March 10, 2010

Q: Which Barbie doll should cost more?

By: Sonny Bunch

A: Whichever one is in higher demand.
B. Whichever one costs more to produce.
C. They should all cost the same, especially if they’re all of different races.

I think that most economists would answer A; most crazy leftists would argue C. Because, you see, it doesn’t matter how much a good costs to produce or how high the demand for it is — race trumps everything, as Wal Mart recently discovered after it priced a black Barbie doll half as much as its white equivalent:

“To prepare for (s)pring inventory, a number of items are marked for clearance, ” spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said in an e-mail. “… Both are great dolls. The red price sticker indicates that this particular doll was on clearance when the photo was taken, and though both dolls were priced the same to start, one was marked down due to its lower sales to hopefully increase purchase from customers.”

“Pricing like items differently is a part of inventory management in retailing,” O’Brien said.

As anyone who has worked in retail — or is familiar with basic economics — will tell you, that’s an eminently reasonably course of action! If something isn’t selling well, you need to reduce the price in order for it to sell. But, but … one’s white! One’s black! Racism, yes?

Walmart could have decided “that it’s really important that we as a company don’t send a message that we value blackness less than whiteness,” said Lisa Wade, an assistant sociology professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles and the founder of the blog Sociological Images.

Last year, Wade posted a blog entry on another case where a black doll was apparently priced less than its white counterpart at an unidentified store. Wade said that when white dolls outsell black dolls, it’s usually because black parents are more likely than white parents to buy their children dolls of a different race.

Sigh. Just when you think we are going to move past stuff like this…bam! Racist Wal-Mart.

(h/t to Rod Dreher)