By Nina Golgowski
An Arizona woman’s purchase has weighed on her conscience ever since she discovered a chilling note folded up inside, she says.
Christel Wallace opened a zippered pouch in her new Walmart handbag in March and found a mysterious note written in Chinese, The Arizona Daily Star reported on Saturday.
After her daughter-in-law helped her locate a translator, Wallace learned the note was a cry for help describing conditions at a prison in Guangxi, China.
The unidentified person said prisoners work 14-hour days without breaks, endure beatings for unfinished work, and have medical treatment docked from their already-meager pay.
“Being a prisoner in China is even worse than being a horse, cow, sheep, pig or dog in the U.S.,” reads the letter, translated by HuffPost.
“My heart went into my stomach,” Wallace told the Daily Star.
Wallace’s daughter-in-law, Laura Wallace, said the note opened her eyes to the lives of laborers who create such bargain buys. Wanting to help, she decided to spread the word about the note’s contents.
“I don’t have the means or the access to help in any way. So I think this was my way of putting in my two cents,” she told local Tucson station KVOA. “I don’t want this to be an attack on any store … That’s not the answer. This is happening at all kinds of places and people just probably don’t know.”
A Walmart spokesperson, reached by HuffPost on Monday, encouraged Wallace to contact Walmart and share the note so the company could “verify the letter’s authenticity.”
“We care that our products are sourced responsibly and transparently, and we take allegations like this seriously,” wrote Ragan Dickens, Walmart’s director of national media relations, in an email. “With the limited information we now have, it is difficult to verify the letter’s authenticity.”
According to Walmart’s “standards for suppliers” posted online, laborers are prohibited from working excessive hours, being forced to work and working without pay.
U.S. consumers have discovered similar pleas for help in Kmart and Saks Fifth Avenue products.
In 2013, a former inmate of China’s Masanjia Labor Camp told The New York Times he’d written a note hidden inside Halloween decorations sold at an Oregon Kmart.
The man, who asked only to be identified by his last name, Zhang, said he wrote 20 different letters during his two-year incarceration, hoping they’d eventually catch the attention of a human rights organization.
Here is the full text of the note, translated by HuffPost:
Inmates in the Yingshan Prison in Guangxi, China are working 14 hours daily with no break/rest at noon, continue working overtime until 12 midnight, and whoever doesn’t finish his work will be beaten. Their meals are without oil and salt. Every month, the boss pays the inmate 2000 yuan [about $290], any additional dishes will be finished by the police. If the inmates are sick and need medicine, the cost will be deducted from the salary. Being a prisoner in China is even worse than being a horse, cow, sheep, pig or dog in the U.S.