When a Michigan mom bought a pack of Tinkerbell underwear for her daughter at a mom-to-mom sale this weekend, she didn’t expect the hidden message she found inside the package. The note read, “Help Me! Plz.”
In addition to the “help me” plea on the note inside of the package of girls’ underwear Nicole Perez purchased, the back of the note had the woman’s name, “MayAnn,” and a phone number. The note also read “Location: Philippines.”
The underwear was made in the Philippines, according to the label, and is manufactured by Handcraft Manufacturing Corporation in New York. Perez said of the note:
“I was terrified. I just felt like everything just dropped to my stomach.”
After Perez emailed the manufacturer, she received a prompt apology and an offer for a new pack of underwear. However, Perez simply couldn’t ignore the nagging hunch that someone desperately needed help from whoever discovered the note. She said:
“You’re wondering if this is forced labor, if they’re just working long hours, they’re putting these underwear together and clearly someone is reaching out for help and so you think about your own kids and you hope that this isn’t the case.”
When Perez tried calling the number on the note, she couldn’t reach anyone. According to president of the Philippine American Cultural Center of Michigan, the number on the note might be for a pre-paid cell phone that are very common in the Philippines and are often untraceable. Tungol also noted that although the note is alarming, there are labor laws that protect textile workers in the Philippines.
Late Thursday afternoon, president of Handcraft Manufacturing Irwin Mizrahi said that the note appears to have been written by a factory worker. He said the first step to investigating whether the note is an actual allegation of mistreatment is to figure out which factory it came from.
Perez said that she will be sending the underwear and packagingback to the company so that officials can investigate further. She said:
“This can happen to anything that you buy. You never known, but you are a little bit more aware of where things are coming from.”