Yunnan Sourcing False Advertising on Reddit thread
“TLDR ~ Scott from YS has a fake account called /u/mastertinklebot that bashed other vendors and gave himself positive comments on his own posts. There are other suspicious accounts doing similar pro YS commenting and bashing other vendors”
Someone has to post this here, since it was locked on reddit and quickly disappeared far off the front page.
And where Scott admits one of the accounts was his, then gets caught in another lie saying he created the account to inquire about taxes, when its first posts were bashing Verdant: https://www.reddit.com/r/tea/comments/74wpn3/it_appears_that_yunnan_sourcing_is_using_fake/do1oxiz/
This is rather surprising if it is true. Scott has among the best reputations here.
As far as I can see one of the accounts mentioned is indeed Scott’s because he admitted as much. That is not particularly damning and much of the rest seems highly doubtful. Nobody exemplifies what he is supposed have done with these accounts beside general things like “Bashing Mei Leaf”. The circumstantial evidence is weak, like the use of “three letter smileys” and ellipses “…”.
Well, I use three letter smiles and ellipses all the time… I have also been seen bashing Mei Leaf on occasion (since they have appalling business practices) and I have two reddit accounts.
Does that make me Scott? I certainly hope so because then I can empty his personal pu’erh stash :-)
Seriously, I am neither a rabid YS fanboy, nor am I a hater, but this looks like a tempest in a teacup (pun intended).
Two of the most suspicious accounts, which were 100% posts linking to YS, plugging YS, and bashing other vendors and anyone critical of YS, were both deleted after that Reddit thread surfaced.
What exactly explains that?
https://imgur.com/a/E0MIt (someone saved complete post history of these accounts before deletion, says he will share via reddit pm, and I saw them too, highly suspect).
And still, new suspicious accounts surfacing as recently as 2 days ago (user with only TWO comments total, both pro YS): https://imgur.com/a/CT1yL
@Teaotic I don’t know, man.
Even IF everything you accuse Scott of is true, and I am not convinced it is, but even if it’s true: the man has built up YS from nothing to dominate the US market and to be a major player in the whole western market. If he has done that while not doing anything more questionable than this… dude, if so the guy is practically a saint.
Compared to the appalling business practices of you-know-who and you-know-who this is nothing – IF he did it.
Like I said: tempest in a teacup.
Some of the accounts don’t seem fake, especially ones with bloody Whatcha order haul posts. A lot of it seems like a witchhunt of YS fanbois. One would figure YS has no time and makes enough cash to make a zillion accounts to bash other vendors. He’s got plenty of shops that use him as wholesale.
@Oolong Owl, one can actually hire astroturfing contractors to run similar campaigns, so whether YS did it directly, thru an employee, or thru a contractor is irrelevant.
All these posts dismissing or condoning these tactics are surprising. Yes business is business, but I am sure there are vendors who would never run fraudulent social media campaigns, and dishonest vendors who do put those honest vendors out of business.
These tactics waste newb consumers’ hard-earned $ and turn them off to tea, when they trust some rave review of an inexpensive mediocre tea, order it, then decide tea just isn’t for them.
How can anyone trust for instance the pesticide certs, other third party reviews/blogs, etc? I defended YS when this came up before, but now I feel dumb for doing so.
I have not seen the whole of the Reddit threads, just the bits and pieces posted here. Why would someone accuse him of falsifying his pesticide testing because of this?
I’m not accusing him of falsifying pesticide reports. I’m saying it’s hard to trust much now.
Where he was caught redhanded bashing vendors on a different account, he admitted it was his account, (though still deleted it and made further false claims): https://www.reddit.com/user/mastertinklebot
Example of posts disparaging competitors:
chainsuckmaster [+1] -3 points 23 hours ago meileaf…their teas taste like vomit LOL!
tinklefor [+1][S] 4 points 15 days ago Tea quality for these sets are not comparable. The Mei Leaf teas I’ve had from that taste like vomit.
And so if you look through old posts, you find exchanges like this: https://imgur.com/a/Zw1bu
The pesticide thing was cleared up as someone was screaming he was claiming 440 test on one IG comment, which was just a quick vague comment. The YS pesticide article cleared it up, which has been there long before that IG post. That was also blown out of proportion like this alt account thing is.
As a blogger, he’s never given me teas for review, nor affiliate money. Stuff I wrote about I bought. ALL BLOGGERS FCC LAW mention whether they get stuff for free and any kickbacks.
I haven’t seen all the Reddit threads but by bashing Verdant and Mei Leaf was he talking about the fact that they lie about the age of their tea trees? Really no one has tea from 1000 or 1600 year old trees for $50.
Agreed. Calling out vendors for poor business practices is not “bashing”, that’s okay even if one is a vendor.
And I think Mei Leaf and Verdant continue to lie about the age of their tea trees. This is one form of selling fake teas. Mei Leaf has a 600 year old tree gushu Bing Dao tea for 30 pounds for 100g. There is no way he got 600 year old Bing Dao gushu for that price. Even 50 year old tree Bing Dao is more expensive than that.
I suspect that they will continue as long as there is a steady supply of customers/fans who put up with it. And look in the comments on ML’s youtube channel how many are eager to stand up and defend them. I don’t understand people anymore.
re ‘Calling out vendors for poor business practices is not “bashing”, that’s okay even if one is a vendor.’
Only if done through an account disclosed as associated with the business entity.
Creating multiple fake accounts posing as the general public and without disclosing affiliation, in order to plug one’s product or criticize one’s competitors, is deceptive marketing and violates the FTC act:
And, it wasnt just age of trees. Two of the deleted suspicious accounts called Mei Leaf’s teas ‘vomit.’ Not very sporting, even if it’s true.
I realize that Mei Leaf has a lot of fans who are quite ready to ignore the obvious deception and buy those teas. Mei Leaf will continue to lie about the age of their teas as long as they keep profiting from it. The strange thing is I have heard that some of these teas are good teas, why not advertise them for what they are then.
@AllanK Yes, people seem happy with the teas themselves, which makes the deception even sillier in a way. Good teas should fetch a reasonable price and bring a profit on their own merit. But I suppose it generates hype and visibility for the store itself, even the bad publicity (or at least that might be how they figure).
“Only if done through an account disclosed as associated with the business entity.”
I agree that doing it with an official account is more morally correct. But I don’t think it can ever be described as “bashing” if the critique has substance.
@Teaotic Where is your evidence that Scott created multiple fake accounts? In my experience Scott is very honest and I have put in something like 50 orders between both sites.
The evidence is damning if you are willing to examine it. Scott fully admitted his guilt to making one fake account to post mean things towards Verdant tea and promote his own teas.
The other accounts that did not have clear evidence were denied and two of three were mysteriously deleted since the reddit post. Of course Scott would not admit to those other accounts. Why would he when he was only caught red handed for one?
The other accounts are extremely suspicious. What reddit user makes an account and only posts links to one tea website and talks so badly of all other tea vendors? I have never seen a normal reddit user make an account and link 20 times to a websites products unless it’s a fake account.
You have to ask yourself, if he did it once, what would stop him from doing it again? Especially considering how many people defend his behavior and seem to not care that he did it to Verdant.
I can only refer to my post above: even IF he did it, this is nothing compared to the moral corruption that is going on among some western-facing tea vendors. Using some sock accounts to push your wares is an insignificant sin compared to selling “1600 year old tree tea” to noobs. Again, that is IF he did it and I see very little evidence of that.
“Especially considering how many people defend his behavior and seem to not care that he did it to Verdant.”
Did he say anything about Verdant except call them out for selling “1800 year old tree tea”?
Because I can’t understand people who are upset about a sock account but don’t seem to give a damn about vendors like Verdant and Mei Leaf lying through their f-ing teeth to sell tea.
Well Tea for Steve, even doing so in the one single account not disclosed to be affiliated with u/yunnansourcing is deceptive marketing according to the FTC, the EU, and the UK.
I am not arguing that it is not deceptive – if it happened- I am saying that there are degrees of deceptiveness and that this is a relatively minor deception compared to outright lying.
Scott left Reddit.
He already explained in the Reddit thread why he created another account to ask about tax preparation and did apologize for dropping a vendor’s name under his “tax” account. People who have purchased his teas, many for years, know him and do not pay attention to trolls.
So how do you explain something like this: https://imgur.com/a/CT1yL (account since deleted along with 2 other similar accounts)
or this, just yesterday after he supposedly left reddit?: https://imgur.com/a/E0MIt
And how is bringing to light YS’s deceptive marketing “trolling,” while calling out Verdant or Teavana or Mei Leaf or Misty Peaks is a-okay?
While I am not on reddit, I have never seen deceptive marketing from Yunnan Sourcing. And there have been legetimate issues with Verdant, Teavana, Mei Leaf, and Misty Peaks. Verdant has been known for inflating the age of their tea trees. Teavana is just way overpriced although I don’t have other problems with their tea, it is decent. Mei Leaf also overestimates the age of their teas. And with Misty Peaks their spring tea is usually released suspiciously early as to make it actually winter tea.
@Teaotic have you even looked at the post histories? Covetbike has a post claiming Trump is doing a great job which is something I highly doubt Scott would post. This drama is just a witch hunt as far as I’m concerned.
@sirturtletheknight plausible deniability is right out of the astroturfing playbook. mix in a few random posts. but yes i looked at the post histories someone saved. they are damning as far as I’m concerned:
And again, if they weren’t associated with YS, why were all three of these accounts deleted?
Business is business, sure. Everyone expects this to happen on Amazon, etc.
But tea is sacred to me and many of us, and that’s why I have become worked up about this.
Yes there is immense misrepresentation and deception in the tea supply chain, but witnessing a western facing vendor turn the reddit sub for the world’s most popular beverage into a personal fiefdom, and for tea from mostly just one particular region…
I don’t have time to keep up on this, I’m pretty much done with r/tea. I don’t expect it to stop whatsoever, but there should at least be a thorough discussion, and not just on reddit where the mods quickly locked the thread and it faded into oblivion.
The thing about that is , it looks too obvious. Are we sure this isnt someone trying to make YS look bad?
@Ken, but the people who pointed it out were longtime YS customers who had been defending him recently, and like his teas.
And yes thats the odd thing, why would he do this? He has followers, and other channels to push his tea through influencers and bloggers more subtly. I guess greed for just that bit more of growth… We are all human. I don’t blame him really, I just think the newbs and tea consumers should know this is occurring and take everything but their own taste buds with a heavy grain of salt.
Anyway, I’m done with this… I need to go back to enjoying my 2017 FF Goomtee I just made. Who knows what 2018 Darjeeling crop will look like, better savor it now…
So glad I decided to leave /r/tea, there’s always so much drama over there.
I think most vendors would have fake accounts as part of their social media marketing strategy — but I think it would be more like “check out this new awesome tea I got from x vendor!” I don’t think it’s a coincidence the front page of r/tea is always full of whatcha and YS haul posts. I also don’t think it’s really a problem anyone can stop aside from having forum rules about it.
I can only speak for myself but using fake accounts is absolutely not something I have ever done nor will ever do.
With regards to r/tea being ‘flooded’ by What-Cha haul posts there has only been one this month, the posts tend to arrive in clusters as one post gaining traction encourages other users to post, which can at times give the impression that they are more frequent then they actually are.
The relatively higher frequency of What-Cha posts is in part due my low free international shipping threshold which makes it particularly easy for customers newer to tea to order, who are often also the most likely to post their order haul. I like to think other contributory factors include small touches like hand written notes and using interesting stamps.
What-cha is one of my favourite vendors and pretty much the only one that gets me excited enough to post on reddit – they appeal to the side of me that loves discovering teas from different origins. I was surprised to see them mentioned here as my impression of them has been as an underrated and not well known enough vendor, that has a pretty unique offering. This has encouraged me to tell my tea friends about them.
So looking at my reddit history it would be easy to make the assumption that mine is a fake account promoting a specific vendor…. but some of us just are enthusiastic about buying from specific vendors and that is reflected in our post history. Nothing sinister in that, I think :)
While I do find it unfortunate that Scott was promoting YS on an alternate account, this whole thing seems vastly overblown to me…
I wonder if everyone would consider this “vastly overblown” if this type of fraudulent behavior was done by another tea company.
I highly doubt it.
In fact, another company was lambasted here a bit more than a year ago for the same behavior: fake accounts pushing their product.
I occasionally wonder why I was never motivated enough to get involved over on /r/tea and then something like this comes along and clears it right up for me.
From what I gather from skimming though this:
1. Scott admitted to using an alternate account in the past to bash vendors selling tea that can’t possibly exist, or at a price point way too low for it to be real.
2. He stated he left Reddit.
3. There are now accounts praising YS.
And that is evidence that Scott is a dishonest person who continues to be dishonest even after being caught? I guess I need a little more than that.
Maybe Teaotic created the new Reddit accounts and is posting pro-YS messages to make Scott look dishonest and then posting the “proof” to Steepster…
I have dealt with Scott on over forty or so orders from China and a dozen or so from Yunnan Sourcing US. He has always seemed to be the most honest man in the tea industry as far as the people I have dealt with. There are common dishonest things even good shops do such as list fake BanZhang tea for $20. Saw this on Berylleb King Tea just yesterday A Banzhang ripe tea for $20. Scott never does this. Scott has never in my understanding been accused of selling other types of fakes either. He has always been above board on all my orders. I trust Scott more than anyone else in the industry. Accounts praising YS might just be people other than Scott. He has a large following out there, larger than Mei Leaf or Verdant for sure.
I also don’t see a dishonest motive if Scott was bashing Mei Leaf and Verdant for false claims. He already outsells both shops combined by a large factor. He has no monetary motive to bash them. He already does far more business than either of them.
I second this. I see no problem with Scott criticizing obviously amoral behavior among his competitors regardless what account he used to do it. I also agree that given the size of Scott’s business it seems ridiculous to think he’d spend half the day running a multitude of sock accounts. He could make more money just running his business.
Finally, like I said above, this seems like a minor transgression that leaves Scott one of the most honest people in the business even if everything said was true.
t-curious, how long have you known Scott? How many orders have you done with him? He is honest. You would know that if you had ordered as much from him as I have. Any time there has been a problem with an order Scott has been quick to fix it although problems with an order from Yunnan Sourcing are in my experience rare. Another thing about ordering from Scott that I appreciate is there is no language barrier. With most stores in China English is a best their second language.