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How Hampton Creek Sold Silicon Valley on a Fake-Mayo Miracle

Olivia Zaleski, Peter Waldman, and Ellen Huet, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek:

In January 2014 a Creeker on the West Coast, who asked not to be identified, received an assignment in an e-mail under the subject line “Secret Shopper Squad Stores.” She was directed to buy 20 bottles a week of Just Mayo from each Whole Foods store in a large territory. […]

After the secret purchases, the e-mail instructed, she should open one or two bottles at home to check for quality — specifically, whether the mayonnaise had separated. If the jars were all right, she could donate the rest to a food bank or give it to friends. “Do not return them to Whole Foods,” the e-mail said. It also included a link to a quality-assurance survey the Creeker was supposed to fill out for each store. But no one noticed when she didn’t do it. Within weeks she had bought so much Just Mayo that her friends and local food banks couldn’t handle any more, so she began dumping it. She spent almost $12,000 purchasing the product, she says, and she could tell the buybacks had nothing to do with quality control. “But I really didn’t think about it because I cared so much about the cause.”

With the buyback program in full swing, Tetrick celebrated the product’s success. “Wow! Some @WholeFoods are selling 100+ jars of #justmayo/day,” he tweeted on Jan. 30. Four months later, a company tweet said: “Proud to announce that #justmayo is now the #1 selling mayo at @wholefoods.”

This is just outright fraud, and Tetrick doubled down on it with his claims that the buy backs were only for the purposes of quality assurance.

Also, interesting interactive art direction on this story.

Thursday, 22 September 2016