“People of Walmart” Proves that Stupidity Sells

Walmart Marketing

Yet another website for the simple-minded – for those who, in the absence of something better to do with their own lives have decided to mock their contemporaries. A sad example of a world gone ‘stupid’ – that’s what People of Walmart (peopleofwalmart.com) is and stands for in my view. The site portrays not the misery of those whose lives are exposed without license as intended, but the stupidity and ignorance of its creators. Publishing defamatory content under the premise that doing so is “free speech” is plain wrong. Mocking people who don’t know how to dress is not a proof of better education or higher IQ. But unfortunately stupidity sells and the masses are always attracted to hubs of social-trash like “People of Walmart.” You will not see the trash in the pictures published on the site, no. The trash is in the comments, and behind the scenes…

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The name of the site will fool you: People of Walmart is not about Walmart’s employees or owners. Unfortunately the site pokes fun at the poor and the ugly, people who obviously cannot afford to go shopping somewhere else. Some of these people have no sense of fashion whatsoever – maybe they cannot afford better clothes, maybe they don’t know how to dress for certain occasions. Lack of education and common sense are the reasons why they appear in public wearing the wrong clothes, with a bad hairdo… Lack of respect and empathy is why People of Walmart was born. Let me get this clear: what makes it all right to publish on the Internet pictures of people you know nothing about?

“We are trying to have some fun here and there is a difference between someone who is mentally challenged and a person who has a fu Manchu and is still rocking MC Hammer pants.” – states the About page of the site.

There are different types of “mental” challenges in my opinion – and someone who creates a site that will definitely hurt many peoples’ feelings is no better than “a person who has a fu Manchu and is still rocking MC Hammer pants.”

The identity of those who created “People of Walmart” remains relatively anonymous. I guess it is easy to create something designed to offend and slander hiding behind the right to free speech and anonymity. These guys have somehow got the strange idea that their lives are worthier than those of the “people of Walmart” they ridicule so much. I say they are cowards who will eventually end up like Rosemary Port.

For creating a site that does nothing useful for society, for hiding like cowardly teens behind a wall of “privacy”, for misunderstanding what free speech means and for being even more pitiful than those who they try to ridicule, the creators of “People of Walmart” get a well-deserved PR Goofy Award.

And even while this stupidity sells, PR agencies are working with Walmart.  Among the many agencies on Walmart’s roster:  Golin Harris, Porter Novelli, Cohn & Wolfe, Mercury Public Affairs, Edelman, and Dentsu Communications. Surely, there’s even more.  

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Comments

  1. Ramak Fazel says

    I can’t help feel that part of the social “culture” that People of Walmart highlights has developed by design. Walmart employees themselves are often less polished than their contemporaries in other big box retailers. Walmart allows it’s customers to come barefoot, they allow overnight parking in their parking lots (private property). Think about this…. overnight parking and sleeping in your camper/car/van is prohibited in most public spaces. In this context Walmart is filling a void left by inadequate public services. I think Walmart serves a public function larger than that of a cheap retailer. It’s a modern day public square where all are welcome to come as they wish. Walmart the corporation is providing an incentive for it’s shoppers to dress/behave/act in an almost “theatrical” way. Seeing a barefooted guy with no shirt shopping for depend diapers underscores their corporate mantra of “less for more”. Why shop anywhere else?

  2. says

    We have no idea to the sexual orientation, the financial backgrounds, education level, etc of these people. The site, I believe, is just pointing out that people (of all classes) can do stupid stuff, wear crazy clothes, etc. I’m laughing “with” them not “at” them. Lighten up folks.

    • Phil Butler says

      Dave, We all laugh silently sometimes at the “ruffledness” of one another. The problem is in announcing a bad hair day or a pimple to the entire High School student population. Who’s expense are we talking about here?

      A site dedicated to offering up what appear to be “limited” or curtailed human beings is not exactly what I would call a “good” site. It is meant to engage that part of us which should really be subdued. We are humans all of us, and I think the less we poke fun at the wrong characteristics, the better off we will all be. What this site is doing is no better than casting a negative spotlight on people because they are black, white, rich or poor, or because they come from this place or that.

      It is a form of broadcasting bigotry and intollerance. Just my thoughts, but in the end, I know I am right on this one. Imagine this for a second. Some guy you spotlight and paint as some funny characature in WalMart has just returned from Iraq. He won the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the lives of his comrades. In that process, and invisible to yours or someone else’s camera, the man was struck dumb by a series of horrific munitions explosions and gunfire. The likes of which I might add, anyone on this publication cannot ever imagine. He goes to Walmart in his every day, now plodding existence, humbled before all of humanity (and perhaps unknowingly because he cannot afford the Internet on his meager Army disability check).

      I know that will not bring a tear to your eye, or the eyes of anyone who frequents this site, but it is happening in some form. We are sometimes guilty of poking fun at busineses, and even sometimes individuals in those businesses. However, we are casting ideas, opinions and data in the direction of what they actually “can” alter. Directly engaging them through this and other mediums. The equivalent of meeting them face to face and telling them something may not look or actually be right. And admitting when we are wrong.

      This is not anything like what is going on at The People of Walmart. I do not know if I have made this concept clear, but I hope so. Engaging the capable and the defenseless are two different ideas of morality and honor. The line is obscured sometimes, but not really so much.

      Always,
      Phil

  3. FrankB says

    Mihaela,
    You sure make a lot of assumptions. You ridicule the creators of the site for poking fun at the people in the pictures, but you refer to the same people as being “poor and ugly”, having “no sense of fashion whatsoever”, and having a “lack of education and common sense”, among other things.
    What makes you think they are poor, ugly, etc? Your own sense of superiority I suppose. I bet if you were to talk to some of these people they would probably tell you how good they think they look. That’s their right to think so, and other peoples right to chuckle about it.
    Have a little sense of humor and stop being such a hypocrite.

    • Mihaela Lica says

      Frank, I have the feeling that the one with a sense of superiority greater than great just called me a hypocrite. ;)

  4. MattM says

    Why is it such a big deal that people made a website poking fun at people still stuck in 1983 and the types of crap people still have on their cars? Stop being so politically correct that you lose a sense of humor about things. As the great Robert Zimmerman once wrote, “the times, they are a-changing,” and with that change comes new era’s in fashion and what is deemed hilarious. You can’t tell me if you were stuck in an elevator with someone with a mullet, white beater (wife beater) and jhorts (cut off jean shorts for you uneducated types), wouldn’t seem a little out of place in 2009? You’d think to yourself, “When the hell am I going to get off this elevator with this weirdo.”

    and there is no explanation (rich, poor, retarded, etc.) for some of the people on that website. Like a guy with long hair wearing yellow go-go boots that rise up to his yellow short-shorts? Seriously? That dude is just begging for attention, as are half of the people on that website. So, we give them what they need.

    • Mihaela Lica says

      You ask the right questions, Matt… but let me ask you another one: why are people so obsessed with making fun of other people? Is there nothing else going on in their lives, worthy of attention? Are there no other causes in this world that deserve the fuss?

      Trust me Matt, I see weirdos every day and I do judge, and laugh sometimes. I am no saint. But I will never take a picture of them and publish it for millions to see. It’s mean to laugh at others, and we are not supposed to be the judges of anybody. Yet we still do it – in my defense, at least I am not enjoying it and I am not trying to capitalize on it.

      Believe me, there are examples worse than anything yet published on that site in the subway in Paris or Berlin…

      As for giving people what they need… I will believe that when “People of Walmart” will have a disclosure under every single picture saying: “Published with permission.”

  5. j beezly says

    Your use of the word retarded to describe a defamatory website absolutely tarnished any credibility your argument initially had. You disappoint me, Mihaela. I will end this note without needlessly insulting yourself, your family or friends, something you have not done.

    • Mihaela Lica says

      I did not use the word retarded to describe a website. I used it to describe a state of facts. It’s not used derogatory – it’s a literary license and it translates as I already mentioned above. Of course, literature is not the strength of all my readers, I understand how and why you are disappointed. But your interpretation is erroneous.

  6. Jason says

    I love that you took the time to write this article to give even MORE publicity to the site. I actually found the site using your article. Kudos! And way to take a stance on supporting the mentally challenged, that’s a very brave, controversial position you’ve taken. I read the article you linked to in Time and the creators actually have a policy not to include pictures of the disabled (maybe you should read the articles you link to). So there’s a site that makes fun of people who shop at Wal-Mart. Big deal. This one’s actually pretty tame and no worse than any particular Jay Leno monologue (if you want to get up in arms about disturbing website, a quick search found one web site that has a directory of other sick sites like smyw.com that asks people to send pictures of their wounds). In the age of camera phones, if you go to a public place wearing see-through pants or a sweatshirt with a Nazi swastika on it (both featured on the website; I’m sorry, maybe that Nazi shirt was that all that poor girl could afford), you take the risk of having your picture taken and shared with others. So maybe don’t waste so much time feeling morally superior, since if one of these cats sat next to you at a restaurant you’d likely be commenting on it anyway. I don’t make a whole lot of money myself, but if I show up at McDonald’s wearing a “Who Farted?” t-shirt and my butt hanging out of my jeans, well, I’m not going to be surprised if that shows up on a website somewhere.

    • Phil Butler says

      Jason,

      It is easy to see you are a caring and intelligent person. We took the time becuase, though it is natural to chuckle sometimes when either we ourselves or someone else busts the fashion bug up side the head, it is a little bit of a different thing to publish the people on a medium where millions can ridicule them as well. As for what I laugh at for a moment (and then sometimes feel conscience about and hate myself for it) that is none of anyone’s business. Posting pics of people who may not own a decent shirt, that is another.

      You see, the difference between all of us is in our ability to control or minimize the negative side. We all have the same faults you know. The difference between a good person, and one who is just not there yet, is in their ability to act like a big person, rather than a small one. We are given the choice every day, sometimes many times, to decide if we will be big or small. More often, we decide it is okay to be shallow and mean. This is just a fact of our existence. We talk about it here all the time. If knowing this, trying to act on it (although sometimes pitifully), and expressing it to others is morally superior – well, then we are. I do not however think this is the case.

      Sure if the cats sat next to us at a restaurant, we would likely make a comment between ourselves. But, we would not take a picture and post it to this news site laughing our asses off as if we did something meaningful. I do not blame the guys who made this site myself, so much as I blame people just like you who will obviously not only enjoy the site, but go to sites to comment about how it is morally okay. The creators of the site made it to satisfy a need, ease a point of pain – the one on the Internet where millions of people just want to be tacky and crude and mean. Sorry, but that is my take.

      Always,
      Phil

  7. Jimmy says

    Limitations to freedom of speech may follow the “harm principle” or the “offense principle”

    For example – using the word retarded in a pejorative nad derogatory manner??

    • Mihaela Lica says

      It depends how you use it. If you tell someone: you are retarded, then yes, that is derogatory.

      However, in my article, (see, I get what you are insinuating) the word is used to build a metaphor that suggests that instead of progressing the contemporary society takes more joy in mocking the less fortunate. Instead of striving to learn something new, society displays the intelligence of the medieval mobs.

    • Phil Butler says

      Jimmy, I cannot help but compliment you on your ability to hen peck the slightest speck of text which might suggest we are no better than the editors of the Walmart site. Bravo! Retardation is however, not necessarily a bad term to use if the shoe fits. Say for instance that these people have morals, or ideals which have somehow falling into the sewer where their constituency lives. This could be considered both progressive and retarded at the same time. We are not talking about people who have been afflicted with a form of retardation, but some who have a retarded growth as human beings. One cannot categorically say one has grown or progressed, when their mentality and ideology is tantamount to being cast back somewhere with the Sodomites.

      Mihaela damn well meant to be derogatory I think. What is wrong with that? If the shoe fits, then wear it. As for making fun of the indigent and helpless, well that is another can of worms these guys opened, not Mihaela. They are able to defend themselves aren’t they? But then, what with? Oh! The age old free speech thingy. Well, I suggest you go into a crowded movie theater and start screaming FIRE. Then you will see the limits of free speech my friend. Nothing is free, there is a cost, and I think Mihaela has tried to exact part of it, her opinion.

      Always,
      Phil

  8. JRI says

    What do you mean by “misunderstanding what free speech means”? What do you think free speech means?

    • Mihaela Lica says

      You have a pretty good explanation here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Speech

      Let me quote:

      Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship or limitation.

      … however:

      In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on “hate speech”.

      According to the Freedom Forum Organization, legal systems, and society at large, recognize limits on the freedom of speech, particularly when freedom of speech conflicts with other values or rights.[21] Limitations to freedom of speech may follow the “harm principle” or the “offense principle”, for example in the case of pornography or “hate speech”.[22] Limitations to freedom of speech may occur through legal sanction and/or social disapprobation.

    • Mihaela Lica says

      Thank you for the heads-up, Jessica. It happens to people who are not English natives to make such mistakes. It’s a good thing to have kind, considerate and tolerant people to point out our errors in such a polite manner (!). It’s also a great thing to see the grammar police at work – at least some people still care for things that really matter (like preserving a correct language). Too bad that you are not in charge of what goes into the English dictionary!

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