Is Argos racist? Black and Asian dolls sell for £10 less

Argos accused of racism after selling black dolls for less than their white equivalents. Is this fair?

Doll discrimination?

Lisa O'Reilly, a 32-year-old mother of three from South Killingholme, has made an official complaint to Argos, after she went shopping for a doll for her two-year-old daughter Darcy, and discovered variations of the same doll had very different price: the white doll was £34.99 and the black and Asian versions were £24.99. She accused the shop of racism.

She told The Sun: "It's wrong for our youngsters to grow up thinking non-white skin colours are worth less." And according to the Daily Mail she added that there was: "enough prejudice in the world already without battling against racist toys."

Argos sent her a letter of apology, saying it was never their intention to upset their customers. A spokesperson told The Sun: "As a responsible retailer, Argos strongly refutes any suggestion of discrimination with the pricing of the Corolle Calin dolls. A genuine online pricing error led to one of the dolls being advertised at an incorrect price. This error is being amended today and all three dolls are now priced at £24.99. We apologise for any confusion caused."

A the time of writing, however, the price remains the same on the website.

Not the first

This isn't the first time that this has happened. In 2010 Walmart in the US was under fire after cutting the price of a black Barbie doll to half the price of a white one. The store explained at the time that it was an effort to clear older inventory from the shelves to make space for new products, and as there were more of he darker-skinned doll to shift, they were marked down to help them sell faster. It didn't address the accusations of racism, and explained that it was inventory management.

Then in 2012 Tesco was under fire for a £1 price difference between black and white versions of the same doll. The store explained that the black dolls had gone on sale after the white dolls, and were being sold at an introductory price.

And last year it was Target's turn, after its website listed a black Barbie doll for twice the price of a white alternative. The store blamed a system error and the price of the white Barbie was increased.

Is this racist?

Shoppers have a good point that the stores concerned have been insensitive about the possible message that the price difference could give to shoppers. However, this sort of thing is the natural consequence of the kind of dynamic pricing we see in stores. Prices are varied on a regular basis depending on how well products are selling and how much there is left to shift.

In fact, there's an argument that the real racism here is being shown by shoppers. Statistically black parents are more likely to be open to buying both white and black dolls than white parents - who overwhelmingly opt for white dolls. The buyers may not have assumed this race bias when working out which dolls to buy, and so ended up with a glut of the dark skinned dolls to sell. According to inventory management rules, they were bound to cut the price, and therefore be left with a discrepancy that outraged shoppers.

But what do you think? Does a price difference like this show underlying racism from stores - and even if it's not a matter of racism, should we be worried about the message this gives shoppers? Let us know in the comments.

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