Update (19 Jan 2021): Caboose has made good on their debts as of today. Checks arrived to both me personally and to ISE this afternoon, and they have been deposited. We want to thank Kevin and Caboose for repaying these long-outstanding debts. We consider the issue resolved and wish Kevin and Caboose success in future endeavors.
As small business owners, we hate to disparage other small businesses in the hobby – and within model railroading, most everything qualifies as a small business. We’re all trying to make a few dollars while providing products and services our fellow modelers want. However, we hit the breaking point a couple weeks ago.
We have a rather unique arrangement with our dealers, since there’s not the margin in products like the ProtoThrottle to give the usual dealer discount from manufacturers (typically ~60% of MSRP). The arrangement is that we carry the inventory so no payment needs to be made until an item sells. Once the item sells and the dealer has cash in hand, we invoice them for a cost that roughly splits the profits. Once we’ve been paid, we’ll ship them more product. It’s a win-win – we get greater sales and the dealer makes money with no cost of inventory.
Or rather, it’s a win-win until some dealer sells the product and decides to just pocket the cash rather than paying up. Enter Caboose.
Last summer (2019), they sold 4 regular ProtoThrottles, 1 black ProtoThrottle, 2 NCE receivers, and 4 ESU/WiThrottle receivers. We invoiced them on September 6 for a total of $2598. Here’s the invoice if you’re curious (edited so we don’t quite reveal our dealer pricing). We then contacted them again in late September 2019, visited in person in October 2019 to deliver a paper invoice, and then continued to send certified mail, email and call them in March, June, September, and twice in October 2020. We have been far beyond reasonably patient with them. The only acknowledgement we have received to our last three queries was a single cryptic sentence last week. While it didn’t address any of the issues, it did confirm they are receiving and ignoring our communication.
COVID is not an excuse. These items were sold and they had the cash in hand for them six months before the pandemic even emerged from China.
It’s not just manufacturers experiencing Caboose’s unethical behavior – it’s customers as well. I personally pre-ordered 5x N scale Rapido 8-40CMs from them on October 10, 2018, putting down a $292.45 down payment. At the time, I wanted to support them as a local model railroad shop. Neither the 8-40CMs nor a refund on the down payment has ever shown up, and the ones I ordered through other sources arrived a month ago (Sept 2020). Emails go unreturned. My assumption is that they never received the product to sell, and given our experience with them as a manufacturer, I certainly have a guess as to why. My assumption is also that my down payment money is long gone, and there’s nothing in the coffers to refund it.
A normal business would take them to a court of law. Michael, Scott, and I have day jobs that actually pay the bills, the amount is relatively small, and there’s an old adage about blood and turnips that applies here. So instead, we’re taking our case first to the court of public opinion – our fellow modelers. If Caboose pays their year-late invoice in full and either refunds my down payment or delivers my 8-40CMs, I will post an update to this story. In the meantime, please share this with your friends. (Payment has been received in full for all debts owed as of Jan 19, 2021. See the note at the top of the post.)