A Spanish YouTuber who demanded free food for featuring a bar in a livestream has become the latest addition of the “Entitled Influencers Hall of Fame” and seemingly enraged an entire country in the process. When the bar wouldn’t gift him a $2 empanada, he threatened to send a $2,500 invoice for “promotion”—all while on camera.
Last week, YouTuber and self-proclaimed influencer Borja Escalona—35,500 subscribers on YouTube (I’ll let you decide whether that’s enough for influencer status or not)—decided to eat at the bar “A Tapa do Barril” in the city of Vigo in northern Spain. He was doing a livestream for 3,700 fans on all the free food he could get in the city because of his online following. He went in asking about the bar’s empanadillas, which in Spain is a type of empanada that is served cold, has a thick and crunchy exterior, and has simple fillings.
After chatting with the Barril employee attending him, whom he decides to call “Lucía” despite that not being her real name (it’s Rebeca, but he didn’t bother to ask), Escalona gets an empanadilla. He thoroughly enjoys it and tells his followers about the most popular flavors. When he moves to leave, Rebeca tells him that he has to pay for his food, which costs €2.30, or roughly $2.35, much to Escalona’s shock.
“Well then, now we have a problem. Then I have to charge you for this promotion that I’ve just made for you. It’s going to be a bit more expensive,” he tells Rebeca, who says Escalona can take up the matter with her boss.
The YouTuber said that he told the server that he “only eats free things” right before taking a bite out of the empanadilla. Rebeca responds that she told him that the bar would not give him free food simply because he was talking to his followers on the livestream.
“I go around showing off places and promoting them. I’m not going to pay you €2 for this,” Escalona says in the video, which had more than 164,000 views at the time of publication.
Eventually, Escalona does decide to pay, although he does so while making disgruntled faces at the camera. Rebeca apologizes, but says she’s just an employee, not the boss, and again tells him to chat with her boss about getting the empanadilla for free. In an apparent response to a comment on the livestream’s chat, in which someone said, “the reviews are coming,” Escalona told his followers to back off.
“Don’t start to put bad reviews, don’t start to put stupid things on social media,” he said.
Now, Escalona could have left it there and been done with it, but this is a YouTuber with a history of causing conflict. In 2021, he was arrested for throwing an electric shaver at a woman’s face in Madrid and sending her to the hospital.
After finishing his empanadilla, Escalona addresses the employee again.
“Here’s what’s going to happen. You all are going to get an invoice for the promotion that I just did, which will be €2.500 [roughly $2,540],” he said. “My company will send the invoice, don’t worry.”
He moves to leave, but Rebeca, who clearly sounds upset, tells him that he’s threatening her and calls him out on his bad behavior. Furthermore, she says he’s basically telling her to pay him €2.500 and is putting her job in danger. Escalona is clearly laughing at the entire situation, and defends himself by saying that he won’t be sending the invoice, his company will. The YouTuber asks if she feels threatened, to which she replies that she did, and argues that he didn’t threaten her.
“Is that a threat? I think that’s an explanation. It’s part of the negotiation with the company,” he said, prompting the employee to say that she’s not the company.
The entire encounter was available to view on Escalona’s YouTube channel in Spanish, but his account appears to have been banned. Clicking a link to the video returns the message: “This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated.”
On Tuesday, YouTube confirmed to Gizmodo that it had eliminated Escalona’s account for violating its terms of service, which prohibit folks with terminated channels from making a new channel to circumvent their suspension.
YouTube told Gizmodo that it had previously eliminated Escalona’s channel in February of 2021.
“After review, we terminated the channel for violations of YouTube’s Terms of Service. When a channel is terminated, it is against our Terms of Service to post content or use another channel to circumvent the suspension,” YouTube told Gizmodo in an emailed statement, which included a link to its community guidelines. “YouTube has clear Community Guidelines which apply to everyone.”
Escalona’s behavior quickly gained steam in Spain and by Monday had gone viral, sparking coverage in many of the country’s media outlets and becoming a trending topic on Spanish Twitter. People on social media and YouTube expressed outrage, condemning him for laughing at blue collar workers and suggesting restaurants put him on a blacklist to keep him from entering their establishments.
In a response posted to Instagram on August 10, A Tapa do Barril underlined that it had not agreed to any promotional deal with Escalona and that it had received dozens of negative reviews on Google as a result of his video from people who had never tasted its food. The bar added that it had also received many calls from people insulting it in recent days. In response to a Google review, the bar’s owner defended Rebeca and praised her response and manners.
“Of course Rebeca didn’t invite this boy to a free meal,” the owner wrote. “My employees work in the service sector, but they are not servants or targets for anyone’s jokes. At no point did he ever explain anything to Rebeca!”
A Tapa do Barril plans to report Escalona to the police, according to local outlet La Voz de Galicia.
Gizmodo reached out to Google on Monday to ask for comment on Escalona’s video, the apparent ban on his account, and whether the company had taken any action on the dozens of bad reviews that flooded A Tapa do Barril’s page after the incident. As of Tuesday, we had not received a response.
Many of the one-star reviews remain on the bar’s Google page—they directly cite Escalona’s video as reason for writing—but its rating stands 4.9 stars and appears to have been buoyed by numerous five-star reviews from the public.
Escalona responded to the controversy around his behavior on Monday, posting a livestream in which he appears to be crying, to the disbelief of many, and apologizing to “Spain in general and especially to the people from A Tapa do Barril.” The YouTuber said that he’d been on the receiving end of bullying and hate and feels unsafe leaving his house. According to Escalona, he and his wife were even kicked out of a restaurant in Madrid because the manager didn’t want “undesirables.”
“I’ve seen all sorts of comments, all sorts of threats,” Escalona said on Monday. “I’m already suffering from the bullying and tearing down of the entire country against me. I don’t think I deserve everything I’m going through, but I hope this apology works for you all, at least, to mitigate the damage I’ve done.”
Forgive me if I can only muster the world’s smallest violin. The influencer’s tantrum is the latest in the long list of people with large followings—or who think they have large followings—using their online fame to grab at freebies, causing havoc for business owners. Barbara Jones, founder and CEO of Outshine Talent, a talent management agency that works with influencers, told Gizmodo in an email that the situation elicited a “huge eye roll” from her. She said Escalona’s behavior was unprofessional and obnoxious, adding that “unfortunately, there are some influencers who can spoil it for others.”
The only way the creator economy works, Jones said, is if it’s done in a professional manner all around.
“An arrangement for barter services is OK as long as the deliverables are mutually agreed to in advance and it should be in writing. In this example, [Escalona] made the assumption that they should be lucky to have had the free promotion, but you know what happens when you assume, right?” Jones said. “What some of these influencers forget is that there is an unlimited pool of creators for these brands to work with (and growing daily), and so if you think you are untouchable or that self-important, you probably need to take a look in the mirror and reconsider your life choices.”
Update 8/16/2022, 12:30 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional comment from YouTube.