Mystery Deepens After Michigan Woman Finds 'Help Me' Note In Underwear
By Christy Strawser
BRIGHTON (CBS Detroit) - Handcraft Manufacturing has managers at all 20 factories it utilizes in the Philippines today, inspecting and going through lists of past and current workers, trying to find a mystery woman who could have put a note in underwear asking for help.
They're reacting swiftly after a Brighton woman reached out to the FBI, and the media, following an incident where she opened a package of Tinkerbell children's underwear and found a note inside on a slip of cardboard.
It said, "Help Me! Plz." It included the name "MayAnn," said "location: Philippines" and had a phone number. WXYZ broke the story last night.
No one answered the phone number inside the note.
"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," Perez told WXYZ.
Handcraft Manufacturing in New York City manufactures the character-themed underwear for children with a license from Disney for the character images. Marshall Mizrahi, vice president of Handcraft, told CBS Detroit they're doing everything they can to track down MayAnn.
But the common name, uncertain date, and lack of information about which factory produced the underwear makes it a difficult task, he said.
"The customer who got the underwear only emailed us two days ago, and we emailed back saying we need the product back because inside the product is a tracking number with the number and the date," Mizrahi said.
He added that based on photos of the package, the product is more than two years old.
Despite periodic reports about terrible working conditions in some overseas clothing factories, Mizrahi said the factories they utilize in the Philippines are safe, inspected frequently, and employees are well cared for.
"You know, we have our own office in the Philippines with 15 employees, we're in the factories every day, we're on top of it. We get audited all the time ... My gut is nothing terrible is truly going on in the factory."
He added it could be a prank, something added during the packaging or sales process in another facility anywhere in the world, or, it could be someone at working who needs help for a situation at home.
He said if the note came from China, "I would be terrified," but working conditions in the Philippines are much more friendly.
Adding to the difficulty is that in the Philippines, many women have Ma, May, MayAnn, and Maria as their first name.
Mizrahi said if his company is able to track down the MayAnn who wrote the note, they would deal with the local authorities about it.
"There are help numbers on the wall," he said, about the note writer's access to help. "It's going to be hard to find her. We're very concerned, but until we get the underwear, there's not much we can do."
If this is legitimate, in 20 years operating in the Philippines this is the first complaint they've gotten on behalf of a worker, Mizrahi said.
"So far, it's an isolated incident," he added.
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