Beware Baby Yoda knock-offs this holiday season


December 18, 2019

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“Named must be your fear before banish it you can,” Yoda once said. But some fears (like, say, an online market flooded with rip-off Baby Yoda T-shirts) are a little harder to banish than others. Today:

  • The black market for Baby Yoda is thriving.
  • Amazon and FedEx aren’t really jiving.
  • Away’s company culture is hardly surviving.
  • And: Is a society of useless gifts worth reviving?

To quote Yoda again, “Pass on what you have learned!” 

The Hustle Daily Email

The Baby Yoda black market is booming

When the TV show Star Wars: The Mandalorian debuted last month, Baby Yoda took the internet by storm.

Now he’s on everyone’s Christmas list.

According to the product research tool Jungle Scout, there have been more than 500k unique searches for “Baby Yoda” on Amazon in the last 30 days — a 40,874% increase over the previous 30-day period. 

There’s just one problem: To avoid spoilers, Disney purportedly decided to hold off on selling much of its officially licensed Baby Yoda merchandise until 2020…

Which has opened the door for rip-offs

Jungle Scout recently reported that the 47 most popular Baby Yoda products listed on Amazon were averaging 1,842 units sold per month, at $22.85 per sale — a total of nearly $2m.

A search of Amazon products reveals dozens of unofficial Baby Yoda items sold by 3rd-party sellers, including plush toys, iPhone cases, and T-shirts.

Using Jungle Scout’s product database tool, which estimates the revenue that products generate, it appears that some of these knockoffs have netted as much as $21k in revenue in the last 30 days:

This isn’t exclusively a problem with Amazon: Etsy is rife with hundreds of its own unofficial and largely handmade Baby Yoda products. Among the gems:

  • Crocheted Baby Yoda Amigurumi dolls
  • Baby Yoda etched wood magnets
  • Eco-friendly Baby Yoda tote bags
  • 3D-printed Baby Yoda planter boxes

Neither Amazon nor Etsy responded to a request for comment on the unlicensed Star Wars products sold on their platforms. Amazon has struggled to use its “Force” to moderate products and reviews posted by 3rd-party sellers, The Hustle has previously reported.

Remarkably, these black-market products might not be so ‘black’ after all.

According to World Trademark Review, “there are currently zero applications filed for BABY YODA by Disney or any third-parties.”

Disney, which currently lists 18 official Baby Yoda products for sale on its site, has been lax about protecting its Baby Yoda IP.

At least for nor now, Baby Yoda roams free in the Wild West that is online commerce.

Hat tip to our Trends reader Justin Kelsey for the story idea.

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Amazon fires FedEx at the peak of the holiday rush

Amazon has barred 3rd-party vendors — who account for more than ½ of the merchandise sold on its website — from using FedEx to ship their items due to concerns about FedEx’s reliability.

The decision strains the relationship between the e-commerce giant and FedEx from separation to a nearly complete divorce:

  • Amazon had already stopped using FedEx for its own shipments in the US and has been building its own delivery infrastructure. 

The move couldn’t come at a busier time.

  • Delivery volume this time of year is double the average. And the short holiday season (because of a late Thanksgiving) has added more pressure for shippers.

But statistics show FedEx has maintained a strong on-time delivery rate.

  • FedEx had a 90.4% on-time rate the week after Black Friday, compared to 92.7% for UPS and 93.7% for Amazon’s own delivery service, according to an analysis by ShipMatrix Inc. via the WSJ.    

So what gives?

A guy by the name of Dave Clark, Amazon’s global logistics chief. He made the call to further sever ties with FedEx.

  • At a company known for its strenuous work conditions, Clark is known as “The Sniper” for his demanding approach.
  • Clark used to hide in the shadows of Amazon warehouses and look for “slacking” workers to fire.

Now he’s absolutely, positively made sure that your next-day Amazon delivery won’t come in a purple-and-orange package.

» This Christmas, Amazon rips out FedEx’s heart
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Huffing paint and hoarding cash: Away workers level new complaints

Those initials on your Insta-trendy Away luggage may have been painted by staffers who were “zeeted” — AKA high as hell — on paint fumes.

A new report from The Verge, which previously had tracked workplace intimidation toward Away’s customer service team, details unhealthy conditions for its retail and monogramming staff.

  • Monogrammers worked this year in a room with no heat and paint fumes, leading staffers to complain about nausea, persistent headaches, and feeling “zeeted high key.”
  • Retail employees at Away’s brick-and-mortar locations have reported problems with mold and rodents.

Managers say they’ve had to carry bags with thousands of dollars in company cash to corporate HQ because Away refused to open bank accounts for them. 

Away CEO Steph Korey resigned December 9 after The Verge’s original reporting on the company’s toxic workplace culture.

» The situation at Away got even messier

There used to be a Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving. Can we bring it back?

You should think twice about buying your mom that Fitbit she might not really want for Christmas. History says it’s a good idea. 

In the early 1900s, female activists banded together to form SPUG, which stands for — seriously — the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving. 

How did this happen?

  • This was the era of progressivism — of Ida B. Wells and Upton Sinclair — and the practice of giving “knickknacks and bric-a-brac” was considered by SPUG members to be wasteful.
  • They also spoke against workers having to pitch in to buy gifts for bosses. 

“But, my girl friends,” SPUG co-founder Eleanor Robson Belmont said in a 1912 speech: “Is it not true that these evils do exist and that you must give many useless Christmas gifts simply because it is the custom?”      

  • Belmont was a famous actress. The other co-founder of SPUG was Anne Morgan, J.P. Morgan’s daughter. Teddy Roosevelt also joined.
  • Spugs — yes, they were called Spugs — were often derided as Scrooges.
  • Brands, obvi, still took advantage of the SPUG movement. A towel company ad suggested consumers “Be a ‘SPUG’” by buying its products.
» The Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving needs you.
What Else…

The Mormon church has stowed away $100B in donations to prepare for the second coming of Christ.

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👩 Attention Capital announced it was acquiring Girlboss, a media platform described as a “LinkedIn for women.”

💸 Travis Kalanick’s firesale: The Uber co-founder and ex-CEO has sold $2.1B in Uber stock since November.

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