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Lost in the Supermarket
December 27, 2011 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Lost in the Supermarket. You know the saying "No good deed goes unpunished"? Just read the story.
posted by MattMangels (118 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a remarkably cruel "What Would You Do?" idea, if it is that show. This paragraph broke my heart:

That only served to fan the flames of the onlookers’ outrage and they began hurling verbal abuse at the store’s manager, while I, feeling a galaxy-wide sense of complete and utter defeat, just waited for my groceries to be rung up. The cashier, who’s served me for years, saw how crushed I was and, looking like she was about to be physically ill, asked me “Are you okay?” to which I responded with “No, I’m most definitely not okay. I just want to take my groceries and go home…” That was certainly true. If I didn’t leave right then, I would have likely smashed my head repeatedly against the nearest wall in an expression of cosmic frustration. More shoppers came over and offered to tell the manager that the seltzer guy only won because I let him cut in front of me, but I had said my piece and was resigned to the simple fact that I had once again lost in the game of life and that again I’d unwittingly been drafted as a source of amusement for whatever cruel gods there may be.

No one should have to feel this way, even if they end up being paid for it.
posted by bearwife at 3:46 PM on December 27, 2011 [53 favorites]


Admittedly, I am merely underemployed rather than unemployed; but if that happened to me, I'd like to think I would tell them where they could shove their filthy pittance.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:54 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the pain of almost having something and seeing it slip through your fingers unwittingly is yards more than never having the opportunity at all. That's not a cool thing for them to do.

But he did need the money so in a way, this was life giving him a break. Just not as no-strings-attached as he was led to believe.

I think the initial shock and anger is less than the benefit to his life in the end.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:55 PM on December 27, 2011


I think the initial shock and anger is less than the benefit to his life in the end.

Three hundred bucks -- spent in a matter of days.
Memory of the humiliation -- some things have no measure.

What Would I Do?
I'd like to think I'd go out to the parking lot, grab the tire iron from my trunk, find one of the TV crews' equipment vans and start trashing it, keep going until I figured I'd done about $10,000 bucks damage.
posted by philip-random at 4:00 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's another post about this from someone else who was at the store while they pulled this on other folks.
posted by hades at 4:03 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Free groceries, $300, a story to tell. Why not?

As we parted, she asked me not to talk to anyone local about all of this since they planned to spring the setup on other unsuspecting shoppers over what remained of the day. (I stuck to not posting about it until the market’s closing time, after which I felt it was kosher [...]

Sounds like he's basically cool with it. No harm, no foul.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:04 PM on December 27, 2011


Why was he humiliated again? Humiliation requires people to laugh at you. None of the people in the store laughed at him. They all took his side.

Do you mean the TV audience? I'm not trying to be obtuse here. I normally think I'm very sensitive to potential embarrassment. The action of all the other store patrons speaking up actually made me really proud of them.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:05 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Morgan Spurlock goes evil. Huh.
posted by Yowser at 4:09 PM on December 27, 2011


Why was he humiliated again? Humiliation requires people to laugh at you.

Humiliation is what you feel, not how others react. I'd feel humiliated by such a situation. Or more to the point, violated. I went to that store to do some shopping, not to be played a fool for some future TV audience's cheap laughs, and the production company's profit.

The action of all the other store patrons speaking up actually made me really proud of them.

Me, too. A bunch of decent folk also played for fools.
posted by philip-random at 4:10 PM on December 27, 2011 [14 favorites]


I felt physically ill for him myself just reading this, before the big reveal....it does seem exceptionally cruel in this economy.
posted by availablelight at 4:13 PM on December 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


Quoting from hades link:
Later that evening, my friend tells me about how her boss burst into their local restaurant shouting, “You won’t believe what just happened to me!” He was already having a horrible day, and to top it all off (you guessed it) some dude cut him in line and took his money. The waiters were up in arms on his behalf: “Ya mean he didn’t even offer you some of the money?” I disclosed the truth to my friend and she relayed the real deal to her boss, saving yet another hapless victim who would have surely lost sleep over his misfortune.
Sociological experiment my ass! They were out to get a good shot for TV; no good shot, no payola!
posted by elpapacito at 4:13 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


That seriously really happens? You really get tens of thousands of dollars for being #n customer at a grocery store? That's not just some made-up trope for the movies or TV?

Anyway, what it reminds me of most is when my wife and I were buying a house (in California at the bottom of the upward slope of the bubble), and you basically had to sign up to be a number on a list to maybe have the opportunity to buy a patch of dirt that would eventually have a house on it. We went to these "parties" where the developer would announce who would be allowed to buy a house that week, and they'd try to make it all exciting, with themes and crap, but didn't realize, I guess, that everyone there was stressed to the breaking point wondering whether or not they would be allowed to buy a house that week.

Every name they announced was greeted with an almost visible wave of hostility as others willed the person to pass so they could get the house they wanted. We, improbably, got our second choice, and the release of finally knowing literally caused me to cry, which I hid behind my dark sunglasses. The people selling the houses were all dressed in sombreros that day.

Actually, my situation was about 1000x better than this guy's, but that's what it made me think of. Sorry.
posted by Huck500 at 4:13 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree with bearwife, this just seems cruel. I would pay $300 not to be unwittingly filmed in public while in a moment of primal rage. Sounds like he handed it pretty well... but the guy deserves a much better ending.
posted by joinks at 4:14 PM on December 27, 2011


No harm, no foul.

Uhhh, well, he technically left $300 richer than when he came in, but I think given the circumstances calling it a "no harm, no foul" situation is a tad glib.
posted by MattMangels at 4:14 PM on December 27, 2011


Yeah, I'm in the "cry me a river" camp, apparently along with the author of the blog post. All in good fun, and he now has a party conversation-starter that'll last him decades.
posted by eugenen at 4:15 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think given the circumstances calling it a "no harm, no foul" situation is a tad glib.

Dunno. I certainly don't read his blog post as if he's anything beyond annoyed and bemused at this point.

Perhaps others are reading something in his post that I'm missing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:18 PM on December 27, 2011


Personally, I'd have held out for a grand, but yeah - he seems relatively cool with what happened.
posted by cerulgalactus at 4:19 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is not in good fun, imho.
posted by parki at 4:20 PM on December 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


If this is a "What Would You Do" I really don't get the point. I've seen a lot of episodes of that show and usually it's some kind of pop social psychology experiment, not a straight-up prank show. The "trying situations" they put people in are more like "what would you do if you saw a woman being abused" or "what would you do if you saw a homeless person pass out on the street". I hope the show isn't being slandered.
posted by Danila at 4:27 PM on December 27, 2011


I certainly don't read his blog post as if he's anything beyond annoyed and bemused at this point.

Perhaps you missed this paragraph:

While stuck on line behind the lady who wanted to exchange her items that were not on the sales circular, my eyes began to glaze over and my mind focused on just how my life had suffered a slow and depressing reversal of fortune from the time when I first hit NYC as a wide-eyed college grad who’d landed a job at Marvel Comics — a dream job to one of my geekish ilk — through my being let go from that job thanks to the company’s Chapter 11 woes, on to my time at DC/Vertigo and the mishegoss endured there, followed by two years of unemployment before working at the barbecue joint and dealing with that place’s attendant issues, finally arriving at the dead end of my largely worthless job at the design ‘ho house and my subsequent unemployment in the wake of what was at the time its latest wave of brutal layoffs. I pondered how it could possibly be nearly two years — TWO YEARS — since that layoff and how my life had just lurched along as a shabby going-through-the-motions existence, and the more I considered all of that, the more morose and fed up with life I became.

I see no indication in the article that his state of mind has shifted from that to merely annoyed and bemused. And I cannot imagine that $300 and the hope of maybe being mocked on national television would solve his problems.
posted by The World Famous at 4:28 PM on December 27, 2011


Puppeteering people for tv is gross.
posted by localhuman at 4:40 PM on December 27, 2011 [34 favorites]


> The "trying situations" they put people in are more like "what would you do if you saw a woman being abused" or "what would you do if you saw a homeless person pass out on the street"

What the hell? That's just cruel. Why cause stress and anxiety in other people, even if it's temporary? "Other people's entertainment" isn't a good enough reason.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:41 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


My mom once bought my sister a fake winning lottery ticket for $100,000 as a stocking stuffer a few years ago. My sister --a grown woman with two kids of her own -- cried when she found it it wasn't real, and she still hasn't forgiven my mother for it.

I think this prank was unbelievably cruel, and they abused him twice, once buy pulling the prank in the first place, and a second time by buying him off so cheaply. I think if he wasn't desperately in need of the money, he'd have told them to go fuck themselves about the release and walked out of the store with his dignity intact.
posted by empath at 4:46 PM on December 27, 2011 [22 favorites]


Guy facing financial problems gets $300 unexpectedly. I fail to see the problem here. There are about eleven different variables I can think of off the top of my head that would have resulted in someone else getting the prize.

It is a dumb way to give away money, though.
posted by hermitosis at 4:47 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is why I can't watch reality TV. I don't think suffering is funny or entertaining, it makes me feel complicit in it to turn someone's (often therapy-worthy) problems into entertainment for me. Makes me feel like the nobles who used to tour madhouses because the insane were a form of edgy entertainment.

Even when it's Big Brother or whatever and everyone on it is a tool, I don't want to feed into it.
posted by emjaybee at 4:59 PM on December 27, 2011 [20 favorites]


Puppeteering people for tv is gross.

I gotta agree. While this particular case turned out well enough, the general concept makes me itch.

Although I must admit I would have been delighted to be caught in this, filmed or not.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:11 PM on December 27, 2011


Why was he humiliated again? Humiliation requires people to laugh at you.

I don't think that's true. It's humiliating to be made to feel powerless and toyed with. It's not less humiliating because other people pity you for it rather than mocking you. No one wants to be pitied.
posted by enn at 5:11 PM on December 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


The thing that bothers me about the whole story was how blasé the TV crew seemed about this man's reaction to being played. From the way they're described here, they apparently had no clue how badly they were playing with a stranger's emotions (they obviously wouldn't know his situation at the start of the prank, but they sure don't seem embarrassed by the outcome). For that matter, I'm curious to know what the staff at the grocery store were thinking when they came up to apologise for their part in the stunt.

What really got me was the way production assistant laughed when the blog-writer told her AGAIN that he was genuinely angry at losing the prize money. Maybe she figured that he'll get a kick out of being on television. After all, who in America doesn't want to be on TV, right?

Speaking of which: seeing as how this one man was bought off for $300.00, I have to wonder how much in turn the producers of the show are going to make in selling his footage.
posted by spoobnooble at 5:32 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think that this fella was on "20/20 What Would You Do?" on ABC. That show isn't about humiliating people or laughing at them. It's mostly a huge example of the bystander effect designed to allow Americans watching to say "I would have said something" or "look at them doing nothing, I would say something"

Examples of segments. An actor plays a middle eastern store employee and another actor plays an islamophobic making rude comments. Will any real customers say something?

A group of clearly underage youths openly mock another youth and try to convince him/her to drink just off the sidewalk on a busy street. Will anybody say anything?

A man/woman berates his girl/boyfriend on a public beach for having a disgusting body. Will anybody say blah blah blah.

The primary focus is on bystanders interfering in interaction between two cast members.

This story sounds more like MTV's boiling point than WWYD?
posted by Megafly at 5:34 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The tragedy of life is not that man loses but that he almost wins."--attributed to Heywood Broun

I don't know what to say to you guys who don't see what the big deal is. I'm not unemployed, but I was for about six months, and then made a whopping $800 a month for a year after that. Then my wife lost her job. I'm working full-time now--actually, quite a bit more than full-time, but my salary is less than half of what it was three years ago and my wife still can't find work. We couldn't keep our house--had to sell it at a loss and walk away from it with a check for a couple of thousand dollars. Now we're spending almost as much as our mortgage payment was to rent a place less than half the size--but it's in a town where I could get a job, more than 2000 miles from my previous home.

When I was on top of the financial game, I didn't think a lot about how lucky I was. I thought about how good I was, how skilled I was, how glad I was that other people were recognizing what I had to offer. And it's true, I was good at what I did. But lots of people are good, and a decent percentage are really good. I was good + lucky, and it's luck that matters more. Lucky by itself is awesome but good + unlucky is hell. When you're down you start noticing how lucky other people are. The doofus in high school who took over the company his dad started just as demand for their services skyrocketed. He didn't do a damn thing except inherit the right position at the right time and now he's a multimillionaire who had the good sense not to fire the people who really know how to run his business. Or my pal who has a great job and was on the path to riches anyway, but got a nice $100,000+ boost from his Jeopardy winnings this year. Half of that amount would change my life. Three years ago I could have sincerely congratulated him, but now it's hard not to think about how much I need that kind of a break.

I couldn't afford to buy my kids any Christmas presents this year. The money just wasn't there. They got some things from their grandparents and uncles. Fortunately, they are too young to notice that there was nothing from mommy and daddy in the stack.

The stress of never having quite enough to pay the bills, of liquidating and liquidating until you're running out of stuff to sell--it's galling. It's painful not being able to put anything away, so that any medical or mechanical problem can ruin us. Or not being able to add anything to the kids' college funds that we had just started when things went bad. I had thought that we'd be able to set them up for success. Now it looks like moral support and good advice is about all I'll be able to give them.

I like to think that I'm a pretty level-headed guy, and that I'm handling this okay, for now, but if I were in the supermarket, those few minutes where I thought that my niceness had handed a big check to yet another person who probably doesn't need it as much as I do would have been devastating. And then, that little shred of hope that maybe I would get the prize, or it would be split when they found out that I was originally the one in that spot--crushing. And then, to discover that the whole thing was just a set-up to film my reaction for someone else's profit? It takes a lot to make me angry--well, it used to--but that might just put me over the top.

So if you think that being left with a good story and a pittance makes this okay, you either don't have a clue what financial despair really feels like--and good for you (he said without much feeling)--or your psychological make-up is so different from mine that you may as well be from outer space.
posted by Alexander Hatchell at 5:35 PM on December 27, 2011 [166 favorites]


Free groceries, $300, a story to tell. Why not?

People deserve better than to be treated like this for other people's amusement.
posted by mhoye at 5:37 PM on December 27, 2011 [17 favorites]


Guy facing financial problems gets $300 unexpectedly.

Another take is "Guy facing financial problems is made temporarily to feel even worse about himself and life in general, in exchange for $300 and his signature on a contract which almost certainly doesn't say the same thing as what he's been told verbally." Doesn't sound like such a good deal to me, and I say that as someone who seriously considered turning down a $5,000 prize because of language in a release form associated with a promotional giveaway.

I mean, there are some things you wouldn't do for $300, even if you really could use the $300, right? What if, say, the prank had been that instead of the guy ahead of him winning $50k, the guy ahead of him pulled out a realistic prop gun, shot the clerk and other actors with blanks, and then turned the gun on the poster and shot him too? That could make for some pretty funny TV; I bet his reaction as he realized he wasn't dead would be priceless. Or, you know, worth $300.

Seriously, in this economy, that is just a shitty, shitty thing to do to someone. The odds that you're going to prank someone for whom $50k would be a life-altering sum of money is way high. Putting them in a situation where they feel like because they did the right thing, they lost out on that opportunity? That ain't right.
posted by hades at 5:37 PM on December 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


The writer seems to have enjoyed the experience.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:38 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


My mom once bought my sister a fake winning lottery ticket for $100,000 as a stocking stuffer a few years ago. My sister --a grown woman with two kids of her own -- cried when she found it it wasn't real, and she still hasn't forgiven my mother for it.

That seems exponentially meaner than this prank. It's not as if he was ever under the delusion that he had won $50,000--just that he'd come close.

I don't know how I'd feel, personally, if someone had pulled this prank on me. I like to think I'm rational enough about the randomness of it all that I'd realize that there was absolutely no connection--in fact--between me letting the guy in ahead of me and him winning the money: that is, it's not as if I'd deliberately selected that spot in line in order to maximize my chances of winning, or as if I had any more claim on the money than any other customer in the store. In fact, had it been a real prize, I'd have been just as likely to win by letting the guy ahead of me as lose by doing so. I really can't see myself saying "hey, that's really MY prize--he only won it because I let him in." The guy in the next aisle could just as easily start shouting "no, it's MY prize--that guy only won because the cashier in this aisle was too slow giving change to the guy ahead of ME!"

What made this seem so egregiously mean in this circumstance was the fact that the guy was so depressed and down on his luck--I don't think most people would feel anything like as devastated by this as he did. On the other hand, the producers of this bit should also have realized that if they ran the prank often enough, they'd be pretty likely to eventually play it on someone in his position.
posted by yoink at 5:38 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I look forward to a future in which the rich pay middling amounts of money to the desperately poor for the thrill of watching them experience extreme emotions.

Or am I just vaguely remembering the plot of a Philip K. Dick novel I read a long while ago?
posted by benito.strauss at 5:40 PM on December 27, 2011 [31 favorites]


On another thread yesterday I self-identified as a sadist, and describing a moment I regard with extreme tenderness (and my wife recalls it fondly too) I said "I teased her, then beat her, then fucked her, then beat her some more then fucked her again."

I could not imagine doing what this film crew did to some random other person. And for what? Some on-air yuks? Give me a fucking break. I wouldn't deliberately do that to someone I actively hated. Whoever thought of this stunt needs a serious reality adjustment themselves.

Of course I hate almost all reality TV because it's structured to create these artificial conflicts. The one exception I've seen was Rockstar which not only had some fine music didn't put its contestants in this kind of double-bind.
posted by localroger at 5:45 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


i couldn't in good conscience take 300 bucks for participating in the continued degeneration of our spectacle addicted society

this is just vile - let me make clear, i don't judge the man for going along with it, as he's pretty desperate - but it's still vile
posted by pyramid termite at 5:46 PM on December 27, 2011


So, people are saying 'I've seen that show, and that doesn't sound like something they'd do'?

And his old friend's name is Jim Browski?

Huh.
posted by box at 5:47 PM on December 27, 2011


The writer seems to have enjoyed the experience.

He clearly describes being angry and upset.

"Making the best of a shitty situation" and "Looking at the bright side" are not the same thing as enjoying something.
posted by empath at 5:47 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I'd enjoy this show if they filmed their pranks in a Tiffany & Co. store.
posted by orme at 5:48 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


I wonder if we can raise the guy 50 grand. You think we can get 5000 people to chip in $10? I'm in if y'all are.
posted by empath at 5:48 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, and he posted an update.
posted by empath at 5:50 PM on December 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


....again I stated my desperate desire to simply leave this death camp of my own personal existential mockery.
posted by thelonius at 5:53 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Making the best of a shitty situation" and "Looking at the bright side" are not the same thing as enjoying something.

Nah, you're wrong empath. He enjoyed the experience. He seems to be enjoying writing these mopey, masochistic, defeatist blog posts. I imagine it provides some relief from what must be a challenging living situation.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:55 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


He clearly describes being angry and upset.

You know if you get down to the bottom of the article it says:
As I gathered my groceries, the staff of the market all came over and laughed as they apologized for setting up one of their regular customers, but I had free groceries and three-hundred bucks in hand, so I was far from mad any more.
and
Still quite stunned, I called a few friends and related this story,

It sounds like he didn't end up with happy thoughts though.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:56 PM on December 27, 2011


What if it had been real? I'm honestly wrestling with what you're supposed to do in this situation. I'd feel ashamed of myself if I had reacted the way he did but I'm not sure if keeping the misery to yourself is really the best reaction. It's just the one I'm inclined to have. Before I got to the part where it was revealed to be a prank I was cringing because here he is throwing a tantrum over someone else's good fortune. Is this my weird personal hang-up or does anyone else understand what I'm saying?
posted by Danila at 5:56 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


And his old friend's name is Jim Browski?

There's a regular commenter on his blog who goes by that 'nym, yes.
posted by hades at 5:57 PM on December 27, 2011


Not a bad idea empath, but this guy sounds like he could really use $50,000 too.
posted by MattMangels at 5:58 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


From hades' link, it was a commercial for Ally Bank. The premise of the ad is that they are a corporation that cares about providing their customers with a positive experience.

Naturally, they care so fucking much about being good to people that they are going to extreme lengths to provide people with a remarkably negative customer experience, just as a jumping-off point for their conversation about how much they love providing good customer service. When your boyfriend says he loves you, and then he hits you, I don't think you should listen to his words.

Ally Financial was formerly known as GMAC Financial, and received 16 billion dollars in government bailout money. The US Treasury is their largest shareholder, owning a whopping 73.8% of the company. In other words, this is literally your tax dollars at work.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:58 PM on December 27, 2011 [29 favorites]


Nah, you're wrong empath. He enjoyed the experience. He seems to be enjoying writing these mopey, masochistic, defeatist blog posts. I imagine it provides some relief from what must be a challenging living situation.

You can't be serious.
posted by empath at 5:59 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


according to this it's not a reality show, but some kind of commercial for a bank?

yeah, well that figures - who else would treat the public with that kind of contempt by waving money they can't have in front of their faces?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:59 PM on December 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


Thanks, empath and hades--sounds like I'm being more skeptical than necessary.
posted by box at 6:00 PM on December 27, 2011


I am unemployed. If someone pulled this unspeakably vulgar trick on me, they wouldn't be able to film it because odds are good I'd do something that would get me arrested. Would the people who think this bit of sadistic bullshit is fine be okay if it were a homeless person being taunted with the prospect of a home, or someone with no food being offered an illusory meal?

I loathe the fact that it seems that in this hideous new world that going around in our daily lives apparently means that we all risk being plastered across the Internet and television at any point.
posted by winna at 6:01 PM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


You can't be serious.

He can't be serious:

....again I stated my desperate desire to simply leave this death camp of my own personal existential mockery.

And, yes, I know what it's like to be unemployed with less than a grand in the bank and rent day coming up.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:02 PM on December 27, 2011


As we parted, she asked me not to talk to anyone local about all of this since they planned to spring the setup on other unsuspecting shoppers over what remained of the day. (I stuck to not posting about it until the market’s closing time, after which I felt it was kosher. Plus, I very much doubt they’d pull the same move in the same place the following day, so there you go.)

Shades of Stanley Milgram! His cooperation in the next victim's humiliation is the most bizarre and troubling part of his story.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:09 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


If I were in his situation, I quite possibly would have gotten violent. I wonder what would have happened in that case.
posted by BiggerJ at 6:09 PM on December 27, 2011


What if it had been real?

Hmm, let's see. I'm 46 and have been jobless in Brooklyn for the last two years, surviving on what freelance money I could scrape up, my unemployment benefits have run out, I have no job prospects on the horizon, and someone else has just won $50k that could have been mine if only I'd been more of a dick? I'm thinking swap my groceries for as much booze as I can afford, go to the park and drink myself into a stupor, hoping the alcohol will keep me from caring that I'm freezing to death, because clearly the universe hates me and there's no point in continuing.

Well, ok, maybe not. But I can see that being an understandable reaction.
posted by hades at 6:10 PM on December 27, 2011


I was SO relieved to read that there was no actual $50,000 at stake here and that the guy got a few bucks in the end ... but this is a disgusting way to avoid having to pay actors a living wage to be in a commercial.

For whatever weird reason I've come across two small business owners (or I know their siblings) who've been drafted, erm, chosen to be on reality TV in the last couple of months. The producers feed the folks all kinds of stories about publicity, hey, where this might go in the second season... bla bla bla. The shows are not the "Real Housewives" ilk but it's definitely reality TV.

Short story: they pay them next to nothing. I'm not terribly sure that they even reimburse expenses, but I could be wrong. Great way to get around paying union wages to writers and actors for TV production.

On preview, winna's comment made me think of something. Does anyone know if posting/showing the video of this incident without the consent of the "participants" would be considered invasion of privacy in NY State?
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:12 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu, you need to read the blog update empath linked to above. And the alternate blog linked in the update. He may have been cheered up by the experience in the short term, but it didn't last long. And he was lucky to even get three hundred bucks for his troubles.
posted by spoobnooble at 6:12 PM on December 27, 2011


Rick

Rick

Rick

Did you stop at the store and get the kibble?

Rick

Rick

Are you mad about something?
posted by P.o.B. at 6:15 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


On another thread yesterday I self-identified as a sadist, and describing a moment I regard with extreme tenderness (and my wife recalls it fondly too) I said "I teased her, then beat her, then fucked her, then beat her some more then fucked her again."

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop relating this anecdote.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:16 PM on December 27, 2011 [33 favorites]


MTV's boiling point

I am utterly incapable of understanding that show in any way at all. It is beyond my realm of understanding that anyone would voluntarily sign those release forms and allow their wild frothing psychotic meltdowns to be seen on international television, and it frankly scares the crap of out me on a cellular level that some people are so desperately starved for attention that they'd ever do so.
posted by elizardbits at 6:18 PM on December 27, 2011


people don't understand - when andy warhol said we'd all be famous for 15 minutes, he didn't mean it as a promise, but a threat
posted by pyramid termite at 6:27 PM on December 27, 2011 [25 favorites]


Holy fuckballs.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:35 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have much sympathy for Kim who couldn't figure out a basic release form.

The document was rife with legal jargon and I could barely make heads or tails of it, so I refused.


Freelancers who can't read contracts are in a world of hurt.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:38 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


My mom once bought my sister a fake winning lottery ticket for $100,000 as a stocking stuffer a few years ago. My sister --a grown woman with two kids of her own -- cried when she found it it wasn't real, and she still hasn't forgiven my mother for it.

For my 16th birthday my mom announced that she bought me a car. I was stunned because I had had no idea she would do such a thing, I had never expected it. Then she and my brother, grinning widely, pointed to a wrapped boxed on the table. Thinking it was the keys, I unwrapped the gift with a lump in my throat. It was a matchbox car. Some joke, eh? I really, really don't understand why you would want to hurt and disappoint your loved ones. Why was my chagrin so attractive to her and what would she had done if I thrown the stupid toy in her face while screaming obscenities?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:40 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


The "basic release form" they wanted me to sign when I won an online contest would have given them permission to use my name and likeness for any purpose whatsoever, forever. It also gave them permission to put any words they wanted in my mouth. This was not obvious on first reading.
posted by hades at 6:48 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop relating this anecdote.

Twice is too much for you? Well I wish the entertainment industry would be on ten thousandth as nice to me as I will now be to you.
posted by localroger at 6:57 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ideefixe, who's Kim? I'm pretty sure the guy that this happened to is named Steve, unless I missed something.
posted by MattMangels at 6:59 PM on December 27, 2011


Ahh, now I see you are referring to the article that hades linked to. My mistake. I guess the mods can delete both of these comments if they are so inclined.
posted by MattMangels at 7:01 PM on December 27, 2011


It was a matchbox car. Some joke, eh? I really, really don't understand why you would want to hurt and disappoint your loved ones. Why was my chagrin so attractive to her and what would she had done if I thrown the stupid toy in her face while screaming obscenities?

I have learned the hard way what you do with such people, and that is you walk away from them firmly and with the conviction that you will never see them again. It's the only way.

I didn't speak to my own parents for seventeen years.

It was the only way.

We are reconnected, although my wife refuses to acknowledge them, and our relationship will always be far more distant than they want.

It seems easy for normal people to mistake casual cruelty for affection. I really don't understand that.
posted by localroger at 7:02 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I don't have much sympathy for Kim who couldn't figure out a basic release form

You're presuming it's a "basic release form." I've been asked to sign documents that in theory were "basic" but in practice were ridiculously one-sided, and that took a lawyer to understand all the twists and turns.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:28 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would take soo much pleasure in telling them to go fuck themselves and not sign the release. You can keep your damn money; people should not do those sorts of things to other people.

The film crew laughing and high-fiving? I've got a knuckle-sandwich for you.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 7:39 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think Ally was the one who did commercials in which kids got screwed by fine print (like the girl who got a bike, but couldn't ride it out of the rectangle). I assumed the kids were actors, but now I wonder.

Before I got to the part where it was revealed to be a prank I was cringing because here he is throwing a tantrum over someone else's good fortune. Is this my weird personal hang-up or does anyone else understand what I'm saying?

I get it, but on the other hand, if he hadn't complained, this shit of a bank wouldn't have even given him the $300. I know it's silly, but I'm seriously considering writing the President and/or my concresspeople over this. Ally's a government-owned bank, right? They should be able to do something about this. Of course, two of my three congressmen are tea party types, so they'd probably be outraged he even got $300 for his humiliation.

You're presuming it's a "basic release form." I've been asked to sign documents that in theory were "basic" but in practice were ridiculously one-sided, and that took a lawyer to understand all the twists and turns.

And I doubt they let him have the time to get a lawyer to look it over.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:44 PM on December 27, 2011


Corpse--I work in show biz, I know what a standard release form is. MeMail me if you want to see one. It's not that hard to figure out. I wouldn't sign one myself, but you can always cross out the language you don't like.

And truly--AskMe is packed with questions from people who don't know how to read a contract, draft a contract or when to insist on a contract. You don't need a JD to figure out this stuff.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:54 PM on December 27, 2011


localroger, once was too much for me. I deliberately avoided the other thread because I suspected it would be triggering for me. I'm not sure it was really necessary to repeat it here to get your point across.

On the "social experiment": wow, what a demeaning experience for all concerned. Good on the customers who stepped up for him, but how awful that they had to in the first place.

Sometimes it stuns me to realize that people get paid to come up with this drek. I've known the despair that comes with chronic poverty... I'm frankly surprised someone didn't self-injure over this stunt.
posted by theplotchickens at 7:56 PM on December 27, 2011


> Corpse--I work in show biz, I know what a standard release form is

I believe you. What I don't believe is that all release forms handed out are "standard" and easy for laymen to comprehend. You're presuming the best of the production company.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:04 PM on December 27, 2011


I know what a standard release form is

Is it the one I mentioned a few comments back, presented to me as standard release form boilerplate, granting perpetual image and name use rights with no restrictions? If so, that's fucked up. If not, then there are at least two "standard" release forms.
posted by hades at 8:10 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


you can always cross out the language you don't like.

Is this really true, or am I just not picking up sarcasm? Do those forms really work that way? I imagined it would be "sign this form exactly as it is or get the fuck out and stop wasting our time".
posted by MattMangels at 8:26 PM on December 27, 2011


The odds that you're going to prank someone for whom $50k would be a life-altering sum of money is way high.

Especially at the 5th ave Key Food in Brooklyn. Not a super luxe area.

There are other neighborhoods/stores in NYC where this would have been funny and not enraging, because the surrounding household incomes are higher.

Still sucky though.
posted by sweetkid at 8:31 PM on December 27, 2011


Upon examination of a few standard release forms floating around the internet (no two exactly the same, I might add), I see that for the most part they do say something along the lines of "yes, I agree to let you do anything you want with my name and image; furthermore, I agree not to sue you or anyone you might have sold my name to if you put me up on a billboard and say I'm the new president of NAMBLA and that I enjoy eating kittens for dinner, when I'm not too exhausted from all the puppy-kicking I do" and signing one as written would be a truly bizarre thing to do.

Now, hands up everyone who knows that any contract can be subject to negotiation, and thinks that asking to alter the standard release form generally works out in favor of the person being asked to sign it. It worked out well for me, but I had a few days to look over the form before I had to return it or lose the money, and I'd already been announced as a winner, so I had some leverage in asking to add "in connection with this promotion only". Also, the production company wasn't a bunch of assholes, which I'm not sure is the case here.
posted by hades at 8:37 PM on December 27, 2011


I still can't work out the marketing angle on this, though. "Ally Bank: we pretend to not give you $50k"? "Ally Bank: we ambush unsuspecting shoppers and film them"?

If all the other customers in the line were actors, why the hell not just use an actor for the dupe?
posted by BungaDunga at 8:38 PM on December 27, 2011


Smile! You're on Candid Camera.
posted by bukvich at 8:43 PM on December 27, 2011


Getting punked but then getting debriefed and becoming a threehundredaire seems not that bad to me. Getting punked but then not getting debriefed and not becoming a threehundredaire seems like the shittiest think I could imagine doing to someone.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:52 PM on December 27, 2011


The PA doesn't hold a gun to your head--of course you can cross out the clauses you don't like. Doesn't mean your mom will see you in the final cut.
And most production companies don't agonize over the releases for extras--yes, it could be for all media, ww, perp but it's usually within the context of that program/film/ad. And so, cross out perp and substitute "1 year" or "10 years" or whatever warms your heart.

You're not powerless, believe it or not. Worst case--the editor expiates your face.

The ads sound stupid, but at least Morgan Spurlock is pulling down DGA rates!
posted by Ideefixe at 8:57 PM on December 27, 2011


Worst case--the editor expiates your face.

And you don't get any money, despite having gone through the experience that they are ostensibly offering to pay for subjecting you to. We're not talking about standard shoots where people show up hoping to be part of the show, here. We're talking about people being ambushed on-camera and then offered compensation after the fact, if they'll sign the release.
posted by hades at 9:14 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's something important to note here. There was no consent. That fucked with him, they filmed him, they already wrecked his day. He could take the 300 or not, but either way, they already got what they wanted.
posted by empath at 10:01 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


What? He didn't sign the consent form, he got 3 hundo and his groceries were free. What exactly did they get from him? Like their plan was to make a day of publicly fucking with people... well okay they did that. But the footage is useless if they can't get the people's expressions by way of blurring them out, and if they didn't sign off on the paperwork the bank doesn't get to use it.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:10 PM on December 27, 2011


P.o.B., you really value the sum of his human dignity at 300 dollars, plus a pack of sausages? This economy is fucked.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:22 PM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yes!

I mean, no!

Wait, is this a trick quesiton? What does this have to do with me, again?
posted by P.o.B. at 10:33 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the comments expressing outrage and the replies saying, "What's the big deal? The actual guy doesn't seem to be outraged!" seem to be two groups talking past each other. The outraged folks don't seem to be outraged on this specific guy's behalf, so much, but rather at the general idea that there are film crews out there doing this kind of thing. I tend to agree. On the flip side, I think the respondents are pointing out that different people are cool with different things...so if X-percent of the population is okay with being pranked like this, then it's a bit myopic to condemn the pranksters. I don't necessarily agree, but it's a fair point.

I definitely know I wouldn't have signed any release, or accepted the $300. But I don't know if I would have handled the incident with the apparent aplomb that this guy did. Where many of these stories end with the protagonist behaving like a doormat, I think this guy comes off as having exercised restraint. (But then, he's the one telling the story.)
posted by cribcage at 10:45 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


The outraged folks don't seem to be outraged on this specific guy's behalf, so much, but rather at the general idea that there are film crews out there doing this kind of thing.

Yeah, my comments have been speaking on my behalf, imagining myself in the guy's position ... and the rage I likely would've felt. Maybe not immediately. Maybe I'd even sign the release and take the $300. Maybe I'd be in shock.

But inevitably, I suspect I'd feel used and like I suggested earlier, violated. The issue seems to be, does some production company have the right to step into my life (without my prior consent) in the interests of using me and my reactions to score some dubious points (earn some cheap laughs)? I say, no fucking way.

Full disclosure: I don't watch reality shows, never have, probably never will. Life's too short. Maybe for those who do, there should be some kind of generalized consent form they can all sign once a year.

I [your name], as a regular viewer and appreciator of so-called reality shows, give my consent to appear in such for the coming 365 days ...

(and so on)
posted by philip-random at 11:31 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


seem to be two groups talking past each other.

Of course we are, that inevitably happens around here. I agree that where it's going wrong - people are conflating their feelings with how they think this guy should feel. I don't think anybody here has said they are in total support for what was done or the way it was handled. Personally, I would have been pissed, but I would of shrugged it off though. Nobody likes to getting messed with, and being victimized at the whims of others is not fun. We all know that. To ignore that and to fallaciously assert things other people did not say is bad faith discussion. It is also a trite way to go about conversations, but whevs. It's Metafilter.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:31 PM on December 27, 2011


Is it just a coincidence that Mr. Buncheman is using a (unattributed) photo of ColdChef's daughter to illustrate a blog post from earlier this month, or is he a mefite by another nom de net?
posted by mumkin at 11:52 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Idk, but that picture is freaking brilliant. That should be a MeFi Christmas card or something.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:57 PM on December 27, 2011


“One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. 'Oh, no,' I said, 'Disneyland burned down.' He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.”
― Jack Handey
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 12:38 AM on December 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Especially at the 5th ave Key Food in Brooklyn. Not a super luxe area.

Actually, it happened at the Associated Supermarket just down the road (in the post he describes going to the Key Food first). But this makes your point doubly true.
posted by snofoam at 3:36 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guy facing financial problems gets $300 unexpectedly

Just like bumfights, no problem.
posted by knapah at 3:40 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been dirt poor. And this was an exceptionally crappy thing to do. I would be bitter for many decades after this. In fact, I think I might still be on his behalf.
posted by taff at 5:32 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am positive that I've seen this scenario play out on ABC's "What Would you Do?" in the past few years, and I remember when watching it thinking, "Holy fuck, this is twisted." Someone let some random person with one item cut in front of them at a Stew Leonard's and the other person won some sweepstakes, etc. Cue reaction of poor sucker.

They can't come up with anything new? Christ.
posted by kinetic at 6:29 AM on December 28, 2011


Just curious, what would have happened if he cold-cocked the woman who ran up to him and "spilled the beans." Do they have really large bouncer type dudes around just in case that happens? Do they specifically use young women because they figure some chivalry effect would make it less likely that a man would sucker punch another man who was the first person to tell him he'd been pranked?

And finally, would the victim, now defendant be allowed to use that as a mitigating factor in court?

Am really curious.
posted by xetere at 6:38 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I look forward to a future in which the rich pay middling amounts of money to the desperately poor for the thrill of watching them experience extreme emotions.


Hi. Welcome to Bunim/Murray Productions.
posted by The Bellman at 6:44 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


you really value the sum of his human dignity at 300 dollars, plus a pack of sausages?

Same as in town.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:48 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


dirigibleman: The kids were actors (some of them) but they weren't acting.
posted by katemonster at 8:11 AM on December 28, 2011


What would you do repeated the experiment with less money I can't seem to find the specific segment in the FPP but it was aired before the linked clip. It looks like ABC scrubbed it or something.

The show previously on metafilter
posted by Blasdelb at 8:14 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just curious, what would have happened if he cold-cocked the woman who ran up to him and "spilled the beans."

An arrest for assault, at felony level if he injured her seriously.

And finally, would the victim, now defendant be allowed to use that as a mitigating factor in court?


It isn't a defense that the victim participated in treating the defendant like dirt. But it might be a mitigator at sentencing time.

This story is really about morality, not law, though.
posted by bearwife at 8:39 AM on December 28, 2011


That was remarkably cruel and manipulative. I hate everything about this. :(
posted by brand-gnu at 9:50 AM on December 28, 2011



dirigibleman: The kids were actors (some of them) but they weren't acting.

Wow. That's really mean, I didn't realize that.
posted by sweetkid at 9:58 AM on December 28, 2011


That is indeed very cruel. I had always been amused by that commercial mostly because of how very well those little kids acted out their disappointment. Knowing that they weren't acting makes me a little ill.
posted by winna at 10:06 AM on December 28, 2011


I guess it speaks to my abject cynicism but I didn't believe a word of it. I think I grudgingly believe the ending, but it still seems like bull to me.
posted by Splunge at 10:29 AM on December 28, 2011


I think what a lot of you fail to realize, since you've perhaps not been in so desperate a situation, is that righteously turning down the $300 isn't really an option. I can easily imagine this happening to me (Oh to have a grand in the bank! I have just enough to keep my accounts from closing-- $30), and I would have undoubtedly burst into tears of frustration. Which would have been embarrassing, and humiliating, and then I would have had to take the money, because well, fuck you, I need the money. Anything short of selling body parts or my cooch, and I would have to go with it as a cruel cruel bit of providence.

So yes, we are in an era where the rich throw coins out of their limousines to watch the poor scramble on the streets for their entertainment. Fucking fuck.
posted by RedEmma at 10:58 AM on December 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


I have to say, I suspect that there's an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim lurking in here somewhere.

Not sure it would survive all the way to an appealed verdict, but I bet you could make the producers (or their insurance company) sweat a bit.
posted by gauche at 10:59 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just like bumfights, no problem.

Sure, and bumfights are just pranks, no problem.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:31 AM on December 28, 2011


dirigibleman: The kids were actors (some of them) but they weren't acting.

Christ, they're like Mr. Burns when he tried to do good and ended up doing even more evil than normal.
posted by dirigibleman at 2:06 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reading through this made me feel like Marge Simpson did in the episode where she has a nervous breakdown on the highway, stops her car, rolls up the windows and goes catatonic.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:25 PM on December 28, 2011


Reading through this helped enlarge both my English and my emotional vocabulary.
posted by quoquo at 4:18 PM on December 28, 2011


So yes, we are in an era where the rich throw coins out of their limousines to watch the poor scramble on the streets for their entertainment. Fucking fuck.

45% of Americans watch reality TV. I don't think we can to stick this one on the rich alone.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:51 PM on December 28, 2011


I know Steve and have read his blog and am just here to say that he has quite a bit of integrity, and a damn site more than those here who are asking what the big deal is. I know if that shit had been pulled on me, I wouldn't have kept it together nearly as well as he did.
posted by AJaffe at 6:14 PM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


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