The couple filmed the reactions of affected staff members and posted their ordeal on YouTube under the title “CEO Firing People Prank IN THE HOOD (GONE WRONG)”. The now-deleted video was posted on the channel Joel and Lauren TV.
The couple’s YouTube platform has more than 1.3 million subscribers and videos with up to 160 million views. In the video posted last month, Love assumed the role of a CEO and approached a few staff Walmart staff members at a store in Texas.
According to a report on BuzzFeed News, Love reportedly described the prank as a “social experiment” in the video.
One of the staff members featured in the video was Maria Leones, who cried after Love told her that she was being fired from her job. Leones could be heard telling Love that she has worked at the Walmart store for six years.
As she cried, Love apologised and explained that it was a prank. She pointed Leones to her cameraperson who was secretly filming their exchange.
At the end of the video, Love thanked viewers for watching the video and said “it was honestly hilarious”. She also told viewers that she felt bad for making Leones cried and even gave her US$50 (RM208).
In a recent interview with a local news outlet, Leones told reporters how the prank really affected her.
“I felt so powerless at that time. Really, I was really so crushed. I felt so little, I felt so powerless. At that very moment, I felt so little, because back home (in the Philippines) I had a very good reputation because I’m a professor,” she said to KTRK-TV.
Leones also revealed that she needed her job to continue paying for her husband’s medical insurance and bills. The husband is recovering from a heart attack and bypass surgery. When Love pulled the firing prank on her, Leones said she immediately thought of her husband.
Walmart responded to the prank, branding it “offensive”.
“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,” a spokesperson told website Click2Houston.
The company also said that Love and her cameraperson are no longer welcomed at Walmart.
Users are also calling for YouTube to consider banning Love and her partner Ashley from YouTube.
@YouTube. Are you going to ban Lauren Love for her disgusting actions? Is this the kind of content/creators you allow?
— Denver Housewife (@DenverHousewife) May 12, 2019
Hey Lauren Love, you’re fired from making Youtube Videos…how bout that! https://t.co/odY2WURCGu
— Russ Russo (@russrusso) May 12, 2019
Lauren Love and Joel Ashley’s actions should be punishable by law. If not at least by the @Youtube platform. Again @YouTube has shown a total disregard for holding their users/creators accountable for their actions.
— kelsey.F (@MrsKelseyF) May 11, 2019
YouTube’s policy on harassment and cyberbullying does not allow content that is “deliberately posted in order to humiliate someone”. A creator will receive a warning with no penalty if it’s the first time that such content is being uploaded on the channel.
However, if it’s not the first time, then the creator will receive a strike on their channel. After three strikes, YouTube will proceed to terminate the channel.