JONESBORO, Ark. – After Sarek Bierstedt’s vehicle came back from an oil change with problems, he found “MAGA” written underneath in sealant – the initials of “Make America Great Again,” the campaign slogan of President Donald J. Trump.
Bierstedt was initially quiet about the matter. A few months back, he had the oil changed to his Jeep. Unlike some vehicles, Bierstedt’s Jeep is visually loud about who he is: an openly gay man in a relationship with his boyfriend, who actually took the vehicle in for the oil change in May.
Like most in the LGBT community, Bierstedt was not someone who wanted to see Trump elected President. His resistance to the current president is openly displayed with a number of stickers on the vehicle, from “Not My President,” to a drawing of a minimally endowed version of the billionaire New York real estate developer. The graffiti Bierstedt chose to decorate his vehicle with speaks to who he is and what he believes.
But when those beliefs clashed with someone’s in the automotive department of Walmart on Parker Road in Jonesboro, a contrasting set of characters was written on the underside of the vehicle during the oil change – “MAGA.” The letters stood for “Make America Great Again,” the slogan which Trump often Tweets in hashtag form (#MAGA).
Bierstedt noticed the writing while under his vehicle for a tire issue. The characters were written in a unique blue sealant used by Walmart employees during work to verify that Walmart was the last to work on the vehicle. Walmart verified this to NEA Report on Monday, July 17. In effect, it verifies the last person to work on the vehicle was a Walmart associate.
It meant the culprit behind the writing worked in the Walmart automotive department.
“I was going to let it slide honestly,” Bierstedt said. “I’ve had people spit on my vehicle before because I have anti-Trump stickers. I was just going to let it go but the longer I thought about it, the more it pissed me off. I paid for a service and I get it back and it has this on it.”
Bierstedt took his vehicle back to Walmart on Friday, July 14, after some problems arose which happened after the last oil change. His oil seemed to be leaking, he said. Coupled with the graffiti, he feared his vehicle had not been properly serviced. He spoke with a manager at the store, James Smith. Bierstedt turned his phone on record during part of the conversation, legal in Arkansas if one party is aware.
“I’ve been asking folks what that means,” Smith said. “The only thing they come up with was ‘Make America Great Again.’ So I don’t know what the hell that’s about.”
The recording ended not long after the manager begins to check out the vehicle. Bierstedt said he asked Smith to look into the matter of his leaking oil and the graffiti.
“He comes back and said there was nothing but a rear main leak,” Bierstedt said. “He tried to walk out of the waiting room into the tire center. I said what about the “MAGA” stuff and he said, ‘Oh. I took it off of there.'”
Bierstedt wasn’t pleased with what appeared to be an abrasive or wire brush having been used to remove the political graffiti. He said it looks worse now than it did with the Republican presidential slogan initials painted on it. He also said Smith promised to have a chat with the person responsible after finding out who did it.
Bierstedt voice his frustration in a Facebook post including a photo of the before-and-after of the graffiti. This is when NEA Report became aware of the story.
On Monday, July 17, Senior Manager of National Media Relations Charles Crowson, from the Walmart corporate office in Bentonville, Ark., returned a media inquiry from NEA Report and said he, and the store manager, had not been aware of the issue until notified by our reporter. Crowson said Walmart took the matter extremely seriously and seemed to operate with haste.
Two days later, Wednesday, July 19, he released a statement to NEA Report.
“While we can not speak specifically regarding personnel matters, the individual involved in this matter is no longer with the company,” Crowson said. “We do not tolerate harassment of any kind, be it to customers or to fellow associates. Period.”
While the associate responsible appears to have been fired, Bierstedt said the worker probably thought he was simply trying to joke around or be funny. He said he didn’t find the prank funny, “at all.”
He also said Walmart offered a consolation gift for the trouble.
“They offered a free oil change,” Bierstedt said. “I passed.”
By Stan Morris | NEA Report