Mailbag: 'Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank'"

I still get email just about every single week about the Wal-Mart Story.

On average, I'd say 90% of it ranges from positive to extremely positive, while 9% of it consists of "Bullshit!" and "No way this happened!" and "If it did, it'd be on the news!" They tend to miss the bits that explain that a) the event happened in 1996 and b) it WAS in the news.

Then, there's that 1% of mouth-breathing internet sleuths who feel that it's their moral responsibility to be as huge a hard-on about things as possible, and then they read my story and for a time, I'm the sole focus of their discharge.

Which leads me to AJ:

SUBJECT: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: AJ [email withheld]
DATE: 01.27.2008 8:12 AM

Hello -

I recently stumbled upon your "Wal Mart Prank" website (at http://www.zug.com/pranks/walmart/index.html). I thought it was generally hillarious, but the fact that it ended with Wal Mart losing a significant amount of money and being open to lawsuits (people tend to sue when exposed to German shit porn, it's weird, but it happens), I thought it was sort of mean spirited, really.

I have taken the liberty of forwarding the URL of your account of the prank to the Wal Mart corporate offices. Maybe they'll think it was funny too, I don't know.

Still, kudos on your revenge.

- a.
"Conservative say: there ain't no black in the union jack / Democrat say: there ain't enough white in the stars and stripes" - The Manic Street Preachers, "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart"

Wow. I mean...


What do you say to that? Wait, I know:

SUBJECT: RE: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: Joe [you already know how to reach me]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:02 AM

Thanks, AJ! I appreciate your wanting to "clue them in," but they've been "clued in" over the past 5 years, as that story was written and published in 2003 and is quite old here n the grand old interwebs. Additionally, the actual incident happened in 1996, and there was quite a bit of recourse discussed and taken. They've even asked me not very politely to remove the story from my site (and others) repeatedly. I'm fairly certain they already know.

But thanks for being so diligent on the behalf of the colossal corporation who woefully underpays migrant labor and physically locks them in fulfillment warehouses, to the point where a woman had a heart attack and no one could open the padlocks on the fire exits to allow emergency services to get to her. They were also single-handedly responsible for the demise of the old Huffy corporation and are the reason you can't find a single-owner / non-chain food or supply store within 20 miles of any town above 50,000 in population. But good on you for keeping those guys up to date on old information.

You may wish to explore the Zapruder film next... Let the government know that Kennedy was shot. They'll appreciate the hot tip.

Hope you have a great one.

Joe Peacock
(my email sig)

Not that I would ever want to discourage anyone reading my stories - or from the act of reading in general... But really, is it too much to ask for people to PLEASE comprehend what they're reading? Or at the very least, have a bit of common sense about it?


Within one minute of my pushing "publish" on this here bloggy thing, AJ wrote back:

SUBJECT: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: AJ [email withheld]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:18 AM

It's not really that I am in the service of large and particularly evil corporations. It's more a sort of vigilante quest to rid the world of self-important jackasses who blog about how they "stick it to the man" via petty and childish acts of revenge on people whom he considers inferior for working in Wal Mart.

Ah, but we were all young once. I bet you sit at a desk now, and get to look down on a completely new class of people.

My sincere apologies for not knowing about your little essay when it was first posted on the internet. I remember back in 1996 when everyone was talking about you, and there were all those front page stories in all of the national newspapers. I guess it was really my loss, really. I look forward to reading anything else you've written. Have you ever felt a sense of smug self-importance about any other minimum wage occupations? I'd love to hear about it.

All My Love,

Somehow, I don't think he really sent me ALL his love in that email. I think he was withholding... You know, skimming from the top, and handing me the leftovers. Anyway, I would have just ignored it, but I couldn't help lowering myself into this narrow little gutter of email bickering... It's been so long since I've had a good Tête à Tête on the internête:

SUBJECT: RE: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: Joe [you already know how to reach me]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:38 AM (I had to get some cereal, hence the delay)

Well, how to answer this...

First, regarding all the media coverage in 1996, the event was in the local papers here, but I'm sure it didn't reach you because the national media - at least back then - knew exactly how much relevance an event like this had... Meaning not all that much.

Second, as far as my having other minimum wage jobs I like to be smug about - I sure do! As it happens, I think that I'm particularly superior to internet vigilantes! I tend to think my overall social rank is higher, my level of intelligence is greater, and my reading comprehension skills and level of common sense tops theirs by a rather large amount. So far, no communication with such individuals have proven me wrong... Who knows, maybe one will surprise me one day. Time will tell.

And no, I don't sit at a desk. I prefer to do my self-important work from bed... Why bother to even get up?

Anyway, good luck with your task of cleansing ego from peoples' personal webspaces. You do know, AJ, there's a far easier and probably healthier solution to your perceived problem... You could just... You know...

Not read any of it.

But somehow, I doubt you'll see that as a fair fix. Somehow - and I'm basing this solely on my smug perception of your chosen profession - you'll want to dismiss any logic-based courses of action and, instead, fire off another hot-headed email full of diligence and "I'm going to save the world from this self-important guy!" And you'll spend even more resources on a Sunday morning attempting to fufill this task, giving me more and more material for my personal blog (which, by the way, I thank you for - I was stuck on what to write today... Maybe there IS some function to what you do after all).

Take care,

Joe Peacock

** Update Again **

You know what? AJ isn't such a bad guy after all.

SUBJECT: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: AJ [email withheld]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:54 AM

'Round and round it goes. Have you ever noticed that everyone is always right? At least, they seem to assert that they are always right. I think the internet is rather dangerous in that it gives everyone a rather over inflated sense of whatever it is that people do with their computers. Porn or something. It can't be healthy for one's ego.

I am not entirely certain what I can contribute to your blog. You seem to be bemused by the fact that I am reading something that's old, yet that's what happens when you put something on the internet and don't remove it. People stumble upon it and read it. Again, my apologies for not sending you an e-mail way back when so that I could call you an asshole in a more timely manner. It really does seem rude of me to read something and then contact the person whose name is on it. I suppose that being a dick isn't the best form of criticism, but it is funny to me. If I had a blog, I would write something funny about all of this there, but I want to see how long you are willing to respond to my e-mails.

Seriously though, me being a dick aside.......the overall tone of the Wal Mart piece was rather self-absorbed. I don't know if this was purposely exaggerated for comic value, but it does ruin the whole story when the guy you are suppose to be rooting for begins his tale by talking about how much better he is than everyone else involved. You should have portrayed yourself as the friendly new guy, struggling to get along with your coworkers but somehow never accepted. As it is, I don't think the reader feels much sympathy when it is revealed that they all conspired to have you fired. You kind of come off as a dick. If I worked with you, I'd probably try to fuck with you too.

And I still maintain that it's just mean to subject innocent bystanders to shit porn. Damn. Just damn.

Oh, I suppose you are right. I could just not read it. But you know how it goes, you're clicking around on the internet, you see something, and you have to actually read it to know what the hell it is, since the internet relies fairly heavily on text. To your credit as a writer, I was entertained enough to continue on to the second paragraph, but then I just kept going out of morbid curiosity, and in the end I was just mad that it didn't really go anywhere. That's probably why I'm writing these hot-headed e-mails. I can't very well ask for my money back, can I?

I hope this helps your funny website.

Hugs and kisses,


SUBJECT: RE: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: Joe [you already know how to reach me]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:38 AM (I had to get some cereal, hence the delay)

See, now THIS is a tone I can communicate with. Thank you.

There are a few things playing to the tone in the Wal-Mart story, and because you took the time to share your opinion of both the action and the literary qualities of the piece, I'll share with you my perception of it:

1) I was just "starting" with writing when I wrote that story. I didn't even know I was going to end up making a book or turning this into a career - in fact, I don't think the term "Blog" had even been invented yet. I was just trying to get a laugh out of my audience at the time - which consisted of my circle of friends and a few folks each of them knew, and that's all. So the tone suffers a bit from lack of experience in communicating #2:

2) I was going for an unsympathetic "characterization" of myself, because I truly was a dick. I was a young, impetuous teenager who - like all teenagers, impetuous or not - felt the world owed him something. I worked at Wal-Mart, and I honestly did take the job seriously... But once I discovered the other employees screwed me over, I got smug. The story is told from the vantage point of someone who feels completely justified with themselves and their actions, regardless of how shitty. Because that's how I felt at the time... Both after the event, and while writing it (although, when I wrote it, there was much more self-awareness playing into it and I realized that, even though I still amuse myself thinking about what I did, there was certainly a "dick" or "asshole" factor playing into what I'd done [which is why I portrayed myself so unsympathetically - joe]).

So, you have a newish writer playing with communicating tone and theme through an event that truly was assholish - yet, still to this day I believe justified.

And with the portion of your reply that explained why you emailed me and acted the way you did, you won me over - because that's precisely why I emailed you back and put you on my blog. It made ME laugh.

I suspect that, if this were happening in real life, this latest reply-exchange would be the beers we were laughing over as we figured out that we're really the same sorts of guy and didn't need to punch each other in the parking lot to find out.

With that, my friend, I'm going to bid you a fond adieu, and offer to send you a book if you'd like one. That would involve sending me your mailing address, and I know that - if it were me - I'd probably be hesitant, so I'll point you to the Google books version:


I hope you enjoy it.


To close it all out, he's accepting my offer of a book, and I'm looking forward to hearing back from him on what he thinks of it.

Ahh, the internet... Bringing people closer together through digital vitrol.