Free Market Economics or Racism? Pottery Barn “Dark-Skin” Doll Cheaper Than White

by Darwin on January 21, 2012

My wife was checking out Christmas stockings today at Pottery Barn to buy them at a discount after the season and couldn’t help but notice the exact same stocking with a “dark-skinned doll” and a “light-skinned doll” at dramatically different prices. Evidently, you can buy $16.99 for the light skin doll but get a whopping discount down to $9.99 for the dark skin doll quilting.  I find this to be an odd stance to take both from a marketing standpoint and from a public relations standpoint.

Here’s a screenshot from this morning’s shopping session:

Free Market Economics or Racism?

On one hand, a pure free market capitalist would say that all prices in the market should be dictated by supply and demand.  Hypothetically, if there’s an abundance of dark skinned doll stockings and very little demand, perhaps it is financially justifiable to charge less compared to the “in-demand” white doll stockings.  I dunno, are light-skinned Americans more likely to buy Christmas stockings than their dark-skinned brethren?  I have no idea.  However, from a broader corporate perspective, this seems pretty offensive.  I thought we’ve moved past skin color by now, it’s 2012.  We’re still charging different rates for different products that are exactly the same other than skin color?  What’s really in it for Pottery Barn?  Is the excess inventory volume for dark-skinned doll stockings that insane that clearing a few extra bucks in inventory is worth offending their customers? (Perhaps their forecast accuracy needs a little work then if this is a known phenomena; it’s not exactly the first Christmas season in history).  Personally, I think it would be tough to justify the impression conveyed that people with differing looks should pay different prices for their products which surely have the exact same cost to produce, market and ship.

Here’s the link to the product page.  We’ll monitor over the next few days to see if they change their pricing to be more “equal”, ya know, because it’s 2012.


What are Your Thoughts?

Have You Seen Other Occasions Where White Products are Less Than Dark-Skinned Equivalents?

Do You Find This to Be Unnecessarily Offensive or a Complete Non-Issue?


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Financial God January 23, 2012 at 10:54 pm

This is certainly discriminatory, but I don’t know if it is racist. To me racism means shitting on a race and treating them worse just because of their skin colour and appearance, and I’m not sure that this fits the bill. Maybe you can say it discriminates against white people because they have to pay more for a doll of like colour, while black people pay less. For them, that’s not such a bad thing is it? The PR disaster on the other hand might be… this is one of those things you can really leave up to the market to decide, and see what happens. 😉


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