First it was funny, then it was kinda sad. The Juicero, the $400 juicer that was more or less pointless, was stupid, but it was also harmless, a bit of luxury schadenfreude for us common folk. A new, investigative piece from Gizmodo, however, reveals behind-the-scenes business practices that suffered from poor leadership and oodles of misinformation. “These darkly comic gaffes,” reporter Bryan Menegus says of the product’s public follies, “are a only keyhole view into the kingdom of dysfunction Juicero’s employees have been living in.”
Menegus spoke with “eight past and current Juicero employees and contractors, representing a wide swath of the company’s functions, all on condition of anonymity.” What all of them agree on is the fact that founder Doug Evans was “a micromanaging tyrant and a demeaning bully” who bloviated about his “chi” and “at one point only allowed his employees to expense vegan meals on business trips.” He was also prone to likening himself to Steve Jobs and the Juicero to Tesla.
As the company hemorrhaged employees—a CFO, a COO, and a VP of operations in under a year—the sources allege that the company purposely misled its customers in terms of the product’s environmental impact and its product sourcing. For example, Juicero was apparently listing local farms on its website that employees had never visited. According to multiple sources, the company was apparently sourcing most of its vegetables from Dole and other big-name distributors, resulting in many employees saying that it “just became harder and harder to make a case” that the product is as healthy as advertised.
Let’s not forget that, at one point, they were selling this thing for $700.
In the most charitable interpretation of these employees’ stories, Juicero was a naive but well-intentioned venture that bit off more than it could chew; in the least, it’s about an overconfident egotist who was handsomely rewarded by a bloated industry bent on profit and willing to leap at any opportunity to beat back the inconvenience of mortality.
Truly, the Juicero is the Fyre Festival of luxury juicers, not just in its flame-out but in its reliance on celebrity “influencers.” It’s a wonder how Kendall Jenner didn’t join Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Beyoncé in hawking the thing.
[Note: Gizmodo, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]