Skip to main content

Unauthorized Soft Launch Ends in Hard Feelings Among Some Top Specialty Brands

Kettled.com admits to selling some coffees online without agreements in place.

Kettled.com admits to selling some coffees online without agreements in place.

The owner of third-party reseller of whole bean coffee Kettled.com is admitting to selling coffees and using copyrighted marketing material from some of the country’s top specialty brands without agreements in place.

This week, Riverside, Calif.-based entrpreneur Brian Chelette led a soft launch of Kettled.com, during which he placed online orders from his own site to coffee roasters such as Heart, Blue Bottle, Bird Rock, Handsome, Four Barrel, Onyx and Sightglass. He told Daily Coffee News it was intended to be a bold, if misguided, attempt to show roasters how the curated resell process would work. Kettled.com emailed roasters following the purchase, asking them to ship the product, and saying they would be reimbursed for the price of the coffee, plus $5 per order shipping fees at the end of the month, minus a 35 percent commission for Kettled.

The tactic was exposed when A Table in the Corner of the Cafe broke the story yesterday while following up on this tweet from Heart:

Chelette has a bit of a checkered past leveraging popular brands into third-party online resales. A company he founded, the Gordian Project, maintains resale sites in three separate industries — including plumbing supplies, outdoor gear and remodeling equipment — all of which have some troubling feedback from consumer review sites such as Site Jabber.

Here are some of the problems the Kettled “soft launch” created for roasters, in no particular order:

  • There was no written agreement in place for resale or wholesale agreements with Kettled.com (Chelette says that a handful of agreements have been signed, but most of the “soft launch” clients were not yet signed).
  • The sales may violate other third-party retail agreements with exclusivity clauses.
  • Kettled was using logos, marketing copy and other copyrighted material to promote brands and sales through its site.
  • Coffees being sold on Kettled were no longer carried by roasters.

Since yesterday, Chelette and his team have been scrambling to remove roasters and their coffees from Kettled.com at their request, while trying to maintain relationships with others who may have some interest in the concept. As of this writing, coffees from eight roasters remained for sale on the site.

“We thought it was a little bit of a novel approach and we thought it might be a little refreshing for some of them,” Chelette said. “The order was actually shipping to us, so we could beta test the process and get some product to try. It was just kind of a pilot order to get that process going.”

Asked about whether the ill-conceived soft launch may have been a publicity tactic, Chelette said, “Absolutely not. Our hope was that this would be well-received and we could begin. If this is nothing but negative, it’s going to have a negative bearing on us.”

Comment

5 Comments

greg

Consumers really don’t need these extra middlemen. I’m looking forward to when this unproductive business model dies off like the triceratops.

GTD

How do you surmise Chelette has a “checkered past”?

It seems they did not have egregious ill intent and that they simply tried a creative strategy that didn’t work as intended. He didn’t overly defend everything, they responded by removing the products quickly, and owned the fact that this may have undesired negative impact.

There is an interesting idea in their business model. If Kettled wanted to invest in a lot of marketing to promote their site and increase sales for the roasters… it would be a win-win. Instead of the roasters experimenting with marketing (which is expensive)… they would be delivered a transacted sale at a very reasonable “commission”… a common 100% retail markup for products like this.

I definitely understand the approach was off-putting and the concern related to the use of “copyrighted images” (which of course are simply standard product images on the internet). There doesn’t seem to be a desire to misrepresent or defile the brands…

@jugglingbear

GTD. You sound like an apologist. Not only here, but in Twitter responses. Despite what you may think, Specialty coffee roasters are artists who are trying to share their well thought out visions and symbolize one of the links in the coffee chain.What he did was in poor taste and violated the very underlying tenant of good coffee-from seed to cup. Relationships.

GTD

@jugglingbear. I don’t quite understand your reply about me being an apologist. I’m just assuming the guy is NOT evil or trying to alienate / frustrate / take advantage of / annoy people. Also, I don’t use Twitter,so I don’t understand that context.

I’m not questioning the artistry. I’m just suggesting “cut the guy a break”. Entrepreneurs are innovators and artists as well… and mistakes are inherent in innovation.

He does / did not seem to have ill-intent, made a mistake, apologized. They even took down their website to re-calibrate the model / idea! You could argue that they took it down because of limited product due to the backlash… but it seems they had roasters that were interested in being a part of it. Putting together a secure and attractive ecommerce site requires a significant time (and money) investment… so it seems they have gone above and beyond in good faith.

Pardon the apologetic terms… but surely there’s room for grace (especially following earnest apology and intentional contrition) in a culture that values and prioritizes relationships.

@jugglingbear

I don’t understand all the time/interest on your part in defending the guy. Are you related or is this some friend coming to the rescue to spread disinformation and attempt to downplay his partner’s sheer audacity? I’m really curious as to where you stand in this.
I actually work for one of the companies this hack tried to “smash and grab” curate. I give you that entrepeneurs are innovators, but his model and ideology have no innovation and even less merit. Not to mention, that we don’t need any more “curating” of specialty coffee. Sheesh. Unless the guy is offering to explore and provide a deeper understanding of what goes in the specialty coffee business, by creating an online resource for industry/fans alike i.e. Mistobox, Coffeekind and not just another middleman who is trying peddel seconhand someone else life’s work for a cut…than no thanks. We don’t need any more curating and we sure don’t need any scam artists like KETTLED.COM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *