The global wine trade is being warned to be on the lookout for a ruthless scam that police say is ‘emptying cellars of stock in minutes.’
‘It’s heartbreaking,’ said Mark Mywords of the Wine Hustles and Cons Office (WHACKOFF). ‘We’ve seen merchants’ racks reduced to the bare bones in a matter of minutes.
‘It’s like watching a Twitter mob feasting on the twitching corpse of Piers Morgan.
‘Only not so much fun.’
Naive and trusting
Under the scam merchants are contacted by an ‘influencer’ who claims to be able to double the size of their business overnight in exchange for cases of samples.
‘These scammers are clever,’ said Mywords. ‘They know that it’s taken most wine merchants years to get past two-figures in their social media following, so a huge instantaneous increase is too much for them to resist.’
The police also pointed out that merchants are a highly vulnerable section of society, easily taken in by terms they don’t understand, such as ‘social media’, ‘online reach’ and ‘profit’.
‘They’re a very naïve and trusting group of individuals,’ said Mywords. ‘I mean, just look at how much crap Burgundy there is in the cellar of your average wine retailer.
‘This is clearly a group that believes pretty much anything you tell them.’
Engagement… or something
Barrington St John, of Les Pantalons Rouges in Cambridge said @Blaye2Play duped him out of 14 cases of wine ‘plus a couple of bottles of craft gin for his sister’ in exchange for four ‘highly shareable’ posts.
‘They were just so plausible,’ he told Fake Booze. ‘They understood Twit-tok, Webtube, Facegram – everything. And their sales patter was full of terms like ‘engagement’, ‘interaction’, and ‘positive’, which we haven’t used in years.
‘In fact, I’m not sure we’ve ever used them…’
Perfect target market
The merchant admits that, with hindsight, their suspicions should perhaps have been aroused by the fact the ‘vinfluencer’ had already amassed 45,000 followers despite posting only 12 images of wine bottles, but said they just thought he was ‘really good’.
‘And when we looked through his list of followers we were sure that @PutinLover666 and @chatdroid4 were the perfect market for our skin-contact English Bacchus.’
WHACKOFF are telling merchants to treat all unsolicited approaches with extreme scepticism.
‘If it helps, imagine the person contacting you is a Bordeaux chateau owner telling you about the quality of his latest vintage,’ said Mywords. ‘That should help you to instantly disbelieve anything they’re saying.
‘These influencers are nothing but slick marketing and empty words with nothing of substance to back them up,’ he told Fake Booze. ‘And we all know there’s no place for that kind of behaviour in the world of wine.
‘At least, not outside of champagne.’