So here’s the setup: a woman buys a purse at Walmart and finds a note inside. The note claims that Chinese prisoners made the purse and that those prisoners were treated horribly. The story then went viral and caught the eye of an intrepid Vox reporter, who set out to see if the stated claims were true.
“The Walmart note followed a tradition of hidden messages found by shoppers,” author Rossalyn Warren wrote, but unfortunately, most past messages “have come under public scrutiny, as they’re often suspected of being written and planted by activists… [and the] handwriting, the language, and even the paper used for notes have pointed to activist work.”
This one was different though. For starters, Warren said, the note was handwritten in Mandarin, and included the phrase “Horse, cow, goat, pig, dog,” which is apparently a common lament of Chinese factory workers. It also included detailed allegations, claiming that prisoners were beaten, denied food, and forced to work 14-hour days.
Perhaps most importantly, however, was that it provided a specific location — “China’s Yingshan Prison” — for Warren to follow-up on. So she flew all the way to mf China and [SPOILER ALERT] found the mf prison.
“Yingshan prison, described in a note found in a Walmart handbag thousands of miles away in the US, does exist,” she wrote. “And we are standing in front of it.”
And while she couldn’t corroborate the claims in their entirety, she did find residents nearby who confirmed that clothing and accessories were made in the prison, which only strengthened the It’s Real argument.
She also found Chinese message boards that basically advertise prison labor, touting low prices, “centralized and stable” personnel, and other bonuses.
What might be the most convincing evidence, however, is that following all of this, Walmart — who refused to confirm that they used Chinese prison labor — released a statement saying that “the factory that made the purse didn’t adhere to Walmart’s standards, which stress the need for ‘labor to be voluntary’ and state that ‘slave, child, underage, forced, bonded, or indentured labor will not be tolerated.’” The statement also said that they had “cut ties” with the factory.
A real 2+2=TheyUsedStateSponsoredPrisonLabor situation, it would seem.
You can read about it at Vox.