Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory: The Wayfair Child Trafficking Scheme

The Theory: A major retailer “covertly” offers children and teenagers for sale on its website by overpricing and naming certain items in such a way that pedophiles will instantly recognize what’s really being offered.

Origin: This theory started on Reddit’s r/conspiracy subreddit. A July 9th post by user PrincessPeach1987 noted that online retail furniture/housewares company Wayfair was selling utility closets from WFX Utility that were priced at more than $12,000, and offered child trafficking as a possible explanation, pointing out that the names of some of the cabinets corresponded to the first names of missing children. People began finding weird price discrepancies on other Wayfair items, and matching the names of products to the names of missing kids from all over the U.S.:

  • The “Alyvia” shelf was linked to Alyvia Navarro, an autistic 3-year-old girl who went missing from Warham, Massachusetts in 2013.
  • The “Anabel 5-shelf storage unit” corresponded to 16-year-old Anabel Wilson, who went missing from Kansas City, Kansas in February.
  • The “Samiyah 5-shelf storage cabinet” was connected to Samiyah Mumin, a 17-year-old who vanished in Columbus, Ohio, in April of last year.
  • The “Yaritza” storage cabinet was linked to Yaritza Castro, a 16-year-old girl reported missing from Harwintown, Connecticut, in June.
  • One of numerous items with the name “Dziedzic” was tenuously linked to Cameron James Dziedzic, a Maryland 16-year-old who also disappeared in June. 
  • An item called “Durett” was tied to Mary Durrett, a Houston teen who went missing in 2017.

People combined photos of the missing kids with Wayfair product images and plastered them all over social media to alert others.

Why would expensive cabinets with unusual names trigger suspicion, though?

It turns out that the OP was primed to believe in child trafficking schemes disguised as everyday activity. Aren’t we all, at this moment? With Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged accomplices in the news every day and constant revelations of sexual misconduct being slathered across social media, the tabloids and even the mainstream media, we have all become armchair Ronan Farrows.

In chat interviews with Newsweek, PrincessPeach1987 (who prefers to remain anonymous) explained that she is involved with an unnamed organization that “helps victims of human trafficking.” As a result, she is “suspicious most of the time now.” When she and her husband discovered apparently overpriced cabinets while searching for garage storage, they initially wondered if these were dropshipping sales. Then they found Facebook posts that expressed suspicion of the listings, and their minds went to dark places.

The allegations: Alerted by her Reddit post, others were also instantly suspicious and willing to accept the trafficking scenario. Outraged posts went up on Twitter, Reddit and Facebook:

“Wayfair also supplies the furniture at ICE detention centers, where children are going MISSING from”

“#Wayfair can’t seem to get their stories straight. Do glitches generally include provocative photos of little girls, missing children??? I don’t think so. If there was nothing to hide, why was everything quickly taken down? Panic, Panic, Panic.”

“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…”

“WAYFAIR IS TO BE INVESTIGATED. IF YOU WANT TO STOP THIS DEVIL WORSHIP SERVICE WRITE MY NAME IN NOVEMBER! IF YOU CAN DONATE. I WILL PROTECT OUR CHILDREN!”

– ANTOINE TUCKER 🇺🇸 (@MONTAGA) JULY 11, 2020

“have you actually researched the ways in which children are sexually trafficked?? This is fucking textbook. It’s not a conspiracy.”

“When I heard about this, I actually felt it could be a cagey way for traffickers to evade the law.” – Medium.com writer Amy Sarah

Some alleged that Wayfair’s President of Operations, Bill Hutcherson, appears with Ghislaine Maxwell in this photo.

Getty Images

The photo was taken at the opening of the Asprey store in New York City in 2003, at a time when Wayfair was known as CSN Stores and did not have a President of Operations (the company still doesn’t have one). The man in the photo was actually George Bamford, who owns a watch company (GQ has called him “the enfant terrible of the watch world”). He is not to be confused with the elderly TV actor of the same name.

No one named Bill Hutcherson has been linked to Wayfair.

Other online detectives revealed that if you enter Wayfair product codes beginning with “SRC” into Yandex (the Russian equivalent of Google), you get image results depicting young children, and that you get similar image results from Yandex by searching for an item’s stock keeping unit number (SKU) preceded by “src usa.”

The Unraveling: Problems with the Wayfair trafficking theory emerged immediately. Almost all of the “missing children” had already been found (online databases and local news stories aren’t always updated in timely fashion):

  • Alyvia Navarro was found dead shortly after she went missing in 2013, having accidentally drowned in a pond near her grandmother’s home.
  • Anabel Wilson was found after her February disappearance. She had run away from home, and went missing for a second time on the same day the Wayfair conspiracy theory surfaced (meaning she could not possibly have been for sale on the website). Her current whereabouts are unknown.
  • The young woman from Ohio did a Facebook Live post asking people to stop referring to her as missing. She has asked for privacy. (I think it goes without saying that all of the young people named in this conspiracy theory should be left alone.)
  • Samara Duplessis, allegedly being sold as a customized throw pillow, is alive and well.
  • Cameron James Dziedzic is alive and well. Dozens of products bearing his last name, from footstools to colognes, are still available on the Wayfair website. 
  • Mary Durett is alive and well.

Like Anabel Wilson, Yaritza Castro may still be missing.

Then there is the problem of shipping and handling. How are the children delivered to customers, exactly? And what if a customer legit just wants a posh cabinet and accidentally ends up with a child? One Twitter user claimed that laws allow for “living art” to be shipped internationally without much fuss, which would give Wayfair the loophole it needs to ship children. But you can’t honestly believe that humans are delivered in boxes without incident. Would any real pedo believe this and order a cabinet in the hopes of receiving a victim at his/her doorstep?

Also, if you’ve spent a lot of time on retail websites, you know that mysteriously overpriced items are not uncommon. Prices can balloon far beyond the normal supply/demand fluctuations that one would expect to see, even if the items are not actually in demand. There have even been conspiracy theories about why this happens. In a 2015 thread in the subreddit r/amazon, people speculated that $5,000 bottles of water on Amazon might be linked to money laundering.

There are a few different reasons for bizarrely overpriced products. Some third party sellers will deliberately overprice a low-priority item if there is something wrong with its listing, so that it will remain in their inventory but will definitely not sell. Once the problem is corrected, they re-price the item. This form of “placeholder pricing” appears to be quite common.

That wasn’t the issue with the WFX cabinets, however. Wayfair issued a statement to clarify that these were industrial-grade products that actually do cost in excess of $12,000 (and these were reduced prices).The company temporarily removed the items from its catalog in order to fine-tune their product descriptions. Most WFX Utility products available on Wayfair are moderately priced and designed for home use, and it’s difficult to distinguish those from the higher-end industrial products just by looking at a photo.

As for the overpriced pillows, shower curtains, etc., there is a glitch in Wayfair’s system that causes items personalized with names to rocket in price. Amazon has a similar flaw. 

Wayfair, like many other major online retailers, also takes advantage of the Google Ads algorithm by adding popular Google search terms (names, words and phrases) to the names of their products so that the products pop up in search results. This does not explain the WFX Industry names, but it does explain why so much of the stuff you see online has goofy names.

The kernel of truth: If you enter Wayfair product codes that begin with “SRC” into Yandex, you really do get image results of young children. In fact, almost any query placed after “SRC” will return such results. This is because of a Russian website, imgsrc dot ru, a known hangout for pedophiles. “SRC” has nothing to do with Wayfair or any other retailer.

I would be more concerned about this website than about Wayfair, but I STRONGLY ADVISE AGAINST DOING SRC SEARCHES.

 

Reasons to hate this conspiracy theory: 

  1. It make absolutely no sense. As I noted in my Pizzagate intro, conspiracy theorists have become very lazy in recent years. They connect a few dots, then sit back and do nothing. There is no real research here. Everything being stated defies logic, common sense, and everything we know about child trafficking. You cannot offer children for sale on the website of a major retailer.
  2. It cries wolf, desensitizing people to a very real social problem that must be addressed. Throw enough bogus child-trafficking theories at social media, and sensible people will soon begin to ignore every child-trafficking story they hear.

Reasons to love this conspiracy theory: 

  1. It drew attention to a couple of missing/exploited children, even if only for a few moments. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow keep missing and exploited kids in the public eye without bringing in dumb conspiracy theories?
  2. It highlights Wayfair’s sale of furniture to ICE detention centers. This is one of the (few) accurate details in the trafficking theory. Last year, Wayfair filled a $200,000 contract for bedroom furniture with BCFS Health and Human Services, prompting an employee walkout. The furniture was destined for a federal detention center for migrants in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
  3. It shows everyone how easy it is to fall for a poorly constructed conspiracy theory. Like Pizzagate, the Wayfair trafficking scheme is a teachable moment. Learn from this and evolve.

One thought on “Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory: The Wayfair Child Trafficking Scheme

Add yours

  1. Thanks for this clear-headed explanation. I’d seen the shrieking about Wayfair but hadn’t had a chance to really look into it—this is much appreciated.

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