Food by VICE

Mysterious Coffee Grifter Has Sent the Same Weird Handwritten Letter to Hundreds of Roasters

Like if Portlandia had a failed coffee-extortion scheme episode.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Aug 1 2018, 2:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Nic Taylor

The letters all start with the same five words, ‘To Whom This May Concern,’ and continue for three polite paragraphs, printed neatly on lined notebook paper. But when one Portland coffee roaster shared the letter he’d gotten from a disappointed customer named Daniel G., he couldn’t have imagined that a half-dozen other Oregon coffee companies had received the exact same thing. Or that, over the course of the past two years, this same man had written to more than 100 different roasters, using those exact words to complain about their coffee.

According to coffee-centric website Sprudge, Zach Perkins at Roseline Coffee received his letter in mid-July. In it, Daniel G. claimed that he’d purchased a “stale” bag of Rosa Coffee and he asked for both a replacement bag and for “an explanation how this happened.” The make-up beans were to be shipped to an address at an apartment complex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Perkins’ ‘This is Wack’ detectors immediately went off. “We thought it was a scam off the bat because we had no record of him within our system,” Perkins told the site. When he reached out to some other Portland-area roasters, he learned that they’d been contacted by Daniel too and, in those letters, he’d made the same “stale” claim and asked for the same compensation and explanation.

When Sprudge shared a photo of one of the Daniel G. letters on Instagram, a number of other coffee roasters quickly responded that they’d heard from him too. “This is quite amazing,” Portland’s Heart Roasters wrote. “What’s funny about this letter: no email or phone number to respond to, just a mailing address. Like most of us companies that ship product, we have a database of our retail & wholesale customers’ orders; Daniel’s name & address is doesn’t exist in our system. And Heart has no wholesale partners in NV. So, sorry Dan.”

When Sprudge counted up all of the Instagram responses, the emails and the phone calls they’d gotten about Daniel G., they realized that more than ONE HUNDRED coffee roasters across the United States had all received the same letter, written by the same man, asking for coffee to be sent to the same address. The earliest letter was sent in 2016 to a company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, while the most recent arrived last week.

“All different kinds of roasters have received these letters: established brands as well as newcomers, small town roasters and big city companies, brands with multiple locations as well as owner-operator mom n’ pops, spots we’ve featured on Sprudge a dozen times and folks we’re delighted to be hearing of for the first time this week, in admittedly odd circumstances,” the site wrote.

Although Sprudge has continued to investigate—and has invited Daniel G. to reach out—they have yet to get to the bottom of this mystery, to figure out whether some dude is just scamming for free beans or whether it’s something more sinister. One person optimistically suggested that it could be someone “testing return policies [or] customer service” for an article. Another tweeted that he was “holding out hope that it's a large scale collaborative fiction project between all these different roasters who listen to too many true crime podcasts.” And one roaster said that that when he Googled Daniel’s full name “it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”

Damn, Daniel, get in touch. We’re dying to know what’s up.