The ‘Wirecutter effect’ is everywhere now

Viral fame seems fun for businesses — until it’s really not.

Bloomberg recently discussed a phenomenon in which retailers experience too much of a good thing thanks to the internet.

A woman looks overwhelmed as several ‘heart reacts’ rain down above her.

In 2023, product review site Wirecutter named the Wok Shop in San Francisco as the purveyor of the best wok. But the Wok Shop was unable to handle the volume of orders, resulting in angry customers and a frustrated proprietor.

Wirecutter eventually changed its top wok to one from Sur La Table — which is now sold out.

The Wirecutter effect…

… isn’t exclusive to Wirecutter; it’s also booming on social media, where pretty much anything can go viral on a global level:

  • Fujifilm ran out of parts and had to suspend orders for its X100V camera after it went viral on TikTok.
  • Hailey Bieber’s beauty brand, Rhode, is constantly selling out of its products, at one point amassing a waitlist of 314k+ people for a lip balm.
  • Trader Joe’s ran out of its frozen kimbap for weeks after TikTokers hyped the Korean dish.

Trend forecaster Coco Mocoe told Elle that TikTok’s FYP feeds users products with high engagement, creating “a sense of pandemonium” and the desire to buy something before it’s too late.

Plus, our online shopping behaviors have changed, alongside manufacturers having slowed production amid the pandemic.

Viral success seems like it’d be an unquestionable win, but that’s not always the reality, especially for smaller businesses.

  • Restaurants, for one, can be overwhelmed by internet fame, from sudden crowds to irritating menu hacks that employees are unable to make at scale.

Example: A Paris ice cream shop/wine bar dealt with people stealing its glassware, regulars leaving due to lines, and neighbors calling the cops about crowds. Finally, it hired a bouncer and installed a “No TikTok” policy.

Get the 5-minute news brief keeping 2.5M+ innovators in the loop. Always free. 100% fresh. No bullsh*t.