A small business owner is sparking a conversation online about casual agreements between brands and influencers after he claimed an influencer ghosted him after accepting his product.
Shavar Kelly of South London decided to post a Twitter thread last week after an experience he had with YouTuber and musician Paigey Cakey. Kelly claims the influencer agreed to promote one of his T-shirts on social media, but it never happened. Kelly became irate when he allegedly discovered the talent tried to sell his merch online several weeks later.
Kelly said he has still heard no word from Paigey Cakey, whose real name is Paige Meade, since they discussed the deal over DM in late September. Meade has not responded to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment on the allegations.
Kelly told BuzzFeed News he wanted to call Meade out because he felt "taken advantage of." He wants influencers to recognize small, growing brands are losing money without their promotions.
"I just want influencers to understand that, as business owners, when we send our products out to them, it costs us. It’s never free, so taking advantage results in our personal loss," said Kelly.
"It’s something that goes on a lot with small business and large influencers taking their products for their own personal advantage, and it’s very inconsiderate."
In September, Kelly reached out to Meade over Instagram DM asking if they could "collab by sending [her] one of [the] graphic tees and [Meade] posting a pic or vid" wearing it, he wrote in the initial DM.
Meade agreed, according to the screenshots provided by Kelly. The two discussed the terms of the collaboration and promotion, although no specific date or copy was discussed.
Kelly said he "decided to send the merch to Paige because she has a high follower count and her insights are extremely high, which I thought would’ve been great exposure." Meade has over 256,000 followers on Instagram currently.
However, after weeks and weeks went by, he saw no public promotion and never heard back from the influencer again.
"I realized that she wasn’t gonna promote it when she was blatantly ignoring my messages," he said.
Then when he saw his shirt being listed for sale, allegedly by Meade, on the site Depop.com, he "was fed up." (The Depop listing has since been taken down.)
Kelly documented and shared in his thread a few attempts he made trying to get in touch with Meade over DM again. He first assumed the shirt hadn't arrived in time.
He said he "decided to give [Meade] time because I know how [busy] celebrities’ and influencers’ schedules get."
"But after a while it becomes a problem," he added. He wants the influencer to be held accountable for not seeing their deal through.
"I haven’t spoken to Paigey since, I don’t plan to either," said Kelly. "However, when the thread came out I was able to get in contact with a friend [who's] friends with a relative of hers, and while this was all going on, Paige was on the phone laughing about the situation saying she doesn’t care...which just goes to show how inconsiderate these people are."
On social media, people aren't sure this is so black and white. Some said outing Meade is not how he should have handled it, and it might tarnish his future relationships with influencers. Others came to Kelly's defense, saying it was his right to make it public after he felt duped.
It appears a majority of people think this is just how the influencer industry works — you send free things out, and there's no guarantee for your things to be promoted by them.
Mostly, people said, there was nothing legally binding the deal. They said it was Kelly's responsibility to draft something up in an official contract.
However, many also came to Kelly's defense and thought it was flat-out wrong on Meade's part.
It particularly struck a chord with those who also own small businesses and understand how much they rely on social media and personalities to promote their work.
"I think people were misled and thought I did this to cause Paigey Cakey slander or to attack her," said Kelly. "But it was literally to cause awareness."
Correction: Shavar Kelly was misgendered in an earlier version of this post.