A 17-year-old St. Cloud boy argued with a Muslim woman over his cross necklace at a Walmart or Scheels store. See Example( s )
Collected via e-mail, January 2016
In January 2016, the above-reproduced text began appearing on social media. It held that a 17-year-old Christian boy stood his ground in a Scheels (not Shield’s) location in St. Cloud, Minnesota when asked to cover his “offensive” cross by a hijab-clad Muslim cashier.
The claim bore striking similarity to a prolific urban legend about a similarly angry hijab-wearing cashier and a customer with a flag pin; various versions of that rumor circulated as early as 2003. We attempted to locate a “Shield’s” in the area of St. Cloud, Minnesota, but found only a retailer of similar description called “Scheels.”
We contacted the Scheels location in question and spoke with a manager who immediately recognized the rumor to which we were referring. He said that it was completely fabricated, and advised us that prior to the “Shield’s” version of the story, the claim was attached to a local Walmart.
On 27 December 2015, the St. Cloud Times published an article titled “Fact check: Wal-Mart can’t verify Facebook rumor.” The item referenced an “alleged incident at a St. Cloud Wal-Mart that [had] been widely shared,” but was since deleted. It reported:
The poster said her friend was shopping at a Wal-Mart store in St. Cloud while wearing a cross necklace. When she went to pay, the clerk — a Somali woman — told her she had to remove the cross before she would check her out. The woman refused and asked for a manager. The manager told her she had to remove the cross to go through that checkout line. The poster wrote that the woman left her groceries and walked out.
“What ever happened to a free country. What ever happened to Christianity?????? We are unable to believe in Christ or our religion!!!” the poster wrote.
The post was shared on Facebook thousands of times, with many commenters expressing outrage. However, there seems to be no evidence that the incident actually happened.
The St. Cloud Times contacted both St. Cloud-area Walmarts, eventually making contact with Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg. Lundberg told them that the chain learned of and investigated the claim, ultimately deeming it unfounded:
“We looked into the situation as soon as we learned of the allegations,” Lundberg said. “While we’ve asked our cashiers and management about this, we’ve been unable to verify that this happened at all. We’ve been working to identify the actual customer making these claims.”
Lundberg said Wal-Mart officials even reviewed surveillance video of the two St. Cloud stores, but it can’t find evidence that the event occurred. Such an action by a store employee would violate company policy, he said.
Walmart appeared to have been unable to find any evidence of a cashier matching the description of the one in the post, much less that she engaged in any such dialogue with a customer. We contacted Walmart to ask whether any further information had emerged, but have yet to receive a reply.
The claim then shifted to target the St. Cloud Scheels, though it was widely misspelled as “Shield’s” across social media. Given that the story’s first iteration was unsupported by Walmart’s investigation, the chance the recycled tale occurred in a nearly identical fashion just weeks later in the same locality was miniscule. As the Scheels manager confirmed to us, the claim was purely a fabrication.