South Wales Evening Post

It used to be a message in a bottle, but nowadays it seems like you are more likely to get a cry from help in a clothing store than you are at the sea shore.

This week in Wales, 25 year old shopper Rebecca Gallagher bought a floral dress from the chain Primark, only to discover that next to the cleaning instructions, someone had written “Forced to work exhausting hours” on a sewed-on piece of cloth, according to the South Wales Evening Post.

“I dread to think that my summer top may be made by some exhausted person toiling away for hours in a sweatshop abroad,” Gallagher said.

After the news started to spread around, a second shopper came forward, according to the paper. This time, a polka dot top also bought last year bore a tag that read: “‘degrading’ sweatshop conditions.” It was also allegedly purchased at the same Primark store in Wales. The two women did not know each other.

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Photo: South Wales Evening Post

Photo: South Wales Evening Post

In response, a spokesman for the brand has asked the two women to hand over the dresses so the company can conduct an investigation into the origins of the labels. He also called them “strange.”

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Primark, a budget fashion company, came under fire last year when a textile factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 580 workers who were employed by the brand at the time. In total, the collapse killed more than 1100 people.

This March, the brand announced that it would pay an additional $10 million to the victims of the collapse, ahead of an International Labor Organization collective plan that is waiting to raise $40 million before it kicks off.

While one might be skeptical of the two tags being found in the same store (even though there are around 250 other Primark stores across Britain and Europe, with no such sightings), the idea of a cry for help finding its audience through similar circumstances is not new.

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In 2012 a Saks Fifth Avenue customer found a letter from a man who said he was being unfairly held captive in a Chinese prison factory. The letter, tucked into the bottom of a shopping bag, partly read that “we are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory."

The website DNAinfo eventually got in contact with the man, who was released, and appeared to confirm that he was the man who wrote it, as he volunteered obscure details from the letter.

Also in 2012, an Oregon mother found a similar letter in a pack of Halloween decorations, and the New York Times was able to identify the author, who had been held in a Chinese prison.

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“Sir: If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization,” said the note. “Thousands people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”

Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.