links to iOS's Health Kit for real time calorie and nutrient tracking. Shopping for ingredients is simplified with the Prepd app's built-in shopping list organized by ingredient type or Prepd lunchbox recipe. While the recipes provided in the Prepd app is healthy, nutritious and very photogenic, many are also very involved and can be quite pricey and time consuming to prepare on the individual level. Not a problem if you're prepping a week's worth, but that's eating the same meal consecutively everyday. On a positive note, the recipes in conjunction to the size of the Prepd Container limits your portion size, which is especially helpful for those who are watching their waist line. You cannot put left over pizza slices in the Prepd Containers because it won't fit (I mean you can if you make the effort to cut them into pieces, but that's beside the point). The way the Prepd Pack and Prepd Containers are designed, I believe, will encourage healthy eating and make-ahead lunches, something everyone can benefit from! Additionally, they are modular (possible combinations: 6 small containers, 1 large container + 2 small containers, 1 large container + 1 medium container, 2 medium containers + 2 small containers, 1 medium container + 4 small containers, or 3 medium containers). They are also stackable and occupies a small corner of your refrigerator.
Hopefully the Prepd team orders a bulk of Prepd Packs and accessories and utilizes Amazon to handle their inventory, warehousing and fulfillment needs in the future to avoid the logistic headaches experienced during the tail-end of their crowd funded campaigns. If I need to purchase additional accessories or Prepd Containers, I'll see it within days, not months! Expanding on the recipe selection will also be a welcome addition to the Prepd app and adding additional colors to the Prepd Container seal instead of monochromatic baby blue would be a nice expansion to the Prepd lunchbox. Maybe a matching drink container or a premium glass version? Prepd team, you listening?
Update April 11, 2017 - Additional Prepd Containers
So between March 5 - 14, I've ordered additional Extra Prepd Container sets. I was not expecting to receive them for at least two months or more, just like the Prepd Packs. Today, I received an email from Shopify informing me that my Prepd Containers are out for delivery. That means the wait time for online orders after the initial crowd funded fiasco is about 5 weeks. Orders made online are shipped just like orders submitted to Indiegogo or Kickstarter. That is, they are pre-labeled when ready for shipment, exported in bulk, enters customs and then dispatched to your delivery address. It looks like Prepd may have caught up with their logistic problem. Don't get me wrong, waiting 5 weeks for a product is unacceptable (but okay by me, knowing what I'm getting myself into). While 5 weeks is a lengthy wait, it is not 3 months.
The individual Prepd Containers pack were sent out separately, each with its own shipping label slapped onto the Prepd Container box itself - no reboxing or box within a box.
Now I have enough containers for a week's worth of Prepping!