Unfortunately, Wayfair elbowed its way into the trending column with tens of thousands of tweets because of a much stranger situation.
It boils down to this: Conspiracy theorists were purporting that the site — or third-party sellers on the site — were secretly part of a child trafficking ring. This theory appears to have started, as many do, on Reddit’s r/conspiracy subreddit.
Before we proceed, there is no hard evidence to support that this far-fetched theory is even remotely true. Also, child trafficking is a horrific crime and conspiracy theories like this one turn a dangerous issue into a joke, distracting from the real reasons child trafficking flourishes.
It all started when a user posted a screenshot of high-priced cabinets listed on Wayfair’s site on Thursday, noting that the names of some of the cabinets were the same as the names of missing children. (We’re not adding too much detail on the children’s names in this post out of respect for families with missing kids.)
Reached for comment, Wayfair said it removed the cabinets from their site to stamp out the rumors.
“There is, of course, no truth to these claims,” a representative wrote to Mashable 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.”
Again, it is very, very unlikely Wayfair or any of its sellers are at the center of a child trafficking ring. Rather, this is just another chapter in the internet’s long-running history of inventing scary, far-fetched conspiracies that frequently involve child trafficking.
“Pizzagate/QAnon people have Wayfair trending today,” tweeted NBC News’ Ben Collins. “They falsely claim price glitches on storage boxes prove that the company is trafficking children. This took off because of a post on Reddit’s r/conspiracy subreddit yesterday, which is a clearinghouse for anonymous paranoia.”
Pizzagate/QAnon people have Wayfair trending today. They falsely claim price glitches on storage boxes prove that the company is trafficking children.
This took off because of a post on Reddit’s r/conspiracy subreddit yesterday, which is a clearinghouse for anonymous paranoia.
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) July 10, 2020
A cursory Twitter search for Wayfair and key QAnon words — like “storm” — reveal that, yes, QAnon folks are driving a lot of the conversation about the theory. If you don’t know about QAnon, the basic gist is that it’s a pro-Trump conspiracy movement that believes the president is going to publicly expose a massive pedophile ring.
Still, it wasn’t long before the conspiracies spread from Reddit to Twitter to TikTok and so on. People online scoured through other listings, finding exorbitantly expensive pillows and shower curtains. Once again, they tried to connect these listings to missing kids.
Reached for comment about these other products, a Wayfair representative told Mashable: “I can confirm that is a glitch and something we’re working to address.”
Y’all this Wayfair Human trafficking thing is crazy. Look at this, there are two pillows/shower curtains that are the exact same, but one is $100 and the other is $10K. The $10K one is named the same thing as a Black girl missing in Michigan… pic.twitter.com/1fFmrIBgxJ
— all black lives matter (@zarimx) July 10, 2020
As Vox reported last year, Wayfair functions as a middleman of sorts selling items from its roughly 11,000 suppliers but not actually manufacturing the items. Many products get sorted into “house brands,” which function as a way of organizing the massive selection, but the same product can end up on multiple pages, from different sellers, at different prices, due to dynamic pricing determined by an algorithm.
While this conspiracy theory is unfounded, Wayfair is no stranger to internet controversy. Many people online don’t trust Wayfair. About this time last year, employees staged a walkout to protest the company selling some $200,000 in beds and furniture to a detention center in Texas housing migrant children, which only added to the conspiracies.
As with most conspiracies, the Wayfair theory morphed with time on Friday, growing all sorts of tentacles. People began theorizing — again without a morsel of evidence — that somehow ICE was working with Wayfair to sell kids in sex trafficking rings.
this conspiracy theory has also merged with the “ICE is sex trafficking the kids in cages” theory. at the risk of sounding pedantic
– the cages were run by CBP, not ICE
– most migrant kids aren’t even being let into the US now; they’re being “expelled” into mexico https://t.co/AOPavyLe5z
— g a b y (@gabydvj) July 10, 2020
Meanwhile, the Redditor who sparked this whole thing with the original post — identified only by their username PrincessPeach1987 — told Newsweek they weren’t really making an accusation against Wayfair, but rather seeing “if anyone else had more details.”
People spreading the theory on Reddit and Twitter have urged folks to search product codes on a Russian search engine, claiming it turns up inappropriate pictures of kids — but any random number reportedly turns up these kinds of results.
Again, the internet has churned out a wild, potentially hurtful conspiracy theory that caught fire with scant evidence. Just another day online. People find a coincidence, or something odd, then twist and dig for more coincidences, and before you know it, people are jumping to wild conclusions. And sure, most coincidences or oddities have benign explanations — but that’s never stopped internet sleuths looking for something more.