Costco Pulls Offensive “Lil’ Monkey” Doll off Shelves

WTVR-TV (Richmond), August 13, 2009

A baby doll found at a local Costco store has been pulled from store shelves following complaints from customers complaining it is offensive.

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The product is a doll called the “Cuddle with Me” baby doll manufactured by a company called BrassKey Keepsakes. The controversy stemmed from the black version of the doll which is surrounded by monkeys and wears a hat labeled “Lil’ Monkey,” while the white version is surrounded by pandas and wears a hat labeled “Pretty Panda.”

Costco’s corporate office says when they received complaints from John Taylor and other shoppers about the doll, store employees pulled the product from store shelves immediately.

According to a Costco corporate employee, a chain letter demanding the stores remove product number 404860 also prompted the company to take action.

Costco’s Vice President of General Administration, Arthur Jackson said, “We offer our sincere apology to anyone who was offended by the product. That was surely never our intent.”

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When Ferguson asked Gustaff [Mary Gustaff, CEO of BrassKey Keepsakes] if she thought the dolls could be viewed as offensive, Gustaff responded: “We don’t think in that way. We don’t operate in that kind of thinking. We have a really diverse family-operated company that’s been around for 28 years. What would we have to gain for heaven’s sake?”

Greensboro Costco Manager James Stafford says the store carried both black and white dolls packaged with monkeys. A spokesperson with Costco’s corporate office did not confirm the information.

Costco said all versions of the doll have been returned to the vendor.

Sidebar

Comment posted at the Snopes message board.

DemonWolf, Snopes, August 12, 2009

1) The assemply lines that made the white dolls and the black dolls were two seperate units, the manufacturer may have found it more cost effective to have one unit prodice “lil monkey” and the other “pretty panda.”

2) The dolls were likely made in Asia (probably China) where the workers and management were unaware of the use of the word “monkey” as a racial slur (or it is acceptable there).

3) The Costco buyer may have bought them largely site unseen. He may have picked a serial number of an inventory or a catalogue and just ordered Xnumber of Monker dolls and X number of panda dolls thinking, “Hey! Kids love monkeys and pandas!”

little-monkey

The “Lil’ Monkey” doll.


A derogatory and racially offensive term makes its way to toy aisles across the country in the form of a baby doll, and a Greensboro shopper’s complaint got immediate corporate action.

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“Seeing that, it all just brought everything back to me,” he said.

[John Taylor, a Costco customer] said the African-American doll with the phrase “little monkey” on its hat reminded him of the discrimination he experienced before the civil rights movement, he said. He complained to management, and his concerns reached the corporate offices in Washington.

“They need to watch and see what they’re putting out into the stores,” Taylor said.

A Costco vice president said Costco buyers immediately decided the doll had the potential to offend and pulled them from all stores after only about a day on the shelves.

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“I’d like to know who made it,” said shopper Dee Williams. “That’s a negative impact for an African-American.”

Brasskey Keepsakes, also of Washington, sold the dolls exclusively to Costco. The CEO said the racial insensitivity wasn’t apparent during the design stages in part because the dolls are a set of three that also portray white and Hispanic ethnicities.

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Boone [Wake Forest University business professor Derrick Boone] said Costco responded correctly to the complaint and said this is an example he’ll use in the classroom.

“An incident such as this demonstrates the need for greater sensitivity and the value of diversity of opinions,” he said.

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