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:
Anyone know about this website http://t.co/lVMb1mykKV ? They are definitely selling our coffee on their website without any permission.
— HeartCoffeeRoasters (@heartroasters) April 3, 2014
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.”