Aden Brown, a 26-year-old DJ from Stowbridge, posted this photo of a trolley in his kitchen last week. For the caption, he wrote: "5p a bag get fukd I got a £1 trolley".
The tweet was referencing the new national 5p bag charge, which applies to retailers with more than 250 employees.
"I put it on Facebook for a practical joke just for me and few friends," Brown told BuzzFeed News.
At first, everything was fine. "Everyone that knows me knows I'm up for a bit of banter," he said. "It went up into hundreds and hundreds of likes."
Paul Griffiths, a 32-year-old granite worker from Manchester made the same joke. He posted this photo on his Twitter account with the caption: "5p for a bag quid for a trolley".
On Monday, tabloids like the Daily Mail and Metro ran their photos with their names. At no point in the articles did the papers mention that both photos were jokes.
Brown lives about 200 metres from a Tesco. "The lady who served me laughed and was like, 'Aden, you're nuts,'" Brown said. Griffiths did the same thing. He lives a couple hundred metres from a Morrisons.
Griffiths said a reporter for the SWNS news agency reached out to use his photo, but he didn't know that they were going to use it seriously.
Brown said no one ever asked him for permission to use the photo.
He posted updates about the not-quite-stolen trolley on his Facebook page.
"It was insane – I never thought a practical joke would go this far," Brown said. "It's just been copied and put virally all over the country."
As for Griffiths, he said he's received messages from people all over the world mad at him for being a trolley thief. He also quickly returned his trolley after posting it on social media to his few hundred Twitter followers.
"It just went viral all over the world and now I'm getting abuse just over a little joke, really not a story," he said. "It was never really a story."
A spokesperson for SWNS sent BuzzFeed News screenshots of messages from Aden Brown and Paul Griffiths agreeing to have their trolley photos used by the agency. This piece has been updated to reflect that.
Ryan Broderick is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Ryan Broderick at email@example.com.
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