Panbo

Jack Rabbit Marine, down the hole?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 17, 2008

AskJackRabbit_about2

Bummer! The only remaining online sign of the great electronics blog AskJackRabbit is the old About Me page above. Much worse, especially for customers with paid-for orders outstanding, is the apparent bankruptcy of Jack Rabbit Marine. Online grumbling about undelivered orders and unanswered calls actually began in June, and I heard from an unhappy—like $5,000 of unrefunded deposit on canceled order unhappy—Panbo reader in early July. But, like most every one else, I figured the problems were isolated and temporary. Last week, though, the drumbeat of worried commenters at The Hull Truth, NavaGear, and here on Panbo picked up considerably, and finally a couple of customers reported receiving this email from the company’s President, Peter James:

JackRabbit has closed and is filing for bankruptcy. I'm sorry that you got caught up in this mess. My understanding of the process is that the court appoints a trustee who is responsible for liquidating the assets of the company and reimbursing the creditors. Your contact information and the amount owed will be provided to the court as part of the filing. If you are not made whole by the trustee, I consider it my personal responsibility to make sure that eventually the full amount owed is returned to you.

I’m very surprised. Based on its extensive and professional Web site and James’ expert and personal touch, I would have guessed Jack Rabbit to be one of the most reliable online marine electronics outlets. But obviously something was quite amiss; I still doubt purposeful fraud, but wonder about financial competence and ethical customer relations. Reactions seem to range all the way from sympathy, and the hope that James’ blog will return to the web, to a desire to see him in jail. Maybe we’ll learn more about what happened, but no doubt some electronics buyers are going to be a lot more careful about how well insured their online payments are.

PS 8/18: I just heard from Peter James, who confirmed the closing and bankruptcy filing. He also reiterated his committment to take “personal responsibility to ensure that all customers {not taken care of by the court} are eventually made whole.” He says he’s kept their contact information and will keep them informed, and that his new e-mail address is “jackrabbitmarine at gmx.com”. He also suspects that this will not be last such story I write over the next year. Bummer!

Comments

I bought a lot of "electrics" from the old JR before it was "sold" to Peter James. I had dealt with the founder and then Steve. I was at their place in Stamford a half dozen or more times to have cables made up or pick up Blue Sea gear. I had no problems with them at all and even had a service call on my Link20 which they sold me.

Since PJ took over it became a whole different operation. I only spoke with him once in person and once on the phone. They began to sell navigation gear and set up their web site and the blog.

When I was there there was one secretary and 3 or 4 techs at most... I only saw PJ and Steve so that makes 3 in staff in their low overhead operation. It was a small place... perhaps 40' x 100' in all.

My sense is that PJ had too much debt in the purchase, spent too much time and money and looking like a big operation, including his blog, and probably took too much draw... or simply did not sell enough product for the expenses... and went into the deep doo.

It was a neat concept, they originally had real expertise in electrics which you can't get from your local West Marine sales guy.

Sorry to see them go. I'd like to known what actually happened. Bummer for the people who forked over money and got nothing.

Posted by: DefJef at August 17, 2008 10:35 PM | Reply

Hate to say this, but this is really unethical behavior by Peter James and Jack Rabbit.

They had to know they were short money, why else where they delaying all those orders?

If you are going to go out of business, better to go out without leaving all your customers stuck. Just shut down and let the bank chase what they need to.

There are often excuses, but people should really check how much got taken out of the business in the last 6-8 months.

Posted by: John at August 18, 2008 3:42 AM | Reply

Taking out means???? compensation or paying off the the former owner for the sale?

For some reason the expense side... whatever they were and the income side were completely out of balance and they apparently lost their credit, or their lease and all they could do was "sell" promises and take money and try to pay some of the
"expenses" which is of course what business do, but in this case what was "unethical".

It's hard to know the sequence of events, but if PJ knew that he could not supply a product because he lost his credit with a vendor, he should have closed his doors and not accepted deposits for items he knew he could not deliver (if that was the case). The might have been some time lag, but the net effect is he "stole" from people who thought they were getting something for tyheir money AND ignored them in the process.

It may be both incompetence and unethical behavior.

Could it be that the margins are so small in this business that enormous volume needs to be moved to be profitable?

Posted by: DefJef at August 18, 2008 6:36 AM | Reply

This is what happens to a business when they offer genuine technical advice and service but are left to compete in a price war with companies that add no value (ie: West Marine, Consumers etc). In particular, manufacturers of marine navigation gear should value the technical competencies of these dealers and offer them a price break that is not based on sales volume but rather technical support. Every customer that a technical dealers guides and assists is one less frustrated customer blocking the manufacturers support lines. There are certain product lines, namely the entry level gear that is true plug 'n play and ideal for owner installations (DIY) but the higher end gear should be left to those that know what they're talking about.

This is a sad day for marine elctronics as yet another technically business goes to the wall due to the big "Walmart" type businesses pushing them out of existence. Get used to it, there be many more to follow.

Posted by: Wildfish at August 18, 2008 7:18 AM | Reply

Wildfish, I understand the problem but doubt it was the complete cause of the JackRabbit collapse. Interestingly, though, James was about to start a two tier pricing policy to address the issue:

"So we're going to introduce a two-tier pricing system. You can pay a low price, competitive with the internet-only stores if you know what you are doing and need no support. Or you can choose to pay a higher price that qualifies you for full support including technical advice, installation help and a full warranty and replacement service."

The whole entry is still cached on Google:

http://tinyurl.com/6jyac6

Posted by: Ben at August 18, 2008 9:30 AM | Reply

Wildfish has a good idea about Garmin providing an additional discount to supporting dealers, but it would be a nightmare to maintain. Its a sign of the times that many people wander thru the brick and mortar stores to push buttons and watch demos, buy from a supportwhat?.com, and then plague supporting dealers with questions and complaints !!?! Oh yeah, and they NEVER read the book.

Posted by: Sandy at August 18, 2008 10:53 AM | Reply

I am in a similar situation with Jack Rabbit, I just wrote him an email at his GMX address, so I will see what he replies with.

I advised him that because I am a buyer in Arizona, and anything over $1000 is consider grand theft, and since I sent him $1135, it would be considered a class 6 felony.

I also told him that I am willing to work this out with him...

So I guess we will see where this goes.

Posted by: Scott Swenka at August 18, 2008 11:19 AM | Reply

I don't think Wildfish mentioned Garmin specifically, but in fact I've heard that they are running some sort of incentive program for technical dealers. I also think that Garmin, like Raymarine, offers an extended warranty if products are installed by a NMEA certified technician. I don't know the particulars but this seems like a great way to support dealer/installers and offer consumers a real choice in how they purchase gear.

Posted by: Ben at August 18, 2008 11:20 AM | Reply

Let's not get too teary eyed here. PJ offered support on Tues-Fri from 12-4, that's not exactly comprehensive support. I sent him numerous emails that went unanswered.

JR also had very poor execution on orders, shipping the wrong equipment, etc.

I think the real lesson here is not that the industry doesn't have enough margin to support a dealer base (something the computer industry addressed 15 years ago), but that when buying on the internet, a nice web site does not necessarily mean a robust company.

Posted by: Russ at August 18, 2008 11:26 AM | Reply

Price is king, fellow boaters, get over it. Anyone attempting to sell equipment bundled with technical expertise alone can't be competitive and survive.

I'm a marine electrician and essentially support myself on the labor charges. I don't lose money on the equipment I sell, but I don't make much either. If I have to provide warranty service it washes out all the profit I made on the gear and then some. Often my customers buy on the internet to evade state sales tax. I show up and install the stuff. If it goes bad, I'll help but I have to charge for every hour.

The only material I can make anything on, at least nominally, is wire, fuseblocks, circuit breakers, switches and the like because I stock them. I carry almost all the accessories I need to complete jobs. This inventory will command a higher price because I bring it to the job. It's hard to know exactly what you are going to need until you are into a job. I show up to work, not to run for parts. I do it for my convenience really, but the profit helps. If I were to fully account for the costs of carrying the inventory, I doubt there would be much profit. But a lot of the cost is there anyway and the inventory investment is a sunk cost so no point is worrying about it now.

Expertise in this business is supported by advertising or you buy it by the hour. Ironically, as equipment becomes more plug-and-play, it's mostly the intimidation factor that keeps more people from installing their own stuff. They buy equipment on the web intending to install it themselves and then realize they are not temperamentally suited to cutting precise holes in their beautiful boat.

Posted by: Arcy Faulto at August 18, 2008 1:12 PM | Reply

Whatever happened to the AIS company, SeaCAS are they out of business as well?

http://www.seacas.com/oscomm/announcement.php

Their web site says the AIS product is no longer being sold after August. Seems to me the economy is beginning to take a toll on boating like it did during the last recession and marine electronics will be on the first line of destruction as the margins for these products are thin on a good day.

Posted by: Richard C at August 18, 2008 1:19 PM | Reply

Out of curiosity, does anyone know if he's the same Peter James selling the $2 million waterfront house in Stamford?

Posted by: Tim at August 18, 2008 1:22 PM | Reply

In the case of SeaCAS the problem may also be that there is still no FCC approval for AIS Class B, so no market for a US company trying to provide AIS products on the leisure market.

It also seems to me that the biggest slum is in the USA; it's not that bad over here where I live (Netherlands). People seem more concerned about the bad summer than the economy -- although that could also be influenced by my personal view now that I've been rained upon for too many days on our summer cruise?

Raymarine sent me a survey that I filled in out of curiosity to see what sort of things they worry about. One interesting question that I thought really typical is how often I bought (a) boats and (b) electronics packages. They seemed to expect answers in the range between 1 and 3, possibly 4 or 5 years. If that is what companies are accustomed to, I'm not surprised that a downturn in the economy will slow things down. Not buying "new" when your boat is not yet a few years old seems to be not such a big problem?

Kees
(On his 9 year old sailing yacht...)

Posted by: Kees at August 18, 2008 3:12 PM | Reply

The SeaCAS thing is a real bummer. Its founder, Fred Pott, is a hell of a nice guy and a leading figure in the AIS standards community.

Since SeaCAS was in the receiver business, my guess it was that the FUD associated with Class B (and the prospect of low cost transceivers) that did the business in. His receivers were of better quality than most, but priced at the level comparable to Class B transceivers. I think this was a hard sell.

I have one of his integrated antenna/receiver/gps units and it performs flawlessly.

Posted by: Steve at August 18, 2008 3:52 PM | Reply

Kees,

If I remember correctly, SeaCAS was the only company that did not advocate the use of Class B, AIS. The owner had a very different philosophy on this and had no plans to ever offer one. My guess is SeaCAS fell victim to a much less expensive AIS unit from Milltech Marine, (SR161). That is, unless something else has caused the web site "announcement".

I wonder what business crisis has been created for companies that bet on class B approval in the US and are now stuck with product in storage and no market. What a business nightmare!

Posted by: Richard C at August 18, 2008 4:30 PM | Reply

This may sound naive, but I'm going to give Peter James the benefit of the doubt. If he says he's going the take the effort to try to make all of his customers whole if they aren't taken care of by the court, then I think he should be given a chance to live up to his promise. I would like to believe that there are still good people walking around on this planet and that perhaps his business going down the hole was bad luck to him as well. Until we know the full circumstances, we can't really judge the situation.

Posted by: Mariah at August 18, 2008 6:08 PM | Reply

I found a link that said their estimated annual sales were $830,000.

If the Stamford house for sale is legit, I'd like to see the listing. Please post a link.

Posted by: DefJef at August 18, 2008 6:23 PM | Reply

As a former employee of Jackrabbit marine, I think PJ's, (Peter to me}, reach just exceeded his grasp. I was very sorry to see the company go belly-up, Not because I lost a job, I already have another but because Peter is NOT A Thief as some of you are trying to imply. Just over extended like a lot of us these days. I am sure in the end he will do the right thing.

Posted by: Kim at August 18, 2008 7:58 PM | Reply

Kim, I think you hit the nail on the head. The mere fact that Peter James bothered to send us an email about what's going on and didn't just run off, tells me that he's a conscientious person and I have a gut feeling that, although it may take a while, he will eventually make things right with his customers.

The problem I guess is that most of the people on this board don't know Peter James personally, and neither do I, so they can only go by what's happened to them.

And some of us are in deep trouble, having had to get a loan extension to finance the ordered parts, not having received the parts, having had to order the parts from somewhere else, and now also having to repay the debt...

Posted by: Mariah at August 19, 2008 1:12 AM | Reply

In the end we're all dead.

It's in-the-meantime where the royal screwings take place.

How could you trust anyone who posted such an obviously cynical, flinty looking photograph on the front page of their web site?

I never did.

Posted by: Just askin' questions at August 19, 2008 4:55 AM | Reply

Overextended? This happens when we make poor financial choices such as borrowing against real estate because we believe it is magically growing in value for no reason other than it's supposed to.

Or perhaps spending money you don't have because you believe you are going to get a new job with a big paycheck, or new contract or win the lottery?

Americans live on credit which assumes that they will have the income to meet the debt service. When it doesn't happen they are over extended, not because they are "evil", but because they are not conservative in their fiscal matters.

Rather than say he is sorry and will make good down the road, he should explain how he got in deep doo and how he intends to pay back those who he took money from and gave them nothing.

When you go into bankruptcy the court decides who gets what and in what order and how much on the dollar when the assets are liquidated. SO HE doesn't get to decide, but the bankruptcy trustee does.

I have twice been the victim of people who decided to go belly up and declare bankruptcy to avoid paying their debts (to me) and I never saw the money despite wasting my time with the process.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and I would not expect too much from this bankruptcy.

Posted by: DefJef at August 19, 2008 6:44 AM | Reply

Yeah right.....over extended with a $2 million waterfront house in Stamford and he cannot pay creditors or customers who he took money from! I bet those pre-paid orders were used to keep the roof over his head whilst a few that are now out of pocket risk loosing theirs. Companies do not get into trouble overnight. The writting is on the wall months in advance and if Peter James is as honest and innocent as he's making out then he should have put his hands up and stopped taking our money. I wonder how many suppliers are out of pocket and by hoe much? There is no such thing as a good thief and I certainly hope that Peter makes a plan and pays back his customers.

Posted by: Anonymous at August 19, 2008 8:26 AM | Reply

Arcy, I'll certainly agree with you, price is king! However we all aspire to do get ahead in life and build our businesses. If you're relying on labor only and mark up a few cables on fuse boxes and wire then I hope your house is paid for?

The only reason why price is king is because the manufacturers only care about sales volume. I worked in the boating and marine electronics industry all my life and I can tell you that at retail level you can spend an hour or more with a customer explaining and running through the multi-featured navigation or fishfinder. In many cases the margins are around 10 points and the online guys come in at much less.

I firmly believe that the manufactures need a two-tier pricing policy where certified factory trained sales & technical staff are trained by the manufacturers to advise, install, commission and operate the gear to a pre determined level of competency. Once this is level is reached that dealer qualifies for a higher discount level. Again this will take the load of the manufactuers so they can concentrate on making a better product rather than sorting out thousands of problems.

Posted by: Wildfish at August 19, 2008 8:38 AM | Reply

Wow, that is especially harsh Defjet.

Especially for companies that are seasonal and have complex sales, sometimes owners just don’t realize that their business model is broken or under attack from a fair or even unfair competitive pressure or economic change.
1. Seasonal businesses depend on a certain amount of volume to make the profitable months balance the unprofitable months. Don't know your in trouble until the profitable months miss the mark.
2. Judging from some new policies Peter started setting up at the end (e.g. offering different retail prices for marine electronics purchased with or without and expectation of service), perhaps the already slim margins in marine electronics became slimmer than he reasonably anticipated.
3. Someone wrote that annual sales is $830K. Given tiny margins, it must have been tough to pay 3 salaries.

Posted by: Dan (b393capt) at August 19, 2008 9:37 AM | Reply

Maybe I should be quite ... I might not be so charitable if I lost thousands of dollars. When your a customer of a bankrupt entity .. your compeled to wonder if the business owner could have done something better in your specific transaction.

Posted by: Dan (b393capt) at August 19, 2008 10:11 AM | Reply

What are the lessons here?
1. We like to stand around and kick someone when he's down and can't do anything about it.
2. We spend so much effort crying about spilt milk that it curdles in the bilges.
3. Mr Supportwhat?.com wins in the end, because we won't pay for the service we expect.

Are superstores and the Evil Emporium [WM] responsible for this problem? Hardly. Even if they price match www.SW?.com they take it in the shorts because they still have to support all those mortgages, salaries, healthplans, trucks, advertising and catalog printers. All Mr. SupportWhat? needs is a place for the UPS truck to stop, or a deal with a packager, who takes care of that for a small fee. SupportWhat? may never see the stuff he sells. And we buy from him to save a buck ninety eight. Shame on us.

Posted by: Sandy at August 19, 2008 10:51 AM | Reply

A $2M house and a business that turns over $830K? Something must have clicked??

Posted by: Wildfish at August 19, 2008 11:10 AM | Reply

There are many ways to go bankrupt. Bad management, bad economy, bad business model, bad whatever. I'm not sure that the cost of support is a big factor in this case, but this is as good a place to discuss that as any.

The manufacturers don't do enough in the way of support; they pass that burden on to the retailers. I think it would be better if the manufacturers had much more info on their web pages, enough so that I wouldn't need a full service retailer. Also, before sale and after sale support are two different things.

Posted by: norse at August 19, 2008 1:19 PM | Reply

Wildfish,

Oh yeah, the manufacturers should cut us dealers a better deal. Well, sure they should. I'm not holding my breath. Volume seems to be the only thing manufacturers understand. In the end, the bean counters rule or the manufacturers go out of business.

10% is the lowest margin I will sell equipment for and that's a level I can be close enough to be competitive. Until the States succeed in charging sales tax on internet merchants it still puts me behind because I have to charge the tax. Sometimes I can sell in spite of the price differential and sometimes I can't.

The weird thing is that people seem to be much more sensitive to the initial price of the equipment and not so sensitive to the cost of having it installed. A proper installation runs a significant portion of the equipment cost, but most of the people I work with seem to be willing to buy quality installation and pay for it. They are willing to let me take my time and do it right.

Without traditional retail profits on equipment, the only thing I have been able to do is kick my hourly rate up until I can make a living. And then I really have to hustle around to bill enough hours. I have "competitors" who charge half as much as I do, but there is enough quality business around that I stay busy, even this year. Still, it's a squeak to get by. And no, my house is not paid for.

Posted by: Arcy Faulto at August 19, 2008 2:06 PM | Reply

There is a lot of speculation going on here.

First JR was not as much as seasonal biz as a marina in the NE. They did international internet biz do the seasonal biz thing is not as appliable. They did not operate a walk in retain establishment.

On site service MAY have been seasonal and quite local. But that was probably not making them much money or even losing them some.

If PJ bought a house which is on the market for $2MM this may reflect the loss in value of 30% in real estate so he may have an upside down property where he owns more than his equity. But with a reported $.83MM sales it hardly seems to support the owner carrying a mortgage on a private home for +$2MM.

And there was talk of a JR "test boat" which who knows what that actually was, but it must have had all the expensive JR electrics, water makers and so forth.. another pricey item for a mom and pop operation.

It sounds as if PJ had some big dreams and little capital do fulfill them with and thought he could do it with his JR sales... which obviously were not enough to meet his expenses (personal and business).

Having seen their operation, I can tell you it was as low overhead as can be. And the staff was quite small as well.

If PJ is going to be honest he needs to come clean on what happened, including his personal draw and what personal items he was expensing to JR.

Without the facts this is all speculation, but it doesn't feel right from what we know.

Posted by: DefJef at August 19, 2008 6:16 PM | Reply

Sandy, 99% of the online sales the seller never sees the shipment as they use "drop shipment" arrangement from the likes of CWR and other wholesalers. The small internet guys are the guys that have started the real price war problems. They source their gear (mostly) via drop shipment arrangements from a few big wholesalers who hold the distributors/manufacturers by the "shorts" due to their volume orders and massive accounts.

www.supportwhat.com does not care as they are retail only typically working in their pyjamas from their dining room table with a laptop PC and Paypal account! They can work for less then 10% and make money even on a bad day. That's what I guess drove Peter James to the wall, he actually had a brick and mortar business and offered more than just a good price! His recent idea on two-tier pricing is testament to that.

Posted by: Wildfish at August 20, 2008 7:15 AM | Reply

I know Peter James personally. He sold that shoreline home a few years ago which coincidentally is back on the market. He currently lives in a small condo.

As for integrity, he's got it. He'll make good on his promises...whatever it takes.

Posted by: CTshore at August 20, 2008 9:54 AM | Reply

Some of us have received the following email from Peter James. I'm not sure what to do with it. On the one hand I would like to work things out and on the other hand I'm afraid that if I withdraw my claims I will lose my only real hope of getting my money back. Thoughts, anyone?

"I understand you will be unhappy with this situation. I hope that you also understand that this situation is not something that I went into willingly, and that I have not myself in any way profited from the failure of the company. In fact I will have lost a large investment and many years of effort that was put into Jack Rabbit. The bankruptcy court will appoint a trustee who will liquidate the assets of the company and use those assets to reimburse the creditors including yourself. You have my personal guarantee that you will eventually be reimbursed in full if the court does not do so.

It is not possible to make a PayPal refund at present until the bankruptcy process is completed, which may take a few months. I would ask that you please close that issue with PayPal for the moment until the situation with the court can be resolved. You can always re-open it later. Having the PayPal account blocked does not help me resolve the situation, and if that should cause me to be forced into personal bankruptcy as a result, my ability to repay creditors such as yourself will disappear."

Posted by: Mariah at August 20, 2008 6:44 PM | Reply

PJ is correct. He cannot refund individual customers via Paypal or any other means until the bankrupcy process is well under way. To protect your interests, you need to file a timely claim with the bankrupcy court. Time is of the essence; there is a deadline for filing such claims. You may also need to attend the creditors meeting.

Posted by: Anonymous at August 21, 2008 8:59 AM | Reply

I got pretty much the same letter as well. At this point I have not released the claim, as like others have said its my only form of recourse of getting my money back, as according to PayPal and Ebay Rules, once a claim is withdrawn.. it CAN NOT be reopened.

His letter to me was slightly more personalized, but essentially said the same thing.

Peter and I have had some email conversations regarding this, he sounds like a sincere enough guy, but on the other hand I don't know him from Adam.

So at this point until I am convinced that closing the paypal claim is the right thing to do, I am leaving it open.

Posted by: Scott Swenka at August 21, 2008 10:17 AM | Reply

Anonymous,

"PJ is Correct" ?? Are you sure you aren't PJ ?

Of course he cannot refund individual customers , that is because his account is frozen pending the Paypal investigation , If there is money in the account and Paypal decide against him -- which they will! -- the funds will be refunded to the buyer and there is not a thing he can do about it.

Secondly if a Paypal claim is closed , it can NOT be reopened at a later date or opened at all 45 days after the purchase was made.
Closing a Claim is admitting the case has been resolved to your satisfaction this is why it cannot be re-opened.
Peter can respond to the claims against him in Paypal , he just cant touch the account , if this was a legitimate truthful request by him he should have no problem using the dispute process to keep everything transparent and above board.

Finally your last comment "You may also need to attend the creditors meeting." Why do all Americans assume that everyone in the world lives in the US ?? many of the people posting here are from different countries and will not be treated in the same regard because they are not US Citizens covered by US law.

Posted by: Msc at August 21, 2008 2:32 PM | Reply

It's good to know that I'm not the only one facing this dilemma. I would like to think that PJ is sincere too, but at the same time I don't want to give up my only chance of getting my money back. There is too much at stake to take such a big risk.

The comment about timing I don't understand. Why can the bankruptcy not be filed if the Paypal account is blocked? To me the two things seem to be unrelated. Also, if it's necessary for the court to have access to the Paypal account before they can handle the bankruptcy case, I'm sure they can issue a court order or something.

As for the comment about attending the creditors meeting, even if you're in the US I think it's over the top to ask people to fly in from other states that may be miles away just to attend a meeting. I might hope they are equipped with some video teleconferencing device.

Posted by: Mariah at August 21, 2008 6:09 PM | Reply

Is Paypal like credit cards ... will they make the buyer whole, even if the company cannot get the money back from the seller ?

Posted by: Dan (b393capt) at August 21, 2008 10:33 PM | Reply

For those in the business, it is said that if you want to make a small fortune in the marine business, start with a big one! It is a true love that keep people in the business, not the profits. If boaters knew the ugly truths, they would not be so fast to buy at the low prices that are offered.

Posted by: Anonymous at August 22, 2008 8:51 AM | Reply

The last part of PJ's PayPal plea is cryptic in that it refers to PERSONAL bankruptcy. It sounds like PJ's PayPal account is in his own name, not that of the business. The classic fault of small business owners is mixing their personal assets with the business assets, and vice versus. I interpret his note as a plea to save him from personal bankruptcy in return for his promise to make you whole somewhere down the line. Don't count on it.

There is no connection between the business bankruptcy trustee and the personal bankruptcy (if that comes to pass). PJ's attempt plea to spare him personal bankruptcy, saying the business bankruptcy trustee will make you whole, is nonsense.

Regarding the business bankruptcy, JR owed me $5,00 (deposit on NN3D equipment never shipped) a few months ago and repeatedly failed to meet his promises to repay me. I eventually gave up, called my credit card company to report the fraud and immediately received a credit on my account. That means the credit card company is now on the list of creditors. And I doubt I'm alone in having done that.

My point is that JR went out of business because the liabilities were greater than the assets and the court cannot fix that. In fact the court will take their money first (trustee's are well paid and since they get paid by the hour are VERY VERY slow), then you can count on the credit card companies and major suppliers (Raymarine, Garmin, Furuno, etc.), all of whom have better lawyers than most of us, to get paid off next. It's highly unlikely that any consumer will ever see a penny from the trustee.

And if PJ declares personal bankruptcy, I'm sure there will be a line of other personal creditors, like PayPal, personal credit cards, etc. in line in front of you as well.

I don't know why anyone would voluntarily trade a legal claim for a personal promise from someone who already violated their trust.

Posted by: Russ at August 22, 2008 2:06 PM | Reply

Russ , there is a lot of sense in your post particually this part
"I don't know why anyone would voluntarily trade a legal claim for a personal promise from someone who already violated their trust."

It appears to me that JR was trading as Jack Rabbit Energy Systems and Jack Rabbit Marine , It is not clear which company has filed for bankruptcy or if they both have His original email to people only says "Jack Rabbit" has filed bankruptcy., I think Jack Rabbit Energy Systems which is also the entity who is paid via paypal has not been included in the bankruptcy and is owned personally by PJ .

Paypal funds were paid to orders@jrenergy.com , not jackrabbitmarine.com so putting two and two together is appears these funds were indeed paid into his personal account , not business which could also account for financial short fall in business operating costs.

Regardless of his very impersonal and vague plea for people to remove their paypal claims he only has until 25th of Aug to state his case .

Posted by: Msc at August 23, 2008 9:00 AM | Reply

sorry Msc we paid via paypal to orders@jackrabbitmarine.com

nevertheless I don't understand how a company can go bankrupt and the (ex)owner is trying to access funds which are now under responsibility of the court and the trustee/curator.

I am not an expert on this from an US perspective but logic would say that if a company is placed in receivership/bankruptcy all assets are frozen and the previous owner has no business in trying to access funds which are owned by that company. If it was really the case that the "court" needs access to his paypal account then a simple court order would suffice to release the funds to the trustee.
And if we assume he was allowed to access these funds then why not repay the customers. I would bet that if Peter was genuine in his claim to repay these customers, with apparently some over 10K owing, he could get a bank guarantee and a letter stating he owes $$ to those people and the they would have no problem in removing the paypal claims.

Posted by: J at August 24, 2008 6:24 PM | Reply

JR had no assets. I was at their place less than 18 months ago. It had very little inventory at the time... cable, connectors, Blue Sea gear, but not bins of it. My sense is that they ordered product from manufacturers when THEY received an order.

How did they go bankrupt? Too many expenses... salary comes to mind and taking personal expenses as business ones.

What we need to know is who he managed to drown in expenses?

Posted by: DefJef at August 24, 2008 10:39 PM | Reply

Perhaps more important ... can most providers of marine electronics installation and support services, survive a down economy and a change in vendor technologies simultaneously ? If it's necessary to be profitable in an envirionment where customers purchase the hardware at internet prices, can providers succeed in convincing customers to pay a reasonable price for a package of services that include design, installation, first 30 days support, and misc. components (wire, connectors, etc.) that isn't subsidized by hardware prices ? In some cases that reasonable price will be equal to the cost of the marine electronics, will that fly ?

Will service providers need to drop one or more vendors they provide service for ? Does that essentially bar new entrants to the market, or otherwise slow the recent cycle of innovation ?

Is mixing and matching N2K components something you just won't be able to find a service provider to support ... making the only viable paths to doing so ... finding a high school student with lots of free time and creativity, or being willing to do this yourself ?

Posted by: Dan (b393capt) at August 25, 2008 5:04 PM | Reply

Has anyone heard back from Paypal in the meantime? We received the following from them:

"After careful review, we have concluded our investigation of the Buyer Complaint described below.

We have decided in your favour, however, we were unable to recover any funds from the seller's account. As stated in the PayPal User Agreement, recovery of funds associated with a Buyer Complaint cannot be guaranteed.

Please know that we will make our best effort to recover the funds in question if they become available in the seller's account in the future, and will take appropriate action against the seller. Such action may include issuing a warning, a temporary restriction, or terminating the account. Keep in mind that PayPal uses a number of factors, including member complaints, to determine when to take action. Due to privacy laws, we cannot discuss the details of any action taken. We hope you understand our policy and that it reassures you that you are safe using PayPal."

Posted by: Mariah at August 28, 2008 12:21 AM | Reply

Again ... To protect your interests, you MUST to file a timely claim with the bankruptcy court. Time is of the essence; there is a deadline for filing such claims. Paypal cannot make you whole again, never could, never will.

Posted by: Anonymous at August 28, 2008 6:14 AM | Reply

Anonymous, I'm not sure what you mean by that. Are you saying that the individual creditors need to file a timely claim with the bankruptcy court???

Posted by: Mariah at August 28, 2008 7:44 PM | Reply

See my previous comments above, I filed my Paypal complaint on Aug 18, and this morning Aug 29, I had my money back in my account $1135.00.

Posted by: Scott Swenka at August 29, 2008 10:36 AM | Reply

Sounds like paypal has protected themselves and won't be a creditor at bankruptcy either for themselves or their customers. Better file your own claim to bankruptcy court.

Posted by: Anonymous at August 29, 2008 10:52 PM | Reply

Just for everyone's information, we've hired an attorney and he's just gotten back to us with the news that they can't find Jack Rabbit Marine in the US Bankruptcy Court case database. In other words, Peter James hasn't filed for bankruptcy (yet) and I'm not sure if he intends to do it at all. I've sent him emails, but he doesn't reply. Does anyone know if this is a case for the police after all? To me this would classify as theft.

Posted by: Mariah at September 12, 2008 7:59 AM | Reply

Its a Chapter 7. Case # 08-50816 United States Bankrupcy Court, District of Connecticut. Creditors meeting is Oct 15th, 9AM, Glaimo Federal Building, New Haven, CT. Attorney for Debtor: Ellery E Plotkin. US Trustee: Richard M Coan. Apparantly no assets available for creditors.

Posted by: Anonymous at September 12, 2008 9:00 PM | Reply

Does anybody know, what is going on just now with jackrabbit marine. Couple of weeks ago should have been meeting. Did anybody get any money back.

Posted by: mike at November 7, 2008 6:55 AM | Reply

I don't know about this marine electronics outfit but I do know about providing help and support for products sold, vs "just selling" them. I know that because that's what I do. I've had to do two-tier pricing quite a bit myself to cover time spent when the support gets a bit (or more) involved, which it often does.

I write support and consulting agreements by the year - and with that offer to get most gear at cost. Without the agreement you just have to make a reasonable mark up - just to remain in operation, forget about making any kind of serious profit.

The same kind of thing happens all around. I've heard about it from a local ham radio store - that online sales makes selling some brands virtually impossible. The Ebay you to death or online stores with no help or support.

Posted by: alanspicertelecom at November 21, 2008 2:58 PM | Reply

Alan - I think there is definitely room for brick-and-mortar in the eBay age; it's just a different business model these days. I've bought studio monitors online that turned out to be gray market; there was no help when one of them started buzzing. Now I'm shopping for a small dink outboard, and discovered that one vendor's warranty only kicks in when there is certified dealer prep. The online tax-free vendor can't do that, of course, since it would involve shipping full of oil, but obscures the fact. So I'm buying locally, and in the process have found someone who will teach me to keep the thing humming.

The trouble, I think, is when dealers don't want to do work that wasn't really necessary in the Olden Days. But it is a reputation-based economy now (thanks to the net), and the ones who add value end up with a steady revenue flow... even if charging more than the bare-margin (or worse) of basement eBay businesses and guys with a domain name and some SEO skills (but little knowledge about the products).

The trick is to educate the consumer about the difference. I'd hate to be paying a lease and employees while trying to defend against zero-overhead drop-shippers. If there is no value added, then it's a losing game. It is almost as if the main product stream is a loss leader for other services.

Of course, the related problem is that most geeky consumers don't want to pay the difference, and will just shop on price alone... again, unless there is something more included. In my case, it's a quest for balanced advice about new tech outside the frenzy of boat shows, a sense that help will be there when bus standards clash, and the feeling that someone is there to run interference with the manufacturers (who can be a bit hard to penetrate sometimes). Without that, I go by price and take my chances.

Cheers!
Steve

Posted by: Microship at November 23, 2008 10:47 PM | Reply

I was the installer for Jack Rabbit for eight years. Mostly with Jack before he sold to Peter. Jack saw the handwriting on the wall and sold. Jack was a smart man. Don't forget, he was the man who changed the way boats are wired.

Jack told me before he left that solar was the wave of the future. I suggested to Peter that we get into residential and commercial solar but he didn't think it was a good idea.

I work full time for SolarWrights now but I'll do an inverter install now and then to stay sharp. So keep me in mind.

Would love to hear from some of you out there. I remember all the boats.

Regards,
Larry

Posted by: Larry Liesner at November 30, 2008 2:50 PM | Reply

Peter installed an echo charger on my boat. He was the most helpful person when I had an issue shortly after installation - which turned out to be unrelated to his work.

I had another problem a few years late, Peter helped me resolve it and I purchased an alternator.

I often checked his technical info online.

This is a great loss as there is no way to get quality information on electronic/electrical systems for boaters.

I have empathy for your losses, but the bigger issues is that you can not make money providing quality service with products. Peter has lost more than you for sure!

Posted by: Doug Ryan at January 27, 2009 10:13 PM | Reply

I had always received orders promptly. Assistance was freely and willingly given. I didn't loose anything and empathize with those that did but mostly for Mr James. Regrettably, I had taken more in information and assistance than I had given in sales. I certainly felt and heard his passion for the boating community.

Posted by: Thomas Winkler at February 27, 2009 2:33 PM | Reply

O k --were do we go from here to find a good competant marine electronic tech. to resolve problems in the Tampa bay area.

any help will be appreciated

Posted by: jack at October 12, 2009 7:50 AM | Reply

Really terrible individuals, so why do people feel the need to do this?

Posted by: Otto Worek at March 4, 2010 10:59 AM | Reply

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