Week 3, 2015: jHub Ultra power bank ordering woes

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 3, 2015

Q. I’ve been trying to order a jHub Ultra power bank since your column ran in my newspaper on December 6, 2014. The manufacturer website says “sold out,” and it does not show up on Amazon. How do I get it?

-Lenore Maravel, Minneapolis, MN

A. I received many emails like this in December. I am partially responsible for your inability to buy the product, and it is quite a story. For those who missed the previous column, I will explain what a power bank is.

A power bank is a rechargeable battery pack that can be used anywhere to charge cell phones, tablets, cameras, or anything else that charges via USB. I’ve tried many power banks over the years and have never been happy with any of them, finding them to either lack meaningful power capacity or be too big to be truly pocketable. The last small one I tried in Paris only had enough power to take my iPhone 4S from 10% to 60%.

Along comes the jHub Ultra power bank. Small, sleek, and enough capacity to completely charge an iPhone 6 approximately two times, all for under $15. I recommended it in my column and announced plans to get Sound Advice logos printed on them for a new weekly giveaway. I evaluated many other power banks at the 2015 Consumer Electronics show and it only served to confirm my initial impressions. Nothing else has the same combination of size, weight, power capacity and price. In fact, last week I was in a chain store and saw physically larger power banks that had only 66% of the power capacity of the jHub Ultra. The price was $25, which is $10 more.

Readers started emailing me when the product disappeared from Amazon and the manufacturer’s website said, “sold out.” I contacted Brian Varner at Modern Portable, the manufacturer. He explained that Modern Portable had recently contracted with Amazon for order fulfillment. When my column started running, a large quantity of orders suddenly came in. The sudden spike in orders sold out existing stock and triggered a red flag at Amazon called “Velocity Limits,” a fraud prevention measure that monitors sales growth over time.

Though Modern Portable had done nothing wrong, exceeding their velocity limit automatically removed their products from Amazon, suspended their new fulfillment account and flagged it for review (or more accurately, an audit.) That is why Modern Portable products disappeared from Amazon and ordering elsewhere was suspended, as everything runs through Amazon’s system. The review took several weeks to complete. You can read about Amazon velocity limits and account review at: http://tinyurl.com/amazonvelocitylimits

This course of events made it impossible for Modern Portable to deliver product or take orders for almost the entire holiday season, though they had more product arriving before Christmas to re-stock. They have been really good sports about everything, but they must have lost an awful lot of business and I think they were dealt a real injustice. I certainly meant well. Publicity is usually a good thing, for both the companies making good products and the readers who want to buy them.

The good news is that jHub Ultra is back in stock, Amazon’s audit/review has been satisfactory completed and everything is back online. Modern Portable told me that Amazon raised their velocity limit significantly, so ordering should not be disrupted again. Given my role in this saga, I would like to ask readers who have any interest in a power bank or other charging products to please visit www.modernportable.com or www.noplugnoproblem.com and check out the jHub Ultra. Hopefully some of you still want one!