I'm a big fan of Instagram, and an even bigger fan of what Instagram influencers are getting up to. And recently what they've been getting up to is jumping on hotel beds.
It's happening in Dubai, it's happening in America, and it's happening here. New Zealand's own Eden Coleman, who has over 50,000 followers, took part earlier this year. "A BIG thanks to @hotelbedjumping_community, so happy I won your comp!" she wrote on April 30. "It feels great to be involved with a charity who have partnered with #jumpforkids which featured on @theellenshow!"
I was very aware that "Hotel Bed Jumping" was a weird annoying internet thing a decade ago, but had never heard of the Hotel Bed Jumping Community, a real thing that exists on Instagram in 2019.
They boast around 26,000 followers, billing themselves on Instagram as a "Travel Agency". They also claim to donate mattresses to homeless children's shelters.
The thing is, the page is tonally quite weird - a combination of stock hotel room photos and stock models....
... as well as photos of "influencers" who have submitted photos:
And amongst all that, a variety of sick-looking kid stock photos:
The captions under the sick kid photos serve as a reminder that the Hotel Bed Jumping Community is some kind of charity. "We're extremely proud to be a part of this amazing cause and helping homeless kids in desperate need of a shelter," they write.
Another caption reads "We have been providing FREE hotel rooms to followers to capture content to put towards the #jumpforkids campaign".
By this point, I suspected something fishy was going on with this account. Because in my experience when you combine stock photos, charities, and influencers in hotel rooms, something weird is usually going on.
Now the #jumpforkids campaign is a real thing, an initiative set up by Puffy Beds which does have the high distinction of having appeared on Ellen. According to their website and this tweet, for every 100 social media posts tagged with #jumpforkids, Puffy will donate a mattress to a homeless shelter.
Curious, I began talking with some influencers contacted by @hotelbedjumping_community to see what Hotel Bed Jumping's pitch was. It went something like this:
Nowhere does Tanya from TPT Marketing mention the mattress company they are collaborating with: I only found out by looking into the #jumpforkids hashtag which links up with the initiative by Puffy Beds. So I asked Puffy Beds if there was any kind of collaboration going on. There wasn't.
Hotel Bed Jumping Community also talks a lot about "teaming up" with hotels, including Auckland's Mercure:
I reached out to the Mercure, who told me, "There wasn't a formal agreement. We were asked by Hotel Bed Jumping if we wanted to give away rooms as part of a competition, which they run regularly on their account and we offered two room nights."
"We provided the room night vouchers but didn't have any other involvement in the running of the competition. This was not a collab."
So, what are the Hotel Bed Jumping Community up to? Who are they? Where are they? Their first post was made way back in 2015, so they've been going for a while.
Mainly, I was curious about their endgame. On their account, they claim to have given away 48 mattresses which would mean they'd have had to generate 4,800 #jumpforkids hashtags. With only 627 posts, it seems unlikely they would've featured the 4,800 hashtags needed.
Despite being billed as a "travel agency", they also seem to like raising money. There is currently a GoFundMe page, run by a Tanya Wilkinson who has made zero donations and started zero campaigns (besides this one):
So far it has raised zero dollars. According to their Instagram saved stories, someone did make a payment using PayPal:
At this point, I'd tried emailing and DMing Hotel Bed Jumping but hadn't gotten a reply. So I decided to leave a comment on their Instagram and they actually got in touch pretty quickly. Apparently, my email and DMs hadn't gotten through. Finally, I could ask them some questions directly.
"I'm Gemma from TPT Marketing," they replied. "Tanya is our marketing director". Our conversation was meandering and a little frustrating, but I did find out that TPT apparently stood for "The Premier Team".
"We are a small marketing company based out of Australia." There was no trace of them on any Australian Business register.
I told Gemma I was trying to establish if they were real or not, so I asked if I could get her surname or even just a website. Anything to help prove this was a real thing. I was unsuccessful. "For legal reasons and privacy constraints within our conditions of employment we will not be offering any surnames," Gemma said.
"We are not interested in engaging in any form of media engagement." I asked them about their Puffy Beds relationship. "We are not currently working with Puffy Mattresses and haven't for roughly 24 months."
"Since then a locally family-owned mattress company has come on board and has offered to donate a mattress to kids in need for the content we capture. They donated 30 initially and the other 18 have been donated through the content we've captured."
I asked for the name of the company. I just wanted one fact I could verify as true. "We would need to attain their consent," Gemma replied. I asked about the GoFundMe and where the money was going (assuming any was raised).
"We can tell you who we intend on donating to, when the time comes." Foiled again!
I reached out to many of the influencers on Instagram who'd taken part and was eventually provided with a typical recruitment email sent out to a participant. It provided good insight into the content "TPT Marketing" wanted:
"What we are looking for is around 10-15 minutes of bed jumping footage to help us with our youtube channel and its launch... it doesn't have to be one big video it can be broken down into 1-2 minute videos x10 if this is easier, or perhaps just leave the camera running for 30 minutes.
"For the footage we also request a few different outfits... eg gym gear with shoes on, or just some casual outfits... shirts/jean, cocktail dress, whatever you feel comfortable in.
"The camera angle - we need the whole bed/bed base fully visible along with the person jumping, we also ask there is little to no background music but the footage must contain sound and be unedited, besides that, your free to jump up and down, bellyflop, flip and seat-drop as much as you like.
"As mentioned, feel free to get girlfriends/colleagues involved".
One of the influencers was thinking what I was thinking. Entirely unconfirmed, but just a sneaking suspicion: "I think it's most likely a fetish disguised as a charity," one participant wrote to me on Instagram. "They offered me money for videos", they added, before emailing me a screenshotted DM:
I asked Gemma at TPT marketing if they had ever offered to pay models for content. "We have never offered any money exchanges in regards to capturing content".
"If we see any articles on your blog that are in a negative view or a factually incorrect and are based on assumptions or opinions but are published we will be acting accordingly."
Hotel Bed Jumping is a strange world. Unverifiable names, supposed competitions, and ultimately a desire to gather as much footage as possible of a sort-of-innocent-but-is-it-something-else activity.
There is no giant scandal to be found here. No-one is getting hurt. What we have is a really good example of how strange influencer culture has become.
I mean, you have a bunch of influencers that jump at the phrase "free hotel room" and "charity". Then you have hotel chains happy to give away rooms to a "Travel Agency" that appears to be nothing more than an Instagram account with 26,000 followers.
Hypothetically, if I was someone who wanted footage of women jumping on beds, I'd probably do exactly what TPT Marketing has done. And suddenly I'd be getting free hotel rooms to offer to 'influencers', in exchange for them filming themselves and sending me the footage. And I'd be doing all this in plain sight because the social media influencer scene is so cooked. No one would even blink an eye.
I checked my DMs again, and there were some new ones from @hotelbedjumping_community. They said they were aware I'd been making inquiries and were upset I'd voiced my suspicions to participants. "We'll be obtaining this information in its hard copy and be passing onto the relevant parties if need be.
"Should you pursue with your article and publish it we will be taking action."
Quite a strong reaction from an Instagram account that really loves jumping on hotel beds.
David Farrier is an investigative journalist and a contributing writer for The Spinoff.