What Is This Mysterious White Powder West Elm Shipped an Aspen Businesswoman?

Photo: Getty Images

On Friday, Corri McFadden, founder of luxury consignment brand eDrop-Off and star of VH1’s House of Consignment, posted to Instagram about what she thought seemed like an extremely inappropriate gift with purchase in her West Elm order. McFadden discovered an unmarked vial of a white powdery substance in her shipment from the retailer. She’d ordered a tray — fitting, right? — for her new home in Aspen after relocating from Chicago.

Photo: Corri McFadden

That same day, another package arrived from Pottery Barn, which, like West Elm, is owned by Williams-Sonoma, this one containing its own surprise: a partially used package of Ansul® raw tobacco, which appears to have been manufactured and potentially sold in North Delhi, India, which is where Ansul® is registered.

Having discovered two items that were not on her packing list, McFadden did what many of us would do: took to social media for help. Her stories on Instagram started off fairly benign, with McFadden simply asking, “What is this?” Things escalated as her 16,800 followers weighed in, convinced the mysterious vial is full of, drugs.

McFadden posted side-by-side comparisons of the vial she found with those that are typically full of silica to absorb moisture in mailings, along with guesses from her followers about what this tiny vial could be (“that’s crack” and “must be snow”). She eventually saved the entire series as a must-see ‘Crack is Whack’ highlight on her feed.

On Saturday, McFadden finally received a series of customer-service calls, but not before she’d called out the brand for watching her stories without reply. Pottery Barn sent her a direct message on Sunday morning saying that they were looking into it and would get back to her ASAP. “I owned a company for 15 years, I get that shit happens. And if they’d immediately sent me a DM that they’d seen my post, were going to escalate it and asked for 48 hours, I wouldn’t have continued to share,” McFadden told the Cut. “But it seems like the only way to get a company’s attention today is to be loud.”

Loud is something West Elm might be familiar with. In October, Vox published, “West Elm won over millennials. But now it’s really pissing them off,” a look at the brand’s struggles with poorly made sofas, late deliveries and rude service — all played out on social media. The story mentions a West Elm employee who said improving customer service is a priority for the company.

The customer service associates McFadden spoke to, for their part, eventually asked her to make a police report and surrender the vial to the authorities. To be clear, there’s yet to be confirmation of what the substance is; McFadden told the Cut that the vial needs to be sent to a lab in Denver for further drug analysis, and West Elm released the following statement: “We are working with Aspen authorities and expect to receive more conclusive information. Customer safety is a top priority. We have protocols throughout our supply chain to ensure customer deliveries arrive safely and are actively investigating the matter internally.”

Hey West Elm, What’s Up With This Mysterious White Powder?