Of all the products I’ve seen this year, none are more worthy of our time and attention than the Ripple Rug. Created by Fred and Natasha Ruckel, the Ripple Rug is a rug with holes and lumps in it. Your cat can climb inside, stick its paws out, and generally get all up inside that business. It’s 35 inches on each side and made of recycled plastic bottles.
Why is the Ripple Rug so interesting? Because after creating the product the Ruckels began dealing with drop shippers, eBay buyers who sold the product for a massive profit while saddling the creators with dissatisfied customers and returns. Day after day they had to send cease and desist letters to a legion of resellers who weren’t doing their customers any favors by charging $20 over their retail price and simply shipping the product through Amazon.
The effort was taking its toll on the couple and they were losing money. Their only recourse? To pull their product from Amazon and sell it themselves at a loss of almost $40,000 a month.
You can hear about their troubles on Planet Money and read this article about the couple by Jason Feifer. It’s a fascinating look at the other side of building a product.
In fact the Ripple Rug is a perfect example of where we’re headed on the Internet. Manufacturers like Apple control their pricing through extremely careful policing and big legal teams while small makers like the Ruckels face drop shippers by the eBay-load. If the customers looking for Ripple Rugs had only gone to the official Amazon store – a matter of running a quick search – they wouldn’t have cost the Ruckels all of that revenue and paid far less for the same product. But because we the consumers are lazy we will click to buy anywhere on the web and then whine when we spot things cheaper.
Further, it shows us why some industries – car dealerships, watch manufacturers, and luxury good makers – work so hard to control their markets. It makes no sense on the surface but it becomes increasingly clearer once you realize the ramifications of drop shipping.
So hats (or cats) off to the Ripple Rug, the little rug that could. It’s tale as old as time: one cat, one rug, and a wobbly paw pranging hard against the tide of eBay.