5 Regular Joes Who Stuck it to the Man–And Won

Underdog stories don’t just happen in sports. Sometimes, regular people have to go head-to-head with a big company, industry, or government to stand by their principles.

The chances of winning such a David and Goliath battle are usually small. But once in a while, a single person manages to stick it to the man–and win. We collected five true life stories of people who succeeded in facing down larger entities, often using nothing but a set of iron-clad values.

1. The Fed Up Artist
A New Zealand artist forces a big bank to give him all his savings–in $20 bills.

Image: MARTIN DE RUYTER/The Nelson Mail

In late July, New Zealand artist Roger Griffiths applied for an $80,000 mortgage through Westpac, a multinational bank he had patronized for 25 years. Griffiths had more than enough collateral to meet the bank’s required 20% deposit.

The self-proclaimed successful artist was disappointed when Westpac rejected the loan, citing Griffiths’ lack of regular income. However, when he heard about the bank losing $111 million after taking receivership of clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudin Industries, he decided to get even.

Griffiths withdrew his entire savings of $190,000 from the bank–in $20 bills. The bank had to count the money in front of him, then place it in a large carry bag. It took some effort for the bank to get all the cash in one location before Griffith’s 9 a.m. deadline.

“It’s about time normal people took a stand,” Griffiths stated in a media report.

(Source: Stuff.co.nz)

2. The Irish Bread Baker
An Irish food expert earns her way back into the country by selling bread.

Image: The Daily Green

Tessa Fowler knows a lot about Ireland. The Wyoming native has written about Ireland for magazines, and is an expert on Irish food. That’s why she was stunned when, on her sixth trip to the country, Irish immigration officials refused to let her into the country. She didn’t have a return ticket, so she had to make her way back to America.

Fowler won’t be let down easily. She plans on returning to Ireland. Lacking funds, she is financing her trip by selling gourmet Irish breads around her hometown. By selling soda- and Guinness breads door to door, she hopes to raise $2,000 for her next attempt. Judging by the publicity she is receiving, her plan should be on track.

(Source: Michael Lavery, Herald.ie)

3. The Christian who Stood by Sundays
A devout Christian wins an eminent sports announcer job, despite never working on Sundays.


Dan Walker is a devout Christian. As such, he refuses to work on Sundays. Yet this soccer show host landed a job on the BBC’s Football Focus, despite the fact that important games happen almost every Sunday.

“I don’t even watch football on a Sunday,” Walker said in an interview. “Obviously as a professional I keep abreast of the scores but I spend Sunday at church and with my family.”

He claims to have been denied other jobs because of his firm Sunday stance. But the BBC hired him anyway.

“To be given it means even more for me because I’ve made my stand but still been handed this opportunity. I’ve grown up watching Football Focus, so now to be presenting the show really is a dream come true.”

New Unemployment Claims Down, But Still Extreme

(Source: Ananova)

4. The Middle-Aged Woman with the Big Voice
Susan Boyle vs. Society

Image: Wikipedia

Susan Boyle could be the quintessential underdog. The Scottish singer endured nicknames like “Simple Susan” growing up. She never married, and didn’t have much of a career. At the age of 48, she still lives in her family home.

However, Boyle has one serious singing voice. Until she appeared on Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year, not that many people knew about it. When she first walked onto the stage, Simon Cowell almost rolled his eyes. The audience did the same when she informed them that she wanted to be a professional singer.

Then, Boyle sang. Her rendition of Les Miserables’ “I Dreamed a Dream” won her global acclaim. She became an instant celebrity. As a result, the media–which earns part of its keep by pushing stereotypical images of young, beautiful women–was forced to question why people didn’t take Susan Boyle seriously when she first walked on stage. Whether she intended to or not, Boyle taught the world a lesson about judging a book by its cover.

(Source: Wikipedia)

5. The Standalone Bidder
A moneyless college students wins land at a BLM auction–and saves it.


Tim DeChristopher sees oil drilling as a threat to the future of the environment. That’s why this former University of Utah seniorsat in on a BLM auction in December 2008. There, he started bidding for drilling and oil rights on Southern Utah land. He ended up winning about $1.7 million worth of rights, on almost 22,500 acres near Arches National Park.

The catch was that he never had the money to buy all that land. Instead, he bid up the prices, keeping other prospectors away from the land.

BLM agents saw through DeChristopher’s fraudulent bid. They opened an investigation to figure out whether he had violated any federal laws.

Meanwhile, the BLM planned to put the land back up for auction. While the land rights were slugging through the adminisphere, the Bush administration left office, paving the way for the more environmentally-friendly Obama team. Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ended up rescinding 77 of the auctioned leases, claiming they were too close to national parks, according to the LA Times.

In April, DeChristopher was charged with two federal felonies. But the land he bid on was saved, making his protest a success for the environment.

Honorable Mention: The Mouse in the ATM Machine
A mouse makes a nest out of $20 bills.

Image: Oregon Mouseworks

This Oregon mouse could be considered a regular Joe. Whether he stuck it to the man on purpose will always be a mystery.

A woman discovered the mouse living inside an ATM machine at the Chevron station where she worked. The mouse had set up a nest made of chewed $20 bills.

“The mouse had chewed up two bills and damaged another 14 to make his nest, but the bank replaced all the money that wasn’t extensively damaged,” according to Fox. The mouse escaped with his life, though the bank salvaged the remains of his nest. The little critter is the only Joe on our list to stick it to something (the bank) while being stuck inside something (the ATM machine).

(Source: Fox News)

Written by Drea Knufken

Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.