*Less than a month after Walmart was criticized for placing gangsta rappers in lieu of military heroes in its Black History Month displays, the company is again under fire over a misstep having to do with race.
At least one of its stores opted to slash the price of a black Barbie doll to nearly half of that of the doll’s white counterpart, according to ABC News. And critics are already questioning the retailer’s motives.
“The implication of the lowering of the price is that’s devaluing the black doll,” said Thelma Dye, the executive director of the Northside Center for Child Development, a Harlem, N.Y. organization founded by pioneering psychologists and segregation researchers Kenneth B. Clark and Marnie Phipps Clark. “While it’s clear that’s not what was intended, sometimes these things have collateral damage,” Dye said.
A photo first posted to the humor Web site FunnyJunk.com and later to the Latino Web site Guanabee.com shows packages of Mattel’s Ballerina Barbie and Ballerina Theresa dolls hanging side by side at an unidentified store. The Theresa dolls, which feature brown skin and dark hair, are marked as being on sale at $3.00. The Barbies to the right of the Theresa dolls, meanwhile, retain their original price of $5.93. The dolls look identical aside from their color.
Editors at Guanabee.com said the person responsible for the photo told the Web site that it was taken at a Louisiana Walmart store.
A Walmart spokeswoman, who could not verify the exact store shown in the photo, said that the price change on the Theresa doll was part of the chain’s efforts to clear shelf space for its new spring inventory.
“To prepare for spring inventory, a number of items are marked for clearance, ” spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said in an e-mail to ABC. “… Both are great dolls. The red price sticker indicates that this particular doll was on clearance when the photo was taken, and though both dolls were priced the same to start, one was marked down due to its lower sales to hopefully increase purchase from customers.”
“Pricing like items differently is a part of inventory management in retailing,” O’Brien said.