Cat videos go viral. Hot tub salesmen do not go viral. Unless you’re Chris Wheatley.
The owner of Hot Tub Universe, serving eastern Canada, became an Internet sensation after posting an impromptu video of himself giving a scathing review of a Costco 2015 Evolution, a model he considered insufficient in so many ways that he felt compelled to warn consumers. “It was just a knee-jerk response,” said Wheatley, who began his career in the 1980s selling hot tubs at a waterbed store.
In the video, he details how shoddy insulation and chintzy plumbing are all indicators of a cheaply made hot tub. He particularly took issue with polystyrene foam pillars supporting the thin shell.
The video wound up on the popular online message board Reddit under the headline, “Holy [expletive] this guy knows a lot about hot tubs.” It racked up more than 300 comments. A write-up on the website BuzzFeed soon followed.
Perhaps no one is more perplexed by his sudden Internet fame than Wheatley. “You sit there and you shake your head and think, ‘Who the hell wants to watch that?’” he said.
The answer: Nearly 200,000 people. That’s how many YouTube views his video has received after its posting approximately four months ago.
Wheatley knows a thing or two about hot tubs that are manufactured for mass merchants. He used to make them himself. He was a co-founder of Canadian Spa Co., which supplies hot tubs to big-box retailers in the European market. Wheatley is no longer involved in the firm, but rather, is focusing on retail as a Master Spas dealer in Fall River, Nova Scotia.
He believes the level of craftsmanship has dropped dramatically since he was on the manufacturing side, which prompted him to launch Hot Tub University, a consumer advocacy website that provides “raw, unbiased” information intended to educate buyers.
“You look at the quality of the stuff that’s out there and the spin and the marketing, and it gets to the point where you’re just like ‘Enough!’” Wheatley said.