Wayfair found itself at the center of a bizarre and unsubstantiated conspiracy theory this week. The online furniture and home goods retail giant has already denied the theory, which claims Wayfair is involved in an elaborate child trafficking ring just because it sells expensive cabinets, pillows, and shower curtains. The whole thing all started on Reddit on July 9 and has snowballed ever since, leading to #Wayfairgate trending on Twitter.
The idea at the center of the theory is that the reason behind high-prized cabinets and other products on the company's website is child trafficking. Some theorists claimed that the expensive products carried the names of missing children. Another part of the theory claimed that product SKUs could be used to find images of young children on a Russian website. Others even tried to link it to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. All of this has drawn comparisons to Pizzagate, the debunked theory that the Democratic Party was linked to a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Wayfair is a major player in online retail and headquartered in Boston. The company was founded in 2002 and reported over $9 billion in revenue last year. Here is a look at how the company got ensnared in an unfounded conspiracy theory.
It all started on Reddit
Is it possible Wayfair involved in Human trafficking with their WFX Utility collection? Or are these just extremely overpriced cabinets? (Note the names of the cabinets) this makes me sick to my stomach if it’s true :( from r/conspiracy
The whole situation can be traced to a July 9 Reddit post. A user shared screenshots of WFX Utility storage cabinets that cost between $12,699.99 and $14,499.99. "Is it possible Wayfair involved in Human trafficking with their WFX Utility collection? Or are these just extremely overpriced cabinets? (Note the names of the cabinets) this makes me sick to my stomach if it's true [sad face emoticon]," the Reddit post reads, providing no further evidence to support their concerns.prevnext
The Reddit user shared their thoughts after seeing other Facebook users suspicious of the prices
The Reddit user, PrincessPeach1987, told Newsweek they saw the expensive cabinets when they were searching for garage storage. They became suspicious and, after seeing other Facebook users were suspicious as well, they went to Reddit to share their theory. The Redditor described themselves as someone "involved in a local organization that helps victims of human trafficking," which was why they were suspicious. They said the Reddit post was not meant to be an accusation, but just an attempt to reach out to "see if anyone else had more details. The person did not reveal their real identity.prevnext
Twitter users found other strangely overpriced items and linked it to child trafficking
The Reddit post gained so much traction that the theory migrated to Twitter. Users there found other examples of high-priced products, like a $9,999.00 shower curtain that looked very similar to another shower curtain being sold for just $99.99, notes Snopes. The Twitter user who shared these screenshots linked the situation to Wayfair supplying furniture for ICE detention centers "where children have gone MISSING from."
It is true that Wayfair supplied furniture to a federal detention center at the U.S.-Mexico border. When this was first reported last year, employees at Wayfair's headquarters in Boston staged a walkout. Hundreds of employees signed a letter saying the company has a $200,000 contract to provide furniture for BCFS Health and Human Services, which would send the furniture to a detention center in Carrizo Springs, Texas.prevnext
SKUs for products could allegedly be used to find photos of young children on a Russian search engine
As the theory gained traction online, many Twitter users claimed that searching the stock keeping unit number (SKU) for each Wayfair product on a Russian search engine would bring up photos of children. Newsweek reported that is not the case. pic.twitter.com/aPO9e0cWWH— MediaWise (@mediawise) July 10, 2020
Some social media users claimed the Wayfair conspiracy even involved the stock keeping unit number (SKU) for many of the products. They claimed if you searched "src usa" and the SKU at the Russian search engine Yandex, you would find photos of young female children. However, Snopes found that if you searched that term with any random numbers, the same kind of photos show up.prevnext
A Walnut Creek connection
This Wayfair child trafficking has me in a DEEP black hole pic.twitter.com/xzT5wdOv2j— priscilla (@prizzkilla) July 10, 2020
Another piece of the theory focused on the 2016 review of a $5,000 filing cabinet. That year, someone from Walnut Creek, California, a San Francisco exurb, published a review on the product, notes Newsweek. The city was the location for a February human trafficking, child pornography and attempted kidnapping arrest. That case was reportedly linked to a larger child sex trafficking ring. "Walnut Sauce" was also a phrase linked to the Pizzagate theory.prevnext
Some tried to connect Wayfair to Jeffrey Epstein
If this picture is of the "president of operations" (position doesn't exist) of Wayfair, then why was this picture taken in 2003 when Wayfair was a start up company with 2 employees? Bill Hutcherson isn't a real person. Their Chief of Operations is this guy, not Bill Hutcherson. pic.twitter.com/8izJmwjezd— 🇻🇨🇻🇨🇻🇨 (@KingSwankk) July 11, 2020
Since the Wayfair theory surfaced so soon after Ghislaine Maxwell's arrest for her connection to Jeffrey Epstein, it should not be surprising to see some try to build a link between the two. As Heavy.com notes, a 2003 photo of Maxwell with an unknown man went viral as part of the Wayfair theory. People claimed the unknown man is "Bill Hutcherson" a "president of operations" for Wayfair. However, none of this is true. When the photo was taken, Wayfair was only a year old and still known as CSN Stores. The unknown man is only identified as a "guest" in the Getty Images caption.prevnext
Some said the product names matched names of missing children
As always, this is the problem with Pizzagate-style narratives. Child sex trafficking exists and thrives, and internet conspiracy theories about child eating on 8chan work to delegitimize the work advocates do to stomp it out.https://t.co/ls8wd770yn— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) July 10, 2020
Some Twitter users claimed that the product names matched the names of missing children. For example, there was an "Anabel 5-shelf storage unit," which some linked to Anabel Wilson, a 14-year-old Kansas girl who has been missing since February. Others tried to link an "Alyvia" shelf to Alyvia Navarro, an autistic child who went missing in 2013 at 3 years old. Sadly, she was found dead a few days after she went missing. In addition, over 800,000 children are reported missing each year, so these products sharing names with missing children could just be a coincidence.prevnext
Wayfair has denied the theory
Wayfair denied the theory Friday. "There is, of course, no truth to these claims," the company said in a statement. "The products in question are industrial grade cabinets that are accurately priced. Recognizing that the photos and descriptions provided by the supplier did not adequately explain the high price point, we have temporarily removed the products from site to rename them and to provide a more in-depth description and photos that accurately depict the product to clarify the price point."prev