Lauren Love of the Joel and Lauren TV, YouTube channel receives backlash after Texas Walmart prank on store employee Maria Leones goes wrong.
A YouTube content creator with more than one million subscribers has caused disconcert after bringing a Texas Walmart employee to tears after posing as an executive and pretending to fire her in a video posted on her channel.
Lauren Love, who runs a YouTube channel called Joel and Lauren TV, played the ‘joke’ on Maria Leones in a since-deleted video (see snippets below) that was published on April 23, prompting comments criticizing her.
Leones, whose husband recently underwent heart surgery according to Click2Houston, broke down in tears at the thought of losing her job at the Richmond super store.
PRANK GONE WRONG: What do you think of this? A social media creator went to a Richmond @Walmart and told employees they were fired. One woman broke down because her husband’s medical expenses depend on her job. Her emotional plea for these pranks to end @abc13houston at 455pm. pic.twitter.com/l1CKMF2kWM
— Nick Natario (@NickABC13) May 8, 2019
Whoever this fucking Lauren Love person is BAN her from YouTube. This is fucking funny to you? Lucky you didn’t get your head knocked off. Disgusting, Walmart should sue her dumbass. Ass dumb
— Name cannot be blank (@_ScottieF) May 9, 2019
Stop “pranking” people you don’t know. It’s not that hard. This “Lauren Love” bitch is exactly what is wrong with most “prank” channels. Fuck off and leave ordinary people alone pic.twitter.com/QxbFYsXGDz
— Asuka (@TheAmazingAsuka) May 13, 2019
Lauren Love YouTuber playing on common people’s vulnerabilities- why not go for the rich and powerful?
The incident has led to Love and her partner being banned from all Walmart locations and encountering a swath of condemnation.
‘Your child must be so proud of you!!’ one person posted, with another commenting, ‘Such a good mom! [laughing emoji]’
Wrote one commentator on social media, ‘Such a great role model for your kids.’
‘Hope your utube (sic) is down for good,’ posted another social media user.
Walmart said it asked YouTube to remove the video, but it’s not clear whether the platform took it down or Love deleted in on her own.
‘This prank is offensive and the people responsible are no longer welcome in our stores,’ the company said in a statement.
‘We’ve taken actions on behalf of our associates, including asking YouTube to remove the video and calling their attention to the bullying nature of this hoax. Our associates work hard every day to serve our customers. They do a fantastic job, deserve better than being subjected to such disrespect, and will continue to have our full support.’
Maria Leones Walmart employee: ‘I was crushed, I felt so powerless.’
In the video, which was titled ‘CEO Firing People Prank IN THE HOOD (GONE WRONG),’ according to CBS, Love wore a blue Walmart smock and claimed to be CEO of the discount store.
She was shown criticizing the work of several people and tell them they were fired, while praising others.
Leones, who worked in academia in Asia before coming to the U.S., was the last person addressed in the video.
‘Really, I was really so crushed, I felt so little, I felt so powerless,’ Leones said.
‘At that very moment, I felt so little, because back home I had a very good reputation because I’m a professor.’
Lauren Love YouTuber: ‘Actually, I’m gonna need to see your badge and your vest because you’re fired’.
In the video, Love confronts Leones while she’s at work, walking through aisles attending to the shelves.
Leones responds telling her she’s scheduled to work 9am to 6pm that day in the garden center, as the cashier.
‘You’re in the cashier? So wait, why are you over here?’ Love asks Leones, who then explains that the store policy is to stay busy with other tasks when customers don’t need assistance at the register.
Then, Love tells her that she’s the CEO of the store, and she doesn’t agree with that approach.
‘OK, well I’m the CEO of today, my dad used to own this Walmart specifically, but he actually doesn’t work with this one anymore so I’m actually taking over. And today I would prefer is you actually be over there,’ Love says, pointing to the cash register.
Leones says OK, and then Loves prods her, saying, ‘I don’t understand why you’re over here.’
As Leones starts to explain the policy again, Love tells her again she wants her at the register, to which Leones says simply, ‘Alright, thank you.’
Then, Love gets to the punchline of the prank, and says:
‘Actually, I’m gonna need to see your badge and your vest because you’re fired. You’re fired. I don’t appreciate you walking around here. You’re supposed to be at the cashier cashing people out. What if someone was looking around and they don’t see you because you’re busy over here?’
After a moment, Leones calmly tells her, ‘I have been here for six years. I have been doing my job very well. I’ve been recognized as employee of the month.’
As Leones says the last words, her voice breaks and she starts to cry.
‘At that moment, I thought about my husband,’ Leones said, recalling how she felt in the middle of the cruel joke, and her worry for the medical coverage she depends on from Walmart to help care for her husband of 43 years who recently underwent a quadruple bypass surgery after suffering a heart attack.
As Leones grows increasingly upset in the clip, Love breaks character and says, ‘I’m sorry, I did not mean to make your cry. You’re not fired, you’re not fired.’
Leones is so happy at this news, she hugs Love, still not realizing she’s posing as a CEO.
Love closed the video taking to camera, saying, ‘I hope you guys enjoyed this video. It was honestly hilarious. It turned out really well.’
She added: ‘The last one was, honestly, I felt so bad. She started crying.’
Love claimed she felt so badly that she gave Leones $50, but Leones said that’s not true.
Love’s clip wasn’t exactly original. A search of ‘CEO firing people prank’ on YouTube turns up multiple similar videos with millions of views.
Leones said she’d like to tell people who perform these kinds of ‘social experiments,’ to ‘be careful, emotions can be so dangerous.’