Those t-shirts

As discussed below, Tom Friedman claims anecdotally in his column yesterday that some victim of outsourcing proceeded to make a bundle selling “I lost my job to India and all I got was this lousy…” t-shirts, so it didn’t really matter that he lost his job after all:

Only in America, she said, shaking her head, would someone figure out how to profit from his own unemployment. And that, she insisted, was the reason America need not fear outsourcing to India: America is so much more innovative a place than any other country.

So I got to thinking: let’s find this guy! So we can, you know, celebrate his success!

Googling the phrase as it appeared in Friedman’s column turned up nothing, but it occurred to me that the shirt was far more likely to have read “My job went to India…”, playing off the usual “Grandma went to Florida and all I got…” motif.

Well, here’s the shirt. As you will see if you follow the link, it’s not made by a plucky American entrepreneur at all — it’s being offered by a British website which provides snarky commentary on information technology issues such as outsourcing.

In other words, that guy, who made the bundle of money selling the shirts, whose triumph over adversity provides the anecdote upon which Friedman bases his entire column? He, in all probability, does not exist. The shirt is not an example of American ingenuity, turning lemons into lemonade. It’s rueful humor — British, at that — satirizing exactly that which Friedman champions.

And it took a bleary, sleep-deprived cartoonist working on his first cup of coffee about thirty seconds to determine that fact.

UPDATE: I’m wrong about the above, partially — it turns out there’s also an American who also made similar shirts, though it’s extremely questionable that he “made a bundle.” More here.

The Times’ ombudsman can be reached here, if you feel like sending him a note.

(Minor edits.)

Update from British reader Richard Martin:

Having read your article I thought I’d add my own side of the story, such as it is.

I “invented” the “My job went to India…” slogan and sent it off to The Register’s editor as a joke in July 2003. I still have my job and it resides very much in the UK (at least for now but who can be certain?) so its not as though I’m making money out of my misfortune. Actually its not as if I’m making any money whatsoever as all I got out of the deal was a free t-shirt. Still I’m hardly negative about it as its great to see one’s thoughts emerging into the Zeitgeist occasionally and after all I didn’t design the shirt or produce it, so all credit to the Register.

Hmmm. Typical Brit “success” story there – we invent it, others make the money from it, and then the Yanks claim all the credit.

…and a followup in the Register.