After father's anger, Target adjusts sales price of black Barbie doll

Posted at 3:40 PM, Dec 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-12 17:52:44-05

 Like many little girls, Warren Johnson's daughter wants a Barbie for Christmas.

Specifically, she wants a Barbie Fashion Maker African American doll, one of the hot new toys this holiday season. 

"So, we went to the Target website and looked for her Barbie," Johnson said.

What Johnson, who goes by @jayven07 on Twitter, saw after typing in his search Sunday prompted the following tweet:

His search for the Barbie doll produced two versions of the doll at strikingly different prices.

Screen capture of listing for both Barbie Fashion Design Dolls on Target.com on Sunday, Dec. 7

The light-skin doll was on sale for $23.49, a 53 percent discount over its retail price, according to the site. The African-American version cost $49.99 at the time.

WCPO.com confirmed the pricing difference Sunday.

"When my daughter asked the question, 'Why is the black doll more expensive than the white doll?' I really didn't have an answer for her," Johnson said. 

Both dolls come with accessories that allow girls to design and create clothing for Barbie through a computer and printer -- a modern take on the old paper doll. 

During a time of racial tension across the country, Johnson wondered why Target would have such different prices between the two dolls.

"It kind of rubbed me the wrong way in light of all the things going on in our society right now," he said.

He called Target customer service in Minnesota. A manager told Johnson that the price discrepancy was an error and offered him the doll at the lower price.

WCPO also reached out to Target on Sunday seeking an explanation for the differences. The retail store released the following statement on Monday:

Both dolls should have reflected the same pricing, however, due to a systems issue this change did not occur. We appreciate you bringing this discrepancy to our attention and have since adjusted the pricing and product detail listing.

By Monday morning, both versions of the doll on Target.com were the same price at $20.99, $3 less than the light-skin Barbie was the day before. 

"If you are going to have one price marked down on one doll, the other doll should have been marked down at the same price at least," Johnson said.

After Johnson's and WCPO's questioning of the retailer in light of a 6-year-old's holiday wish to her dad, Target's adjusted sales price of both Barbie Fashion Maker dolls is one of the cheapest places to purchase them from a major online website.

Since Sunday, Toys 'R Us and Barbie's manufacturer, Mattel, has listed both dolls for $40 online.

The one place where the Barbie Fashion Maker doll was cheaper than Target was on Amazon.com. It was also the only major site that still had two different prices depending on the ethnicity of the Barbie.

The light-skinned Barbie was priced $19.81 on Tuesday. The African-American version retailed for $49.99, with a note saying Amazon only had two in stock.

A message was sent to Amazon on Sunday when the discrepancy was first discovered asking how the retailer sets its online prices. By Tuesday afternoon, Amazon had not responded.

No one is accusing Target of doing this deliberately. It appears to be an honest pricing mistake, but not one that any store wants to make these days.


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