is a series that rates Wikipedia entries for accuracy, completion, writing quality, and inanity.
The Wikipedia entry for the humble Weepul, which is basically a cotton ball with adhesive feet and googly eyes, appears to be complete. What more can be said? A lot. The entry for Weepuls was created in 2005 — plenty of time to get things right in the internet’s preeminent crowdsourced encyclopedia — but it contains unforgivable gaps and factual errors and fails to mention the central reason for their cultural significance.
The Wikipedia entry for Weepuls sources its core definition from a blog entry on the unaffiliated branding agency website Igor National. In this definition, the Weepul is a “a small, spherical, fluffy toy, with large, plastic googly eyes, and no limbs.” It was named “by owner Tom Blundell after a stuffed doll his parents had taken to market several years earlier.”
(It is important to note the Weepul is a toy, and not an actual animal, which for a while was ambiguous according to Wikipedia. One Wikipedia user wrote, “they are a TOY not a ‘creature’ you fucking morons they are not alive if you think they are real creatures you can burn in hell.”)
I’ve seen a number of Weepuls in real life, and I can confirm they are small spherical toys. However, the origin of the Weepul on Wikipedia does not capture the full story, as provided by the Weepul's inventor in “The weepuls success story,” and an Atlas Obscura article.
Blundell explains how he’d made the first prototype in a time of overcaffeinated boredom, while working at his parents’ stuffed animal company, BIPO, Inc. when he returned from serving in the Vietnam War. The company is named after his parents, Bill and Polly. The reason behind the name “Weepul” is not addressed in the Wikipedia entry, but in Blundell’s post, he clarifies that weepul is a portmanteau of “wee” and “people.” The inventor apparently tried to enter his account in the “Talk” section of the Wikipedia entry, but this information never made it into the actual encyclopedia.
There are zero mentions of the Weepul as a cult-like promotional device used in school fundraisers.
Thomas Blundell sold BIPO after getting a job with a Christian book publisher and moving to the Philippines, as reported by Promo Marketing magazine and seemingly confirmed by Thomas Blundell’s location and title on his LinkedIn profile. The company is now called Weepuline, and the company holds a registered trademark for the Weepul.
None of this information is reflected in the Wikipedia entry for Weepuls. Instead, if there is one question the Weepul page answers sufficiently, it is, “What is the significance of this fuzzy toy for the Dutch?” More than half of the Wikipedia entry is dedicated to the Weepul’s impact in the Netherlands. After its 1970 inception, the Weepul was reborn in the Netherlands. According to the Wikipedia entry, a Dutch salesman saw Weepuls in the 70s and then created his own version,“Wuppies.” A Dutch musician, Father Abraham featured the wuppies in one of his songs, “Wij zijn de wuppies” (“We are the wuppies”). Wuppies then made another Dutch resurgence in 2006 as part of a World Cup promotional campaign. At the height of wuppie popularity, crazed fans would break car windows to steal “Mega Wups,” which were larger, soccer-ball sized versions of wuppies.
There is one glaring, inexcusable omission on the Weepul Wikipedia entry. There are zero mentions of the Weepul as a cult-like promotional device used in school fundraisers.
For those who haven’t taken part in such a school fundraising scheme, it typically involves a third party salesman addressing an entire school in an assembly and riling up students by revealing different Weepuls on poster boards. I know, because I witnessed this spectacle firsthand at my Catholic school. You could earn weepuls by hustling door-to-door to sell magazine subscriptions. The more subscriptions sold, the “cooler” the Weepuls earned. For example, a Weepul for high-sellers might have a cardboard skateboard or a Darth Vader mask.
Parents were also implicated in the scheme, as the fundraisers encourage students to tell their parents to sell subscriptions at their place of employment. You can find remnants of the scheme in private school newsletters and newspapers, redditthreads like “did these assholes ever come to your school” and “To think my school tricked an 8 year old me into peddling magazine subscriptions door to door for this shit. I feel so cheap and used.” “When I was in grade school, in the late 80s and early 90s, some magazine company would come to the school, and they would have a contest... the students would sell magazines, and if you sold a certain number, you would win these little toys... they were just little furry balls with eyes and hats...,” wrote one forum user.
The decline of print media, coupled with increased child safety awareness and the proliferation of the internet, is also not mentioned in the entry, though it surely had an impact on Weepul demand. If Weepul mania caught on today, a moderately savvy kid could buy the fuzzy toys in bulk, starting at 86 cents a piece, and circumvent the magazine-selling exercise. “Do we really want to turn our children into supersalespeople who canvass our neighbors, relatives and co-workers?” asked a 2002 critique of fundraisers on JewishJournal.com. “Do we want them riled up at raucous magazine drive kick-off assemblies, pumped up to sell enough subscriptions to win everything from Weepuls (you can buy one online for less than $1) to an ice cream party for their entire class?”
School fundraisers that engage students in sales, which are common across private and public schools, reflect the insufficiency of funding for education in the U.S. They are often an attempt by strapped schools to pay for basic supplies, but they are often not that profitable for the school — and they pale in comparison to fundraisers held by schools in rich districts where parents contribute big ticket items to auctions or simply write checks. “More traditional fundraising sales of goods, such as wrapping paper and magazines, remain standard in U.S. schools today—there are just more of them,” wrote Maggie Messitt at Teaching Tolerance, a magazine produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 2014. “But the payoff is often disappointing.” The Weepul is a fuzzy toy, but it is more than that. It is a symbol of inequality, which has gotten so desperate that schools are mobilizing children to sell merchandise to pay for their own education.
In a phrase: Deceptively superficial.