L.A.-based ice cream man Joe Nicchi charges 'influencers' double for cones

He says his company would survive even if Instagram disappeared tomorrow.

Photo credit: Anthony Espinosa on Unsplash
  • Los Angeles truck, CVT Soft Serve, charges people asking for free ice cream $8 for per cone instead of $4.
  • The truck's founder, Joe Nicchi, highlights the message in the hashtag, #WeLoveMostOfOurCustomers.
  • Nicchi does not appreciate "influencers" asking for free food when he has a business to run.

Food trucks are essential to Los Angeles. It's difficult to drive a few blocks without stumbling into a handful; in my neighborhood, taco trucks reign supreme. About a dozen miles away over the Hollywood Hills, an ice cream truck has figured out a way to stand out, a challenging task in an oversaturated market: charge influencers double.

It wasn't even a marketing ploy. The truck's founder, Joe Nicchi, simply got fed up with "influencers" asking for free cones to share photos of on Instagram. Employing the hashtag #InfluencersAreGross, Nicchi, who drives one of CVT Soft Serve's two trucks around the Valley (among other parts of Los Angeles), recently posted this sign on his truck. As he told The Guardian,

"We're the anti-influencer influencers. It's weird… but I think it's really fun. I hope it inspires small businesses to hold their own and tell people to f— off."

Nicchi, like many in the City of Angels, is an actor who needed to earn a living while hustling from audition to audition. Instead of going the usual route — instructing yoga replaced waiting tables years ago — he decided to appeal to our collective sweet tooth. He rolled out his first CVT truck in 2014.

Is there a dark side to social media influencers? | The Stream

It's not only the $4 cone the greedy and privileged seek. One famous actor requested free ice cream for her entire crew in exchange for a photo. The whole idea is reminiscent of the rumor that Salvador Dali used to pay for his dinner by signing the bill instead of forking over cash. Yet Dali was not alive during a time when anyone can pay for tens of thousands of followers and then set up shop for doing nothing but snapping photos. The current story invokes less romance.

Beyond the demand for free stuff, influencer culture has become dangerous. Agencies are rushing in to manage and curate personalities, many of whom have no particular skills beyond looking appealing on camera. While there are certainly positive benefits to social media, such as women openly discussing overcoming eating disorders, there are plenty of factors working against the mental and physical health of the influenced.

Take Kim Kardashian's recent announcement that she's vegan. The context is not a war against animal cruelty; it's not even about better health. She declared that a plant-based diet is the reason her waist is now skinny. Veganism is her response to the charge that she had ribs removed in order to fit into a particular dress.

The real issue is the revival of corset training, a 19th century fashion that carries a host of potential health issues, including breathing problems from lung restriction, atrophying of back and pectoral muscles, and the possibility of fractured ribs. That the influenced are putting their health at danger by wearing a device that does nothing to actually promote weight loss or better health is a shameless consequence of unfettered capitalism using social media posts as subterfuge.

This is what happens when influencers wield #science without realizing a hashtag doesn't actually reflect the real world. The Kardashians have a vested interest in followers buying corsets and it has nothing to do with health. Sponsorships and clothing lines are the motivating factor behind the revival of a practice that should have been left in the Victorian era, especially when we should be influenced by #equalpay, not looking like a cartoon.

Back in the real world, Nicchi notes that CVT would survive even if Instagram disappeared tomorrow. Not only will good ice cream outlast every silly trend, but the whole debacle points to something much more humane in us: supporting small businesses. He hopes the recent press will help influence the fact that small business owners don't have to be held hostage to entitled clientele with loud fingers.

"There's something so redeeming about outing influencers," he says. "I hope that more people do not allow likes and comments and followers to hold weight in the business. I want people to go to a restaurant because the food and service is fantastic."

--

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook.

Yug, age 7, and Alia, age 10, both entered Let Grow's "Independence Challenge" essay contest.

Photos: Courtesy of Let Grow
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
  • Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
  • Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

Is there a limit to optimism when it comes to climate change?

Or is doubt a self-fulfilling prophecy?

David McNew/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs

'We're doomed': a common refrain in casual conversation about climate change.

Keep reading Show less

What should schools teach? Now is the moment to ask.

The future of learning will be different, and now is the time to lay the groundwork.

What should schools teach? Now is the moment to ask. | Caroline ...
Future of Learning
  • The coronavirus pandemic has left many at an interesting crossroads in terms of mapping out the future of their respective fields and industries. For schools, that may mean a total shift not only in how educators teach, but what they teach.
  • One important strategy moving forward, thought leader Caroline Hill says, is to push back against the idea that getting ahead is more important than getting along. "The opportunity that education has in this moment to really push students and think about what is the right way to live, how do we do it and how do we do it in a way that doesn't hurt or rob the dignity of other people?"
  • Hill also argues that now is the time for bigger swings and for removing the barriers that limit education. The online space is boundary free and provides educators with new opportunities to connect with students around the world.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…