We interview the blogger who first spotted the Nazi Walmart shirts, Rick Rottman. He discusses how he first saw the shirts, why he posted it about them, and what happened next.
By the end, you may never think about the number 88 the same way again.
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Transcript inside. — BEN POPKEN
CONSUMERIST: This is Consumerist dot com, and I’m Ben Popken. Last Thursday, Rick Rottman blogged about some strange t-shirts he found at Walmart. They had a grinning skull on them, an exact replica of the one used by an infamous Nazi SS brigade during World War two. Rick discusses how he first saw the shirts, why he posted about them, and what happened next. And by the end, you may never think about the number 88 the same way again.
CONSUMERIST: When did you first spot the Totekkpof tshirt at Walmart?
RICK: You know the thing is I thought I saw them a couple of weeks ago. We were walking through the store and I thought it was just my imagination, I was seeing it wrong. But then that Thursday I walked right through and I looked right at it and I couldn’t believe it because it looked exactly like the death head logo that the Waffen SS used. It wasn’t just a skull and crossbones, it had a very distinct look to it.
CONSUMERIST: Right. How were you yourself familiar with this particular logo?
RICK: You know afterwards I kinda wondered about that myself, well why is it that I can walk by this and immediately and identify it with the Nazi SS you know. I mean I’m not a I used to read a lot of history books, but I was kinda surprised that no one else noticed it, which I guess they didn’t before I did.
CONSUMERIST: What were your thoughts when you saw it and what propelled you to post about it?
RICK: When I was standing there looking at it and I was thinking what in the world, how could Walmart let this happen? You would think that making sure that stuff with Nazi insignias or Nazi swag doesn’t show up on their shelves would be kind of a priority, you know?And then I remembered my phone has a camera, I always forget my phone has a camera and I’ll see something weird going and I’ll be “I wish I had my camera” you know and I’m thinking my digital camera and then I always have the camera on my phone I think I’ve taken all of three pictures with it, you know, so I went ahead and posted this, I figured, why not, you know.
CONSUMERIST: After you posted it, what happened?
RICK: Oh, it was ridiculous. I mean, I posted it and then I thought, I’m gonna post a link to Digg. I generally have about 20 or 30 people who come and read my blog a day. The first day it was over 56,000.
RICK: Yeah yeah, I had to email my hosting provider, I think I did something here, and they emailed back, yeah, we’ll go ahead and make a few changes, just let us know next time you’re gonna post something to Digg.
CONSUMERIST: Yeah, just let us know next time you discover Nazi propaganda inside a major retailer.
RICK: I guess people just love good Walmart slash Nazi stories, you know.
CONSUMERIST: Perfect Venn diagram for the blogosphere. Sweet spot! Yes!
And so then you, like anyone else who has put up a mention, you received an outreach from Walmart.
RICK: I got kinda ticked off because when he sent me the email, I thought he was being genuine and the thing is, I should point out, I don’t really, I didn’t at the time really blame Walmart for this happening, I mean, mistakes happen, I guess I would rather judge anyone, a company, an entity, or a corporation, or just even an individual, okay they made a mistake, I think this is just a mistake, but how quickly did they respond to correct or try and rectify this mistake? And in Walmart’s case they haven’t even responded at all, to this. They posted the thing that they were going to be removing all the shirts but this is, Sunday, this is the fourth day after I posted about it and the shirts are still on the sales floor.
CONSUMERIST: Right. Due to the attention that has been brought to it, there are other demographics that this shirt is probably selling better to than it was before…
RICK: I found messages from people on Nazi message boads and people were talking about going to Walmart and getting two of them.
CONSUMERIST: Yeah, I was reading some of these messages and some of them are saying, and I’ll do a quote here, this is from “JB” who says he’s a “National Alliance Member,” he says, “As the guy who started the blog about the shirts in the first place, he shoulda just STFU about it and now he is contributing to the very problem he got his panties in a knot over, he should’ve just shut up and minded his own business, and this thing would’ve went away quietly before anyone noticed. Now thanks to his,” he uses a rude word, “we are now goose stepping over to Walmart to get our SS shirts.”
RICK: Yeah, he was quoting me, I was ticked off and I said, yeah, now they’re all goosetepping over to Walmart to get their Nazi schwag.
CONSUMERIST: So how do you feel when you see comments like this?
RICK: He’s welcome to say, he has somewhat of a point hidden in there, I don’t necessarily agree with it, if I see something wrong, or if anyone sees something wrong, I think they should be able to point it out but then you would expect whoever’s responsible for it to take action and unfortunately, Walmart hasn’t taken action.
There was a few years ago, Target was selling some clothes with the number eight eight on them, and apparently there’s some kinda white supremacy group that uses that as like a kind a code. Because eight eight, H is the eight letter in the alphabet and so eight eight means Heil Hitler you know. Well, they removed all those shirts immediately or hats or whatever they were. And I thought that was kind of excessive, you know. I mean you really have to be reaching to make some kind of connection between eight eight and white supremacy, you know. When I see eight eight, I think Eric Linderos’ number, jersey number, I don’t think white supremacy or anything. But an exact replica of the Waffen death’s head, that’s a little too close for me.
CONSUMERIST: Right, and somehow that’s not a priority for a different retailer to deal with. Well, great, um, I guess the last question is, you know, as of now, do you have any theories as to how this tshirt got made in the first place and passed through the channels? Because as we said, it’s an exact replica. If you cut it out and paste right over the top of the shirt, it will fit exactly.
RICK: I think what had happened, I think for some reason, skulls are kinda popular among a certain, let’s say young male fashion or something. I think the artist was hard pressed to come up with a skull and they came across one that they had never seen before, meaning one that no one else is putting it on a shirt and so they went ahead and put it on a shirt. Little did they know that most people weren’t using it because it was worn by concentration camp guards.
CONSUMERIST: Oh man, it’s a doozy. It’s a doozy. Well, Rick, thanks so much for speaking with us today, pointing out this phenomenon, and we look forward to seeing what, if anything, Walmart ends up doing about it. See if Walmart decides to pull it off the shelves or be more proactive.
RICK: Yeah, “if” is definitely the word. If anything.