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The cost of being TikTok’s condiment king, tallied

A man stands at an order window at a fast-food restaurant.
Sam Pocker is trying to make it big as a conceptual artist on TikTok — but his work is resource-intensive, time-consuming and currently losing him money.
(Brian Contreras / Los Angeles Times)

For some people, social media is a much-needed distraction from the workday. For others, it is the workday. Estimates value the creator economy at $20 billion to $100 billion, and as influencer-friendly business models go mainstream and the pandemic normalizes online work, that number probably will continue growing.

A Hollywood-based artist who’s trying to make it big on TikTok, Sam Pocker told The Times that he would “like to be able to get to a point that [he] can do the TikTok as a full-time gig.”

But despite repeatedly going viral, Pocker’s fast-food-themed comedy videos are so resource-intensive that his TikTok account is currently losing him money. From bribing a 7-Eleven employee $5 for extra pizza boxes to spending an estimated $3,000 on gas last year, his viral fame is proving quite costly.

A man holds packets of various sauces.
A bag of assorted Chick-fil-A sauces comes out to a flat $5, pretax, for Sam Pocker — one of the many expenses he might incur during a day of work.
(Brian Contreras / Los Angeles Times)

In October, Pocker tracked a week’s worth of his TikTok-related expenses for The Times. What follows is a record of that period:

Saturday

  • $17.41 at Taco Bell for two videos in which he crushes hard-shell tacos by hand (1,640 views and 95 likes)

Sunday

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Monday

  • No new expenses

Tuesday

  • $41 at Jack in the Box for supplies to make five videos — two in which he assembles an oversized sandwich (1,742 views and 113 likes) and three satirizing popular TikTok foodie Emily Mariko (1,649 views and 114 likes)

Wednesday

  • $3.29 at Jack in the Box for a video in which he dumps different sauces on tacos (616 views and 16 likes)
  • $4.50 at Taco Bell for two more sauces-dumped-on-tacos videos (4,113 views and 108 likes)
  • $5.45 at Burger King for two videos in which he shoots dipping sauce into and onto chicken nuggets with a syringe (2,015 views and 75 likes)
Sam Pocker is trying to make it big as a conceptual artist on TikTok.
Scrolling past one of Pocker’s TikTok videos, it can be easy to forget that it probably cost him money to make — potentially quite a bit.
(Brian Contreras / Los Angeles Times)

Thursday

  • No new expenses

Friday

  • $8.75 at Burger King for a video in which he covers a hamburger in sauces (941 views and 55 likes)

Saturday

  • $9 at Smart & Final for mayonnaise packets (no video made)
  • $10.21 at 7-Eleven and $3 at ampm to make five videos for the #OneSliceChallenge, a TikTok trend sponsored by 7-Eleven (15,480 views and 1,271 likes)

Pocker spent a total of $134.71 over these eight days. The videos he made got 1,926 likes and 29,882 views, for a total cost of about seven cents per like and just under half a cent per view.

The day before he began recording this log, on Oct. 1, Pocker received a $160.71 payout from the TikTok Creator Fund. His next payout wouldn’t arrive until Nov. 1 — leaving him with just $26 to fund three more weeks of video production.


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