Culture

How One Woman’s $300 Balloon Mosaic Sent Tiktok Into Absolute Meltdown

It's 2020, so it's only natural that a bunch of inflatable plastic has everyone fighting.

balloon drama tiktok

With all the things in the world to possibly fight about, TikTok has somehow been taken over by the saddest, most random drama yet: Balloon Drama.

Yep, people online are quite literally fighting about balloons. Specifically, people are fighting over the custom-made balloon mosaics that Kelsey Onstott, That Balloon Girl, sells and has been advertising on her TikTok account.

Update 26/10/20: This article has been updated to include comment from Kelsey Onstott. 

Over the weekend, Onstott posted a video of her custom coloured five-foot balloon mosaic that goes for a hefty $300 USD. While making the letter ‘H’ out of pastel blue pieces of inflated plastic, the Texan balloon artist recorded a voiceover to explain her process.

The defensive audio explained that Onstott had been receiving some “weird comments” about her product as people criticised her pricing. For reference, while items like the balloon mosaic go for $300, That Balloon Girl also makes garlands at around the $400 mark, and sells single 36-inch balloons for a $60. Installation and delivery of the products are an additional fee on top.

“Someone commented on [the balloon mosaics] and said: ‘That takes less than 30 minutes to make and you can get balloons from Party City for $5’. And that’s simply not true,” the artist said. “So if anyone out there sees this and they think they can replicate this with Party City balloons and do it in less than 30 minutes, duet me. I’d love to see it.”

The TikTok, which now has over two million likes and 20 million views, was immediately met with criticism, with people noting that beyond Kelsey Onstott’s pricing being far too high, her attitude to potential customers was even worse.

“Even with my three figure income, I just would not. There’s things like this for Etsy for cheaper and the owner of the shop isn’t RUDE like you,” wrote one person. “The prices isn’t what concern me. It’s her attitude towards potential customers. VERY unprofessional,” wrote another.

Most, however, were stuck on how one single letter made out of balloons could genuinely cost $300. It was even more confusing when everyone started to believe that $300 wasn’t even to buy the product, but simply to rent it.

“Sis I saw Shawn Mendes up-close last year for $268… sum’ ain’t adding up???” questioned one. “$300?!?!?! It better play music,” said someone else.

Onstott has since confirmed with Junkee that her balloon mosaics are not a rental.

“I hand make each and every one of them from foam board using The Creative Heart template and the client gets to keep it,” she said. “The only rentals I work with are marquee letters, that light up and are made of metal. I’m not sure who started the rumour that the balloon mosaics are rentals, but there’s no validity behind that claim.”

Naturally, with these critiques flooding in, Kelsey Onstott started to become even more defensive in her replies. In response to those questioning her business and products, Onstott explained that her pricing is “based on cost of materials and labour, not based on what *you* can afford”.

So as the attitude continued, TikTok banded together to take up Onstott’s challenge to produce a similar product at a fraction of the cost, and in far less time.

Sarah’s Everyday Living was able to meeting the balloon challenge by producing both a giant letter and garland under the required $50. Even, Celebrations By Karly, another balloon artist based in Las Vegas, attempted the challenge and noted that while it is cheap to make — at around $7.54 for the materials — it simply cannot be done in under 30 minutes.

However, @1weekrush actually managed to complete his own version of the project with Home Depot supplies and Party City balloons in 38 minutes proving that “with a bit of practice, it could be done in 30 [minutes] with better materials than moving boxes and scissors”.

Speaking to Junkee, Onstott explained that while she definitely expected people to take up her challenge, these duets just prove her point.

“It can’t be done in under 30 minutes and none of them are comparable to mine,” Onstott said. “I stand by what I said in my video — it can’t be done. You can’t make an 18-inch tall mosaic and say ‘TA-DA, I DID IT’. No sweetie, you didn’t. People have no concept of how large the balloon mosaic is.”

With more and more people begun interacting with Onstott’s original video and creating their own versions and dueting That Balloon Girl, the ‘H’ mosaic TikTok was pushed on For You pages across the app.

As a result, the whole debacle quickly became a huge thing, and “Balloon Drama TikTok” even turned into its own sub-section on the app with people just revelling in the pettiness of it all.

But That Balloon Girl shared that she has no intentions on leaving TikTok or amending her pricing due to the trolls.

“I’m not scared of the trolls with the hateful comments. They must not realise that I’m part of the Creator Fund and I’m making literal money from all the attention,” she told Junkee. “Why would I amend my pricing just because random teenagers have no concept of the value of time and money? My pricing is based on cost of materials and labour, not on what others can afford.”

While the whole thing is funny because of just how ridiculous it all is, it’s true that that Kelsey Onstott’s pricing isn’t actually that outlandish. Between materials, time spent and general overhead costs, $300 is pretty spot on.

Some even came to the balloon artists defence, explaining that the only reason people think that Onstott’s pieces are overpriced is because “they’re all kids with no money”.

“Do you think these rich people want to spend their entire day getting balloons and blowing them up and putting them in a letter that’s just one decoration of dozens at their event?,” TikTok user Rob Anderson said. “You can do it because you have all the time, you guys just jerk off all day so this seems like nothing. Get a grip!”

The wider problem, however is more Kelsey Onstott’s attitude and defensiveness over her prices. It’s fine to charge a premium price for a premium product, but choosing to challenge people who are curious about your prices instead of just explaining your process seems like a strange choice for a business owner.

According to the That Balloon Girl website, Onstott left her six-figure corporate job to “play” with balloons full-time, which she calls the “best decision” she’s ever made.

While chatting to BuzzFeed, Onstott explained that her defensiveness merely came from pouring her “blood, sweat, and tears” into the business.

Acknowledging that the challenge can be done, Onstott understands that her target market isn’t people on TikTok but rather clients who don’t have the spare time to undertake the DIY project themselves.

“My clients don’t find my prices shocking, and I’ve sold so many of these mosaics. I’ve probably sold over 50 of them, and nobody bats an eye,” she continued. “As long as I have paying customers who continue to come back to me, that’s what I care about.”

“I am not concerned that the drama will have any impact on my business. Many of my clients are business owners and entrepreneurs, and have all come to my defence.” Onstott shared with Junkee. ” Plus after the influx of attention on the mosaics, I now have four of them going out to customers this weekend all with the infamous blue colour scheme.”

So there you have it, Balloon Drama TikTok truly is a wild, wild place.