SWIPE UP TO GET ICED UP
Instagram Influencers Dupe Their Fans With ‘Free’ Products
Social media stars like Supreme Patty offer their fans a deal that’s too good to be true. It is!
Stunt-crazed Instagram star Supreme Patty has snorted hot sauce up his nose and ingested Hennessy in ways no human being should. But he’s probably most famous for pouring lime juice into his eyes.
Patty, whose real name is Patrick Wallace, has built his Instagram empire blinding himself with citrus, then pulling a stunt: looking into an eclipse while sitting in the middle of a busy road, for example, or trying to ride a snowboard while blinded by the juice.
Wallace’s six million Instagram fans might not want to pour lime juice into their own eyes, or endure the dozens of stitches he needed after the snowboarding went wrong. But Wallace does offer them one way to get a taste of the Jackass-meets-Spring-Breakers lifestyle, offering the gaudy chains with gold-colored AK-47’s and marijuana leafs that he wears in his videos.
Best of all, according to Wallace, the chains would normally go for $100—but he’s selling them for free.
“Swipe up to get iced up,” Wallace urges his fans in his Instagram Stories.
Wallace’s entire social media presence revolves around moving the jewelry.
But anyone who tries to buy one of the chains will discover that Wallace’s “free” chains come with a big asterisk. On the final page before placing their order for the free, supposedly $100-value chain, customers are asked to pay a hefty shipping fee of around $20.
The free chains, it turns out, aren’t actually that free.
Wallace is the latest Instagram influencer to be embroiled in a controversy over “drop-shipping,” the phenomenon where businesses brand cheap products from China’s AliExpress website and repackage them for huge profit margins in the West.
Wallace makes his profit on the “free” chains with a variation on drop-shipping called “free-plus-shipping” that’s also popular with Instagram watch companies: luring a customer in with a free product, then charging a sizable shipping fee—where the vendor makes all the profit.
Because sellers like Wallace are trying to maximize their cut of the shipping fee, they often choose the cheapest shipping option, leaving fans waiting months for the product to arrive.
“As a business person, it makes sense what he’s doing,” said Zach Inman, an internet marketer. “I wish it wasn’t as misleading as it was.”
The free marijuana leaf chain that ships for around $20, for example, is billed as among “the best chains in the game” on Supremepatty.com, which values it at $100. But the same chain and medallion is available on AliExpress for less than $2.
The entire process is made easier through Shopify, a service that allows drop-shippers like Wallace to brand AliExpress products as their own and automatically fills orders.
“He could have made that site in just a couple of hours, so it’s a very alluring way for him to make money,” Inman said.
Wallace and Shopify didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Social media followings are a huge advantage for dropshippers, who can otherwise spend thousands of dollars in an effort to differentiate their products from rival Shopify stores selling the same cheap goods. A successful dropshipping operation or endorsement deal can appeal to social media stars, too—especially if, like Wallace, their in-your-face personal brands might alienate better-paying advertisers.
Wallace isn’t the first social media personality to be embroiled in a “free-plus-shipping” controversy. Last fall, social media stars Tana Mongeau and Gabbie Hanna were slammed by their fans for Instagram posts endorsing Kenza Cosmetics, another Shopify storefront that claimed to be offering high-quality, $80 make-up brushes for free.
But the brushes often never arrived. When they did, the kits were clearly not worth $80.
Under fire from countless makeup “drama” YouTubers eager to take down a big target, Mongeau and Hanna insisted they didn’t know the brushes they were endorsing were low-quality AliExpress flips. Kenza Cosmetics, meanwhile, has promised the brushes will arrive at some point, probably in March.
Wallace’s own dropshipping operation has earned him plenty of criticism on YouTube, sparking videos debunking his “free” chains operations, as well as a rival genre of dropshipper videos marveling at his success.
But the controversy doesn’t appear to have dented the growth of his fanbase. Wallace earned more than 12,000 Instagram followers in just one day last week, according to social media analytics site SocialBlade.
All those new Supreme Patty fans can join his Shrimp Gang social media clique for just $45 with a shrimp gang chain, which Wallace claims would normally cost $150.
Or they can go on AliExpress, where the same chain costs $2.60.