Walmart is raising eyebrows after cutting the price of a black Barbie doll to nearly half of that of the doll’s white counterpart at one store and possibly others.
OK, so lets look at quotes on both sides of the argument.
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 (s)pring inventory, a number of items are marked for clearance, ” spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said in an e-mail. “… 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.
“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. Other experts agree. Walmart could have decided “that it’s really important that we as a company don’t send a message that we value blackness less than whiteness,” said Lisa Wade, an assistant sociology professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles and the founder of the blog Sociological Images. “Black children develop perceptions about their race very early. They are not oblivious to this. There’s still that residue. There’s still the problem, the overcoming years, decades of racial and economic subordination,” Harvard University professor William Julius Wilson told “Good Morning America.”
Wade said that Walmart could have chosen to keep the dolls at equal prices in an effort not to “reproduce whatever ugly inequalities are out there.”
“I fully respect retailers rights to mark things down as they see fit but I also think they need to look at the bigger picture,” Wachs said. “I think there are certain things companies have to be sensitive about and clearly this was one of them.”
Link to the article here.
OK, so lets look at this situation. The white (aka Caucasian) doll sells better, so the price is lowered on the darker (aka African-American) doll to increase sales. It seems from the quotes of those against the price difference that the claim isn’t overt racism, but that Walmart should be extra sensitive due to the societal situation that apparently affects young ladies of color. From the first quote, “The implication of the lowering of the price is that’s devaluing the black doll” is a completely subjective statement, one I tend to disagree with. The thought process isn’t parallel, in my opinion. If the original price of the white dolls was higher, you could possibly make a case for discrimination, or “sending a message”, assuming all else was equal (i.e., brand, size, quality, accessories). Also, if the price of the black dolls was lowered for no apparent reason, or as part of some sort of diabolical scheme, then by all means throw a fit.
If sound economic principles established throughout the Walmart chain are being applied here, I don’t think it’s a real issue. I don’t think the largest chain in the world should be expected to sell fewer dolls (assuming their pricing policy is effective) because of how some people might perceive the difference between two similar items.
Am I wrong? Should a company have to ignore their sound operating business plan to accommodate those who may take offense to one race’s dolls being sold for a higher price?