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  1. ITV Report

The anti-influencer ice cream truck owner who is happy to charge Instagram stars double

Joe Nicchi says influencers who want a free ice cream will have to pay double. Credit: Instagram/@cvtsoftserve

While many social media influencers requesting freebies are warmly welcomed by brands, they would be best to avoid Joe Nicchi's business.

He has decided they will be charged double - $8 - if they make requests for free ice cream cones or cups from his popular CVT soft serve truck in Los Angeles.

Mr Nicchi said the tipping point for his increasing frustration with self-proclaimed influencers wanting free cones for publicity came last week.

He was asked for 300 servings of soft serve ice cream in return for "exposure".

Mr Nicchi decided enough was enough and posted a sign - that subsequently went viral - that said: “Influencers pay double”.

He also wrote on his Instagram page: ''We've decided to make this thing official with signage.

"We truly don't care if you're an Influencer, or how many followers you have.

"We will never give you a free ice cream in exchange for a post on your social media page.

"It's literally a $4 item ... well now it's $8 for you."

Mr Nicchi, whose ice cream is popular with celebrities including boxer Mike Tyson and actor Bill Murray, told NBC that he had "struck a chord" with online users, who have been leaving positive comments and responses to his new influencer policy.

Mr Nicchi is a working actor in LA, who started CVT Soft Serve in 2014 as a way to supplement his income.

The soft serve at CVT (which stands for his three flavor offerings: chocolate, vanilla, or twist) and his vintage-looking truck are very photogenic which makes his business popular with influencers posting on Instagram.

Mr Nicchi said he was glad to have exposed the ''smoke and mirrors'' of influencers and social media.

He said he has researched social media influencer accounts and found that people can buy an online following, likes and comments - and is surprised more people do not know.

Mr Nicchi told NBC: "I get excited to know that I am putting that out there and making people wonder why a food truck has 80,000 followers, but no one is at their window.

"It's not real; it's just smoke and mirrors, and it's not just in the food industry.''

Mr Nicchi added the pressure new and small businesses face from social media influencers is out of control.

"Newer businesses feel like they have a gun to their head and that they have to do this because this person might write something bad about them, and they just got started and are trying to make the business work.

"It's definitely a form of bribery, and it's obnoxious," Mr Nicchi said.