Retail giant Walmart is apologizing after a customer noticed that a Black baby doll set cost almost $15 more than the white doll set. A Duke professor says that while racism does play a part in the price increase, economics is the real problem.
WCPO reports that Asheria Brown, a mother of three living in Kentucky, wanted to buy her oldest daughter a Kid Collection doll set from Walmart.
She decided to purchase the doll online from the store’s website and made a shocking discovery: the Black and white doll collections, with the same accessories and number of individual dolls totaling 48 pieces, had different prices.
The Black dolls and accessories ran for $39.97, while the white counterparts were sold for $25.00.
Brown shared, “They were 14 dollars and 97 cents more expensive than the white babies I saw in the store.”
“There are seven Black babies and there are seven white babies,” she continued. “But one set is $39.97; the other is $25.”
On Twitter, several users found other examples of price gouging around dolls. Some even more egregious than Brown’s case.
“@Walmart please tell me why the black doll cost more ??????,” asked one Twitter user of a doll set that appeared to cost nearly $40 more than the white version.
Another added about the same pricing discrepancy, “Now @Walmart, we are sick of this!!! Why is the black doll soooo much more expensive than the others”
“@Mattel and @Walmart why is the black doll more expensive? This is not my first time seeing this”
“This is crazy! Even if you are letting a third party use your stores why not at least make the price point comparable? Or better yet if you don’t have the same black doll find another third party who has it for the same or similar price?! @Walmart”
Walmart issued a statement claiming that the price difference is tied to a “systems error.”
“The price difference in the two items was the result of price changes made systemically. We lowered the price on a select group of toys, including only one of these dolls, to help drive sales,” the megastore offered.
“Unfortunately, we overlooked the impact these changes would have on similar items whose price did not change. This was an unintentional error on our part and we sincerely apologize to anyone it may have offended.”
This is not the first time that prices around differently colored dolls have made the news. In the past, Walmart and Target claimed that these types of discrepancies are indeed “errors” and have issued promises to keep dolls, despite ethnicity, at the same price.
According to CNBC, after a customer called the retail store out in 2014 for an African-American ice skater Barbie costing $2 more than the white version, Walmart called it a “pricing error,” corrected it immediately and offered gift cards to people who had paid the higher price when they purchased the doll.
This is almost the same thing that happened with Target.
Once the store sold the African-American fashion design marker Barbie at $49.99 while selling the white version for $23.49, more than twice the price.
When confronted with the discrepancy, the company released a statement that said, “It is never our intention to offend our guests with our product assortment. Both dolls should have reflected the same pricing, however, due to a systems issue this change did not occur.”
CNBC reports that both dolls went on sale for $20.99, a tad cheaper than either was originally priced.
Still, Dr. Sabrina Thomas, a doll historian, docent for the North Carolina Museum of History, and senior associate academic dean at Duke University, says that the price discrepancy is more about supply and demand versus flat-out racism.
She shared, “The problem, I believe, when we look at these discrepancies in pricing is that toy manufacturers do not produce Black dolls in proportion to the number of people in the human population.”
The rule regarding supply and demand is just that simple. It is about “the amount of goods and services that are available for people to buy compared to the amount of goods and services that people want to buy.”
Still, the retail giant is moving to make right doll-gate. The statement concluded, “Walmart is a firm believer of diversity and inclusion. As a company, we are investing resources and developing strategies to advance equity for all within our walls and society.”
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