As embedded as we are in the age of scammers—where regular people use their cunning, wit, and verve to smoothly shimmy their way into shit for free—it is no surprise that Instagram influencers are thriving in this new economy, grifting their way to an empty sort of fame, built on nothing. This week’s target? Luxury hotels, who say Instagram influencers are making their lives a living hell.
The Atlantic reports that the staff of luxury and boutique hotels in far-flung, glamorous locations are besieged by lesser-known influencers requesting free room and board in exchange for posts.
Kate Jones, marketing and communications manager at the Dusit Thani, a five-star resort in the Maldives, said that her hotel receives at least six requests from self-described influencers per day, typically through Instagram direct message.
“Everyone with a Facebook these days is an influencer,” she said. “People say, I want to come to the Maldives for 10 days and will do two posts on Instagram to like 2,000 followers. It’s people with 600 Facebook friends saying, ‘Hi I’m an influencer, I want to stay in your hotel for 7 days,’” she said. Others send vauge one line emails, like “I want to collaborate with you”, with no further explanation. “These people are expecting five to seven nights on average, all inclusive. Maldives is not a cheap destination.” She said that only about 10 percent of the requests she receives are worth investigating.
The nightmare of navigating through a sea of emails begging for free poolside cabanas at a resort in Tulum is a fate I would not wish on my worst enemy. Working in these resorts and dealing with the stench of 50 inflated egos, fighting for the same patch of beach to take the same sunset ‘gram—a scene from the fourth circle of hell. It’s not that influencer marketing doesn’t work, but for a place of business to want to host an influencer in the first place, the business in question must get something out of it, too. While reciprocity is not a scammer’s primary motivation, it’d be wise for aspiring scammers looking to actually succeed in their endeavors to throw the people they’re trying to screw a bone every now and again.
Consider the brouhaha that erupted in January of this year, when the White Moose Café put its foot down by banning influencers from staying at their establishment, after an extended war with Elle Darby, a UK-based influencer.
The staff of the White Moose Lodge made a case for their decision on Facebook, pointing out many good reasons why influencers are not necessarily good for the brand:
If I let you stay here in return for a feature in your video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay? The laundering of your bed sheets? The water rates? Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?
Not all Instagram influencers are scammers, though life is technically one big scam, in which humanity tries to get one over on the forces that conspire against them on a macro and micro level. However, the ones that are might be giving influencers… a bad rep?
Joe Miragliotta, a men’s lifestyle and travel blogger who says he’s stayed in hundreds of hotels as an influencer, hates the fact that so many ham-handed wannabes are giving influencers a bad name. “You’ve seen the bad emails like, ‘Can you believe this influencer reaching out to me for a free stay!?’ That’s a bad thing. That makes us all look bad,” he said.
It’s hard to make money doing anything these days, but I’m willing to bet that influencers have a bad reputation not because of some who conduct themselves unprofessionally but because a smart influencer markets themselves as a successful brand would—with data and “engagement”—a metric that’s very valuable in our current attention economy, when brands and business are doing the most to get anyone to pay attention to them for at least five seconds. This is a bleak way to think about things, but it is also America. Succumb to this hell or be left in the dust.
Read the full piece at the Altantic here.