This story is about a new store in New York that seems to have the dumbest business model anyone has ever come up with.

Unless, perhaps, it’s totally brilliant. More on that in a second.

The store sells Dirty Lemon, which is a drink that became an Instagram sensation, or else an Instagram account that decided to launch a drink. Either way, it’s allegedly highly popular among Gen Z and Millennials, and it sells (to this point only over the Internet) for as much as $65 for a six-bottle case.

Now, they’ve opened a store in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, where it’s getting lots of attention for the simple reason that it’s 100 percent unstaffed.

Meaning: no clerks, no cashiers. Nobody to make you to pay for the product.

It’s like Amazon Go, if Amazon didn’t have any technology or any way to make money.

Of course, it’s not advertised exactly like that. Technically, you’re supposed to take whatever you want off the shelf, then text the company, get a link back, and manually enter your credit card.

Yeah, sure. Dirty Lemon does use a similar text-heavy process for online orders, but at least there you have to pay before they ship.

In person, even if people have good intentions, and would never, ever shoplift under normal circumstances, they're looking at a multi-step payment process that takes a few minutes at least to complete. 

We’re an incredibly impatient society. This just seems like a recipe for basically giving the product away.

Wait a minute.

I couldn’t help but notice how much press this otherwise totally unremarkable shop has gotten. There are probably hundreds of similar new stores across New York City each week that open without even a whimper.

Heck, I never would have heard of this-;except that The New York Times, CNBC, and many others wrote about its bizarre business model.

Which makes me wonder: Could it be that Dirty Lemon literally does not care at all whether you pay for its product in the store? 

At a $10.83 price tag, that’s about 68 cents per ounce for a product where the biggest listed ingredients are filtered water and fruit juice. They've got to be making an utterly insane margin, so there’s very little loss on each pilfered bottle.

"When asked how much money Dirty Lemon was willing to lose to theft," reported the Times, its CEO, Zak Normandin, "demurred, noting that the company would write down any losses as sampling costs."

Moreover, Dirty Lemon chose a location for its new store that’s within walking distance of some of the most powerful digital media brands in the country.

Coincidence? Hmmm. Could it be that this drink company that grew almost 100 percent based on social media marketing opened a store that was intended not to make money, but just to create an even bigger media buzz?

So, I reached out to Dirty Lemon this weekend to ask them that question even more directly-;along with how many bottles they’ve “sold,” and how many have actually been paid for.

As of this writing, I haven’t heard back. But I’m going to go out a limb for now and call it. 

It might be highly trusting, it might be a bit foolish-;but from a marketing perspective, utterly brilliant. Whether you walk away without paying or not.

Published on: Sep 16, 2018
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