Crackpot Kettled

Over the past few years, third party sellers have become more and more popular; particularly online. Companies like CoffeeKind and subscription services, which act as a middle man between the roaster and the consumer, have been popping up all over the Internet.

Well, it seems there is yet another addition to this elite group of third party retailers. Late this morning, Heart Coffee Roasters tweeted, “Anyone know about this website Kettled? They are definitely selling our coffee on their website without any permission.”


Then Ritual Coffee sent Heart a reply that revealed some of their coffees were on the site too.


Then things got even crazier when good friend of the Table Todd Goldsworthy, of Klatch Coffee, tweeted their coffee too is on Kettled without any permission!

Conan Facepalm

Yeah—this goes deep y’all. And guess what—it goes even deeper. I decided to do some poking around and found that Kettled is claiming to have an incredible lineup of roasters that they work with; I say “claiming” because, as it turns out, none of the “featured brands” on Kettled’s site have given Kettled permission to feature their brands nor, indeed, are those featured brands working with Kettled.

Heart, Ritual, Klatch, Coava, Bow Truss, Halfwit, Bird Rock, Tandem, Water Avenue, Wild Goose, Barefoot, Blue Bottle, Equator, Sight Glass, FourBarrel, Handsome, Onyx, Torch, Sight Glass…

Kettled is using their logos, images and text from their websites, and even selling their products… without their permissions.

I mean… I think that deserves another GIF, don’t you?


As if that weren’t enough… And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “It can’t possibly get any worse.” Yes. It does.

One roaster forwarded me the shocking email that Kettled’s founder sent them:

Hi ANONYMOUS COFFEE ROASTER, just landed you an order!We think you’re awesome and so we’ve been promoting your brand. At Kettled we don’t bug you until we’ve brought you a customer, and now we have. We know, we’re bold, just like the coffee we drink.We’d love for you to ship this order while we go get you another. We just ask that you ship fresh product via a trackable method and then click the link below to plug in the tracking number. If we provide a great experience we may just have a lifetime customer here!At the end of the month we’ll square up by simply cutting a check for your public price less our 35% commission. Oh, and we’ll add another $5 per line item to cover shipping costs. Think of us as a low maintenance wholesale account with a few decades of e-commerce experience.

If you’ve got questions, just hit reply. Looking forward to extending your brand, one satisfied customer at a time.

Obama Bitch Please
I honestly don’t know where the crazy begins or where the nonsense ends.

Let me break this email down for you: 1) Kettled copies a company’s information, images, and logo from that company’s website and pastes it on their own; 2) Kettled lists a company’s product in their web store; 3) Kettled orders coffee from roaster’s website, but doesn’t pay for it; 4) Kettled sells that coffee to consumers on their own web site; 5) roasters are required to send the coffee to the consumer themselves and Kettled reimburses them for less than the cost of shipping; 6) at the end of each month, Kettled writes a check for what they owe to the roaster with 35% skimmed off the top to serve as their “commission”; 7) and all of this without telling any of the roasters they contacted who or what they were.


I don’t think I need to say this, but this is clearly no way to run a company. Furthermore, in all truthfulness, Kettled could get sued several times over.

A bit of legal advice for the founder of Kettled, when that day probably eventually comes: plead insanity.

  • GT

    If I understand what they are doing correctly, they are just trying to be a marketplace / wholesaler with similar specialty brands. Definitely an odd strategy… but 35% commission is actually pretty good when you compare it to standard markup retail markup (especially on a high-margin product like coffee). This effectively turns the roaster into a dropshipper. The trick to growth is distribution… and this could be a valid channel for that.

    Based on what’s in the email you posted, Kettled seems to handle / invest in marketing and passes the transaction to the roaster. If they could deliver a lot of sales, 35% means everyone makes money. Isn’t that a win-win?

    It doesn’t seem they garnered many friendships with this strategy though…

    • A Table in the Corner of the C

      Here’s the thing – it’s definitely a good enough strategy and 35% is a fair commission. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the Kettled business model – it would work and it would work well.

      However, having said that, all of that could at least have been explained to the roasters that Kettled claims to be “working with.” I mean, they’re listing products on their website and these roasters don’t even know who they are and didn’t even realize they were being “featured” until they received that email that I pasted in the article.

      Super dodgy.

      • GT

        I agree with the confusion. Ultimately, it seems they are simply trying to increase sales and exposure for the roasters and make money. Based on their response to your article, it does not seem they had any harmful intent… It’s like a “lean startup” approach / case study that did not turn out as anticipated.

        I’ll go with “potentially dodgy… learn more about them”, not “super dodgy” :-).

        I also think you guys are under appreciating “middle men” in this context. Sure, if someone wants to purchase from the roaster, they can purchase directly from the website. The big value / opportunity is exposing the roasters to new customers. That’s one of the riskiest and most expensive aspects of running a profitable business. Speaking of which… this will definitely be an issue for Kettled. After they sell a new customer [for a roaster], what prevents him/her from simply purchasing directly from the roaster’s site? Nothing! Haha… I’d pay 35% commission for a profitable transacted new customer ALL DAY LONG vs. investing in tons of marketing hoping to profitably acquire new customers.

        They have engaged with and responded directly to the negative feedback… give them a chance to prove their value.

        Reach out to Kettled OR some of the roasters they are representing and ask them to explain more…

  • here. Would have joined the conversation a bit sooner but yesterday was kind of hectic.

    I thought it would make sense to provide a little context around our approach. I’ve been an internet entrepreneur for over a decade. I’ve had some good success, and some failures. It’s how I pay my mortgage and feed my family. In my world people like to talk. Talk about all the amazing things they are going to do and how awesome it’s going to be. Part of my success finds its origin in doing more than talking and I’ve carried that mentality to and the team I lead.

    Early on we decided we didn’t want to start calling potential partners to talk about all our ideas and plans. That sounds like relationship building but often times turns into, well, nothing. We decided to put in some work for our potential partners. To actually do something for them. So we built Not a mock-up or presentation, the whole thing, soup to nuts. This allows us to say, “Hey, this is what the site looks like, what your brand looks like, what your product looks like, how the model works, heck, what an actual order looks like.” Although sending off an order was pretty unorthodox, we believed this bold approach would be powerful, maybe even refreshing to a group of people who get hit up with ideas every day. We tried something different in a world of plain vanilla.

    We certainly didn’t do this without any relationships. Truth is, even the folks we’ve been working with didn’t know how well this would be received. We’ve had some people on board from the beginning and we’ll keep working to find those interested in joining what we’re doing. Clearly everyone wasn’t thrilled. But I will say that yesterday I spoke with some great people. The true culture of each roaster comes out when you’re on the phone. They know that when brand value is a premium it’s important to remember that how you interact with people is the heart of your brand. With an exception or two, the community was incredibly gracious and supportive. Some from the list above even commended the idea that we would simply bring an order. A couple even referred us to other roasters they thought would be interested.

    For those who thought our approach was a bit misguided we promptly removed their content from the site. Even in that process I found a level of professionalism and respect from most. By and large a classy group and I appreciated it.

    Now that we’ve talked a bit, we’re going to get back to work. Thanks for listening!

    • The Puristas

      So you’ve created an unwanted service to sell goods that are not yours, using protected media that is not yours, with a 35% markup…? Sounds like a recipe for, well, nothing.

      Also, the super-pretentious homepage of now reads:
      “Looks like we created quite a stir. We’re gonna brew a cup and gain some perspective. Might be wise all around.”

      Oh, yeah, way to win some customers there.

  • Michael Mann

    “Plead Insanity” That pretty much sums it up!

  • Jessica Rice

    That reply from Kettled is very manipulative in a, “Hey, we’re doing you a favor.” and “other people don’t seem to have a problem with it, that is, the people with class and who understand how business works.”

    Insert actual quote: “They know that when brand value is a premium it’s important to remember
    that how you interact with people is the heart of your brand. With an
    exception or two, the community was incredibly gracious and supportive.”

    Manipulation starts with a truth and then follows it up with ten lies. If Kettled is actually interested in building relationships, then that is what they would have done.

    The fishy now smells fishier.

  • swagv

    When the novelty wears off for all these useless extra coffee middlemen, their failed business models will be forgotten like the passenger pigeon.

    • A Table in the Corner of the C

      I’m with you. I see no point in middlemen – particularly not online middlemen. It takes just as many clicks to get to a roaster’s website as it does to get to a middleman’s website, so why not just go straight to the source?

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  • Janie M

    I love their website now….