Irish Activist Commits Return Fraud, Gloats About it in Media

A Facebook friend posted this Irish Central story (“Irish American buys all of Walmart’s offensive t-shirts, will return them March 18“) on her wall:

Kevin Westley has an inventive solution to the annual issue of offensive Irish merchandise leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.

Go to your local big box stores, buy all the t-shirts emblazoned with drunken stereotypes you can find, keep them in your garage or car trunk so they never see the light of day, and return them promptly on March 18.

“Put them on your credit card and you never spend a dime,” he told IrishCentral. (Provided the store’s return policy offers a full refund, of course.)

Westley, a decorated Irish dance instructor and host of the radio show “That’s How I Spell Ireland” on WHRU in Long Island, New York, came up with the idea last year.

Like many in the Irish American community, Westley had grown increasingly weary over the years of the green t-shirts that appear in stores right after Valentine’s Day, bearing slogans like “Kiss me, I’m drunk or Irish or whatever,” or “I’m so Irish I sweat alcohol,” or “Irish car bombs make my clothes fall off.”

While this may indeed be an “inventive” and clever response to his grievance, it’s also fraud. Buying an item with the intent of returning it after it has served its purpose is a major headache for retailers, costing huge sums of money. In this particular case, he’s not only cost the store the cost of returning and restocking the items but stolen their value; at best, they’ll have to be sold at a steep discount once the event is over.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John Peabody says:

    This is why you see the weirdest T-shirts in third-world countries. I saw a young man in Morocco wearing a “World’s Greatest Mom” shirt.

  2. Gustopher says:

    I’m not going to lose any sleep over stores losing money by selling racist t-shirts.

    If this becomes a large enough problem to affect their bottom lines, they will just have to raise prices on racist t-shirts to cover it. Or adjust their return policies for racist t-shirts.

    I’m also not going to loose any sleep over them selling racist t-shirts depicting the Irish as drunkards. I mean everyone knows that they are a bunch of filthy drunken potato loving sots not really being discriminated against anymore.

  3. Mikey says:

    @John Peabody: I have heard (but never been able to confirm) that in the lead-up to big sports championships, T-shirt companies print small runs of shirts declaring each of the two competitors as champion. Then, after the game is played and the actual champion decided, the “wrong” shirts are sent to impoverished countries and distributed as charitable gifts.

    If true, there must be some people walking around a Third World country wearing “Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Champions” T-shirts.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    @John Peabody:

    This is why you see the weirdest T-shirts in third-world countries. I saw a young man in Morocco wearing a “World’s Greatest Mom” shirt.

    Ha.
    In Tokyo, I saw a teenage girl wearing a “University of Texas Municipal Airport” shirt.

  5. rodney dill says:

    @Gustopher: Irish is a race?

  6. rodney dill says:

    Here@Mikey: Here’s at least one reference to that. … and I’d heard that before too.

    http://mentalfloss.com/article/29884/what-happens-losing-teams-championship-shirts

  7. Franklin says:

    @Mikey: I bet the 19-0 Patriots one was real popular!

  8. Dave D says:

    @al-Ameda: In Seoul I saw a woman wearing a sweatshirt that said “I heart crap”

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: First, while I get why some would be offended by these shirts, it doesn’t justify criminal conduct. Second, St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated by Irish and non-Irish Americans alike. These jokes are meta, no real. People reading an “I’m so Irish I sweat alcohol” slogan on a t-shirt don’t think it’s a sociological commentary about actual Irish people but a funny trope. Plenty of Irish Americans happily make these jokes themselves. (What’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral? One less drunk.)

  10. Michael says:

    @rodney dill: There was a time in this country when it was.

  11. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael: and it wasn’t that long ago. My Irish immigrant father wouldn’t drive through the South to visit me in 1991 because of the stories his friends had told him of being harassed by police and humiliated by store owners etc.

  12. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    Plenty of Irish Americans happily make these jokes themselves.

    So you’re saying that Chris Rock makes it OK for all of us to use the N-word?

    I get your larger point, but this part of your argument was… unfortunate.

  13. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: If you act like an ass, you can’t be surprised when people react badly. These shirts repeat hateful stereotypes, and are used to clothe assholes. Really, who buys a shirt with “I’m so Irish I sweat alcohol”? Assholes, that’s who. My brother probably has that shirt. Why are they enabling my brother?

    Does it justify criminal behavior (assuming this even rises to the level of criminal behavior)? Sure, why not? There may be consequences to this allegedly criminal behavior, and I’m ok with the people who engage in it facing those consequences. For instance, it would be hysterical if they brought them back and discovered that the return policy didn’t cover holiday goods returned after the holiday.

    Really, in a battle between those who act like asses and those who get incredibly offended by it and smugly come up with plans to deal with it, I just root for small, minor injuries. I used to want to take the high road, but then I realized that a lot of people need to be smacked in the side of the head.

  14. CET says:

    I think the ability to not be offended by every little thing out there is a dying quality . . .

    Would I rather that box stores sold “26 + 6 = I” T-shirts? Sure. Should I lose sleep over T-shirts that make fun of Irish stereotypes? No. I don’t think that anyone can say with a straight face that people of Irish descent face any tangible hardships or discrimination in this country because of long dead stereotypes. Frankly, I don’t see why everyone can’t grow a slightly thicker skin about minor insults to their heritage/religion/nationality/etc and stop being such pearl-clutchers about everything.

    But next year, I’m going to drink all that stupid green beer, and then return *that* for a refund . . .

  15. rodney dill says:

    @Michael: My point is ethnicity and race are not the same thing, even thought discrimination based on either can be equally bad.

  16. KM says:

    “I’m so Irish I sweat alcohol”

    James, while I understand and somewhat agree with your point that the majority are viewing these as tropes and not stereotypes (with no intention to be offensive at all) the point remains the humor is rooted on an offensive premise. Do you think the following are funny and should be printed and worn in public unashamedly:

    “I’m so Polish I sh-t pierogi!”
    “I’m so Black I sweat watermelon!”
    “I’m so British I piss tea!”
    “I’m so Japanese my farts smell like miso!”
    “I’m so American I sh-t hot dogs!”

    Same premise – take a food/behavior associated with a group and crack a joke. Simple test: if these aren’t funny, the Irish one shouldn’t be funny. If they’re not funny, then why? If they are, why aren’t there T-shirts out there already?

    (My objections to the shirt are actually based on the glorification of alcohol abuse. I’m just pointing out the logistical fail of the joke for consistency’s sake)

  17. KM says:

    In my past life in retail, we HATED people like Westly.

    The few times I’ve ever gotten away with being blatantly rude to a customer and management didn’t’ blink an eye were jerks who tried to take brutal advantage of the returns policy. The most egregious one I can remember was a $20 lobster and two sides dinner sale we were having. I had a customer eat the whole damn thing except for two little stubs of potato and then had the balls to return the empty shell claiming it “tasted bad”. My area manager almost gave him the full refund simply because it was policy until I started raising holy hell. The store manager finally came over and told the smirking bastard to get out before he called the cops – turns out that was the third time he’d pulled that trick that week! People had been blinding obeying the policy; nobody said anything until I put my foot down. He was arrested when he came back the next day for try number 4.

    This is not clever; this is a crime. Depending on the sheer amount of money involved, possibly a serious one. If I were manager, I’d prosecute the ass. Protest some other way, buddy.

  18. rodney dill says:

    @KM: …but God help the person that disses lutefisk…

  19. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    .

    Plenty of Irish Americans happily make these jokes themselves.

    Among each other..but that doesn’t make it OK for others to. It’s the same way that other disadvantaged or discriminated against groups such as women, gays, African-Americans, Jews etc. can use slur words about those groups among each other, but object strongly when an outsider uses them. I don’t get offended when my cousin calls me a stupid drunken Mick…but let an Englishman call me the same and I’ll see red.

  20. @Rafer Janders:

    Us krauts do not tell such jokes among each other, as we have no sense of humor.

  21. Gustopher says:

    @KM:

    “I’m so Polish I sh-t pierogi!”

    That one actually is funny. The watermelon one is offensive, and the others are lame. But sh-tting pierogi? That’s funny.

    It avoids the most common stereotype of the Poles (stupidity), gives us a touch of vulgarity, and a pierogi. “pierogi” is a funny sounding word, like “duck” — it makes everything a little funnier.

  22. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    Let me tell you a true story about my past life in retail. Many years ago, our stocking crew received a shipment of leather coats for which the shipper had mistakely sent us the original invoice with the actual wholesale price. The coats were put out for back-to-school at $295 each (as I said, this was a looooong time–about 25 years–ago. As the season wore on, the price went down until they were finally sold at $38.99 each–still more than 100% above their wholesale price of $16.75.

    Not everything gets marked up that much. Westly is a dork. If Walmart doesn’t want people to do this, they can post that seasonal holiday clothing cannot be returned. Bottom line, I am not worried about Sam Walton’s kids being made homeless over this kind of stunt. I think they’ll survive it.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @rodney dill:

    …but God help the person that disses lutefisk…

    But, but. I’m Norwegian ancestry. I can’t stand to be in the same room with the stuff. Something about the flowers in the wall paper wilting from the odor.