On October 29 2020, a Reddit user created a thread titled “Someone on the Walmart social media team has had enough of COVIDiots” in the subreddit r/MurderedByWords:
Reddit’s r/MurderedByWords is, as the name indicates, a subreddit devoted to sharing and commenting on instances in which a typically unsympathetic party is “murdered by words,” also known as “owned,” by a strong comeback or response. In this instance, a screenshot showed what looked like a response from Walmart’s Facebook page to a putative shopper reluctant to wear masks in her local Walmart store.
The first thing we noticed is that there was no “verified” indicator (such as a “blue checkmark“) that appeared alongside comments attributed to Walmart in the exchange. The first customer’s name was Sabrina (their last name was elided from the screenshot shared to Reddit); a second commenter, Stacey, interjected after the first response from “Walmart”:
In the screenshot was the following exchange, with no top-level original post or context for “Walmart’s” first comment:
Walmart: It is true, yes.
Sabrina: what is your reasoning in areas of low covid rates? And what if medically someone can not wear one? You do understand the invasion of constitutional rights that you are doing?
Walmart: Sabrina The Majority of our stores are in areas struggling with COVID. If you cannot wear a mask you can still shop on our website. We have other rules that may invade your constitutional rights, like the rule against licking fruit and putting it back.
Stacey: Walmart was the rude comment needed?
Walmart: Stacey Similar to a mask when you shop at our stores, the rude comment is needed, yes.
Not only was the screenshot incomplete (leaving out the original post on which the comment thread appeared), there was also no date on any of the comments seen, and the redacted surnames made a search for the post difficult. Nevertheless, it was fairly straightforward to determine whether Walmart truly responded in such an abrasive fashion via their official brand account on Facebook. They didn’t.
In prior fact checks, we’ve referenced “the satirical social media efforts of comedian and professional troll Ben Palmer, also known as the ‘hope it helps’ guy,” Ben Palmer. Palmer’s schtick includes posing as a well-known company, product, or brand’s social media team, and engaging in satirization of the entity or social media users engaging with it.
Here, for example, Palmer took aim at “prosperity gospel” adherent Joel Osteen, insinuating Osteen was charging the faithful for “prayer requests”:
In a July 2020 tweet, Palmer shared a video of his efforts interacting with Walmart shoppers then up in arms over mask requirements:
— Ben Palmer (@PalmerTrolls) July 15, 2020
Just under fifteen seconds into the clip, Palmer displayed Sabrina’s original post, which read:
Is it true you will be REQUIRING face masks effective Monday???
In the next frame, Palmer displayed the exchanges with Sabrina and Stacey, reading them aloud for the rest of the video.
Although the r/MurderedByWords post claiming a Walmart social media team member lost their patience with a woman named Sabrina (then Stacey) complaining about masks required in stores, the exchange was the work of a comedian and prankster named Ben Palmer, not the official Walmart account.