Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Vices.com’s Greatest Vice:
Not paying vendors

Numerous startup CPGs report lack of payment from the luxury subscription box seller, despite continuing to sell their products and advertise on social media.

by Startup CPG Staff

A Vices.com Instagram Ad from February, 2023 showing two brands who have filed complaints about non–payment.

Luxury subscription box company Vices.com, reportedly born out of luxury magazine Robb Report, failed to pay numerous emerging CPG vendors, according to the brands. Their stories are a cautionary tale of how a dream purchase order can quickly turn into a nightmare collection process. 

What happened?

True Scoops makes premium DIY ice cream and sauce mixes. It’s a black-led, women-owned company with two employees: its co-founders. Vices placed a large order in July 2022, and a contract was signed by both parties for payment due in full by November 2022. But when the time came, no payment was made. Multiple emails to the Founder and CEO, Daniel Curtis, and other Vices employees were sent, but only small incremental payments have been made and are still ongoing over a year later. Payment delays negatively affect small businesses like True Scoops who are bootstrapping. Without payment, they can’t fund future projects, which in turn delays their growth.

Must Love, makers of plant-based desserts, had a similar experience with Vices.com. The founders commented, “It’s hard enough being a woman-led small business in this industry, we also have customers taking advantage of us. We entered this relationship in good faith. We also understand how hard it is to be a small business owner and to be caught in between months and payments. But with Vices, we have been given the runaround for over a year and to add insult to injury they reached out to place another order with us. When we explained that we’d love to sell to them if they could make good on the outstanding balance, Vices said they would and of course that they’d take care of it. But, yet again, we were blown off and they have been uncommunicative. At this point, after speaking to other victims, it seems like this is just the way they conduct business and fund their inventory.”

Kira Åkerström-Kekkonen, founder of the brand Aurora Glogg, said the trouble started back in 2021. She received a $10k purchase order, and things went smoothly until Vices.com didn’t pay up and didn’t respond to endless emails and calls over a period of months. When she threatened legal action, she received sporadic payments but a large debt remained. Because the amount was too large for small claims court, she resorted to a collections agency, which recovered a bit more than half, until those payments stopped coming in. The agency told her that going to court would not be worth it. She then resorted to social media shaming, which got a response from the CEO, who claimed they had paid in full. After a year of back-and-forth, she managed to recover nearly all of the money, aside from the money spent on the collections agency. To make matters worse, she says that Vices.com continued to sell her expired product to customers. 

Two other CPG brands reported negative experiences who did not wish to be named in the article. One mentioned they are a small family-run business and couldn’t afford to spend any more resources on recovering payment after months of unsuccessful outreach. When their attempt at small claims court seemed unlikely to compel payment, they pivoted to hiring a collections agency, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Another brand reported being owed thousands of dollars nearly two years later and also told Startup CPG that their contact at Vices.com, a VP, left the company because “she was so embarrassed about their financial practices.” 

A comment from the Vices.com founder

Vices.com founder Daniel Curtis, who did not respond in June 2023 to an initial request for comment, responded to Startup CPG in December 2023 after multiple comments on Vices.com social media. He wrote “There have certainly been tremendous headwinds this year but we have worked hard to work through them collaboratively and fairly with our partners.” Curtis did not respond to subsequent requests for comment or a phone call to discuss the claims from the brands. According to a Forbes Books audio podcast, Daniel Curtis “created Vices as an independent company spun out of Robb Report magazine where he previously served as Vice President and was formerly a Curtis family owned and operated business.” Robb Report is a “luxe lifestyle magazine for the ultra rich.” Its Vice Chairman and former CEO is Daniel Curtis’ father, Bill Curtis. 

What should you do if this happens to you?

If a vendor fails to pay you in a timely manner, brands can first suggest and agree to a payment plan with the vendor. If a vendor continues dodging payments,  calling them out on social media may be the most effective way for brands to spur payment. Brands can also contact additional people at the company or their investors. Collection agencies seem to be worth a shot, although it is believed by one of the brands in this article that Vices.com simply did not respond to the collection agency’s attempts. Whenever possible, the best approach to working with an unknown vendor is always to require as much prepayment as possible.

If you have a story about bad-actors in the CPG space you’d like Startup CPG to highlight, please send us a pitch at brandstories@startupcpg.com. 

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