Toys R Us is blaming a price difference between white dolls and the darker-skinned "ethnic" version found in several Canadian stores on an "operational error" and says it is "absolutely not due to the dolls' ethnicity."
The discrepancy came to light in Calgary, Alberta, when a shopper discovered the white dolls being sold for $2 more at a local Toys R Us.
Carolyn Wadsworth told CTV News she found that the white "You & Me Kissing Baby Doll" at a store in the city was being sold for $24.99 CAD, while the version described as "ethnic" went for $22.99.
VICE News contacted 18 Toys R Us stores across Canada and found four stores that carried both versions of the dolls — three of the locations sold them at different prices, with the white doll at $24.99, and the "ethnic" doll at $22.99. Most stores only had the white version of the doll.
The two dolls are exactly the same, besides race, and neither of the two dolls were on a special sale. One Toys R Us employee told VICE News the dolls are even shipped to stores in the same storage box.
Two of the stores with the price discrepancy are located in Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta, while the other is located across the country, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Wadsworth asked about the price difference, and was told by management that they were aware of the discrepancy and had brought the matter up to the corporate branch of Toys R Us, but no action was taken.
Wadsworth said the price difference makes it seem like "the black baby is not as valuable as the white one," according to CTV News.
Toys R Us told VICE News that "once we became aware of the error, we corrected it immediately and both dolls now sell for the lower price of $22.99. We are reviewing this incident to help ensure we don't make the same operational mistake in the future."
One Toys R Us employee, at a store in Quebec, told VICE News that the price of the white doll was reduced to $22.99 in that particular store this morning. The new pricing is also reflected on the store's online shop, though the "ethnic" doll is not listed.
Toys R Us has faced allegations of racism in the past for pricing disparities between dolls of different races.
In October 2015, in the UK, Toys R Us sold a white "Wooden Dolls Family Set" for £9.99, while the "ethnic" version was sold for £6.99. A spokesperson from the store said the disparity was due to a "keying error," and it was altered the next morning.
In December 2014, CNBC reported that a white "Barbie Careers Ice Skater Doll" was being sold for $14.99 at the American online store, while the "Barbie Careers Ice Skater African-American Doll" was listed at $10.99.
The vice president of corporate communications at Toys R Us, Kathleen Waugh, then told CNBC, "It is our policy to price like dolls of all ethnicities the same. We will ensure the pricing is corrected."
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