Here’s a free travel plug we’re pleased to give. The next time you’re in Los Angeles, make sure you stop by the CVT soft serve ice cream truck.

Their business has gone viral for standing up to “influencers.” Any influencer who shows up at CVT asking for a free ice cream in exchange for a plug will be charged double.

In a classic case of sweet irony, the whole world now knows about this truck.

For those unfamiliar with this online trend, individuals become internet stars by building a following on social media. They then hit up “fun” businesses — such as an ice cream truck — and promise to post their picture in exchange for a free product. The post will be seen be tens of thousands of followers.

This sounds like professional begging.

Sadly, this is an attempt to replace traditional and ethical forms of advertising.

Influencing is fine when it happens by chance. An Ottawa bakery visited by U.S. President Barack Obama during a 2009 visit to our nation’s capital resulted in lineups down the street the next day. Restaurants benefit when they’re featured on programs such as “You’ve Got To Eat Here.”

The difference is, Obama paid for his own cookie. Producers of the reality television show don’t accept kickbacks (as far as we can tell) to feature certain establishments.

It’s open to debate how effective influencers are on boosting the profile of any business. Our guess is most people take it with a grain of salt.

The internet is an effective tool, but, as with anything, people have found a way to use it to their advantage.

Trip Advisor and Google reviews have their place, but businesses can get stung by negative reviews that are simply untrue.

A local businessman — one of the most salt-of-the-earth men in the valley — ran into a twentysomething full of attitude who didn’t like being told parking stalls were for customers. Her revenge — a fake review that was not factual and libelous.

She showed him.

Some business owners have been known to get their network of friends to post positive reviews even though they might not be real customers. All those five-star reviews look good, never mind who posted them.

Let’s hope the trend of influencing and phoney reviews is a short-lived fad. While some may believe there’s no truth in advertising — at least traditional advertising is moral and honest.

James Miller is valley editor for Okanagan Newspaper Group