A Los Angeles ice cream truck is refusing to give away free cones to influencers and now charges them double the price

Joe NicchiCVT Soft Serve owner Joe Nicchi is making Instagram influencers pay double for his ice cream.
  • Joe Nicchi, the owner of CVT Soft Serve, has become an internet sensation after posting a picture of himself holding up a sign that read “INFLUENCERS PAY DOUBLE.”
  • Nicchi told INSIDER that he has received multiple requests every week for the last two to three years from influencers who wanted a free $US4 ice cream cone in exchange for “exposure.”
  • After receiving a request from influencers to host a 300-person party for free, Nicchi decided he’d had enough and made the sign, posting pictures of it on Instagram.
  • Nicchi opened CVT Soft Serve in 2013 and has since catered for the likes of Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, and Adam Levine.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

A Los Angeles ice cream truck has become an international sensation after it refused to give away free cones to Instagraminfluencers and pledged to charge them double the price instead.

Joe Nicchi, the owner and founder of CVT Soft Serve, quickly went viral after he posted a picture of himself holding up a sign in his truck that read “INFLUENCERS PAY DOUBLE.”

Nicchi told INSIDER that the sign came after years of being asked for free $US4 ice cream cones by influencers who promised to offer him “exposure” in exchange. In the last two to three years, he said he has been asked one to three times every week.

“It happened periodically when we first opened, and then it just kind of spiraled out of control the last few years,” he added.

Nicchi said the influencers will request free products both online and face-to-face at his ice cream truck, telling him their Instagram handle and how many followers they have before asking him if they can have one of his $US4 ice cream cones for free in exchange for a post or a tag.

“I’d stare at them like ‘Are you out of your mind?’ Nicchi said. “It’s all the time, all the time. They love using the word exposure, they use it all the time.”

CVT Soft ServeJoe NicchiNicchi made this sign after years of being asked every week for free ice cream by influencers.

Just last week, Nicchi said he received a request to serve a 300-person party for free for the entire day on a weekend.

“They said multiple influencers would be there, with a combined following of 10 million people,” he recalled. “I’m an actor in LA, I have a family. I want exposure for the business, but I still need to pay my bills.”

Nicchi said the constant requests had become “exhausting.” So, this weekend, he decided to make the sign while the CVT Soft Serve truck was parked at a popular Los Angeles flea market.

He also posted pictures of the sign on the ice cream truck’s Instagram page, writing in one caption: “We’ve decided to make this thing official with signage. We truly don’t care if you’re an influencer or how many followers you have. We will never give you a free ice cream in exchange for a post on your social media page. It’s literally a $US4 item…well now it’s $US8 for you.”

In another caption, Nicchi wrote: “We couldn’t care less about how many followers you have, and we’re super embarrassed for you when you tell us.”

The Instagram posts quickly went viral after they were shared on Reddit, making headlines everywhere from Poland to Australia and even getting retweeted by WWE star John Cena.

Nicchi said he finds the overwhelming support to be “weird, bizarre, and fun for the business.”

“It’s exciting for me that I’ve been able to expose some of the fraudulent activity these people are taking part in,” he said. “I’m sure there are nice influencers out there or legitimate ones, but when I did my research I found that a lot of them are bogus, they will have 80,000 followers and 10 comments.”

Before his influencer sign took off, Nicchi had posted a screengrab of the request to host a 300-person party for free, questioning why he should be impressed by a following that could have been purchased.

CVT4Joe NicchiNicchi reached his breaking point after an influencer asked him to host a 300-person party for free.

“If it’s public knowledge that anyone can purchase followers and likes, then why does an ‘influencer’ hold weight?” he wrote in the caption. “Let’s make hard work ‘huge right now.’ Let’s make not asking people to work for free ‘huge right now.'”

Nicchi told INSIDER that he believes there has been such a strong reaction to his sign because “people appreciate hard work.”

“We struck a chord with just being truthful to what’s going on,” he said. “I know a lot of small business owners, when they’re just starting out they probably feel obligated to give out free things to these people. It’s mind boggling.”

“Maybe I inspired one small business to tell an influencer to f— off,” he added with a laugh.

As for his own business, Nicchi has been getting exposure for CVT Soft Serve all on his own.

Nicchi started the truck in March 2013 to make money on the side as he pursued an acting career. He selected the name from the three flavours CVT would offer – Chocolate, Vanilla, and Twist – and worked to bring the kind of soft serve he grew up loving on the East Coast to his new “green juice kind of town,” he said.

CVT Soft ServeJoe NicchiSince opening CVT in 2013, Nicchi has catered for the likes of Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, and Adam Levine.

Within months of opening, CVT was named one of the best food trucks in LA. A year later, Nicchi hosted a “Bill Murray Ice Cream Social” in hopes of meeting his idol and went viral after the guest of honour showed up. Nicchi, who now has two operating trucks, has since catered for the likes of Halle Berry, Brad Pitt, Adam Levine, as well as the recent birthday party of famous chocolatier and “Nailed It” host Jacques Torres.

Read more:
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Nicchi said that he has been approached by “millennials” at food truck events who tell him they are shocked that CVT “only has 5,000 followers” despite its local popularity, a comment that has always baffled him.

“We have a line down the street,” he said. “If Instagram went away tomorrow we would still sell ice cream.”

While Nicchi said he sees the irony in the fact that he is now getting exposure for “bashing people for getting exposure,” he is going to enjoy the attention while it lasts.

“I know these news stories will come and go, but I’ll take it,” he said. “I think it’s hilarious. And I hope I’ve perturbed some influencers from approaching other small businesses out of fear of being exposed.”

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