Why Does a Caucasian Dollhouse Cost Nearly 70% More Than an African-American Dollhouse?

If you were shopping on Amazon.com last night for a Fisher-Price “My First Dollhouse” with a Caucasian family, you would have been asked to pay $63.99:

If, however, you wanted to buy what looks to be a nearly identical “My First Dollhouse” with an African-American family, the price was only $37.99:

Amazon reviewers have taken note, and aren’t pleased:

When my son Solomon (11 years old) wandered past my computer last night as I was looking this over, he didn’t need any prompting: “That’s so racist!” he said.

Is it? What is it that we’re seeing here on Amazon — racial discrimination? Price discrimination? Neither?

When I went back to the site this morning, I saw that the Caucasian dollhouse price had fallen to $55.87:

But the shipping fee was now $7.99, for a total of $63.86. The shipping fee for the $63.99 offer was only $0.99, for a total of $64.98. So the actual price had fallen only $1.12.

But the price change reveals something more telling. The two prices were offered by two different third-party vendors: H Books and Toys and Electronics Club.

The African-American dollhouse, meanwhile, is sold directly by Amazon.

I would assume that Amazon had no intention of charging such a steep premium for the Caucasian dollhouse but by creating a third-party marketplace, has opened itself up to this kind of discrepancy.

I have a few thoughts:

1. Amazon may not even be aware of this discrepancy.

2. Perhaps Amazon had bought from Fisher-Price a certain number of Caucasian dollhouses and offered them at the same price as the African-American dollhouses but the supply ran out, with the order now deferring to a more expensive third party.

3. If Amazon isn’t aware and becomes so — or if an outcry were to arise — it may well step in to strike down the unequal pricing. I would also imagine Fisher-Price would have something to say.

4. There is evidence that white and black children both prefer white dolls. So, the controversial element notwithstanding, are we simply seeing a demand-and-price story here? 

5. I can easily see this scenario prompting a lawsuit, from someone, if only for show.

(HT: Younes Chajia)

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  1. Eric M. Jones. says:

    Smart manufacturers know that BLUE people avoid this problem.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 58 Thumb down 4
  2. jonathan says:

    As the post notes, they’re sold by different companies through the Amazon website. That’s all there is to the story.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 84 Thumb down 9
    • Killy says:

      Well, that’s more to the story. 3 companies sell the black doll on Amazon and 12 sell the white doll. It happens that Sweet Seasons sells both with a more than 50% premium for the white one.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2
  3. Steve says:

    It’s because the African-American dollhouse is sold directly by Amazon.com. (The page says: Ships from and sold by Amazon.com) Because of their economies of scale, they offer a very good price on the dollhouse.

    The Caucasian dollhouse is for some reason not sold by Amazon.com, but only from other vendors. In the picture above it is sold by “H Books and Toys”. These vendors set their own prices, and because they don’t have the economies of scale as Amazon, their prices are usually much higher.

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    • Dave says:

      Yes, Amazon could simply be sold-out. But rather than not offering the product at all, they feature the cheapest 3rd-party seller on the main page instead.

      Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5
      • Bree says:

        This is what’s happening. The dollhouse is $40 (both black and white versions) at Toys R Us. Looking at a price tracking website, Amazon had the Caucasian dollhouse for $29-$38 recently. I’m guessing Amazon sold out around November 16th, because that’s when the 3rd party prices shot up.

        I think Amazon has some sort of weird pricing system in place for 3rd party sellers because I see crazy prices on toys and books all the time on Amazon, especially when Amazon goes out of stock. I bet that if those sellers have brick and mortar stores that the dollhouse (both versions if they have both) is around $40-$50 in store.

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    • DrTocToc says:

      On Amazon’s website, you can see that the third-party seller “Sweet seasons” sells both. The African-American is at $39.95 and the Caucasian is at $62.95. The Black one is not cheaper only because it’s being sold by Amazon.

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    • Neil (SM) says:

      Didn’t he already say that in the article?

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
      • willemrt says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

        Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6
  4. Cameron says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  5. Stacy L. says:

    This is insane. Anyone ever heard of price elasticity? Perhaps the toy doesn’t sell as well and as such, needs to be cheaper to move the product? So much easier to play the provocative race card, though.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2
    • dcj125 says:

      I agree with this. I’ve noticed that on Amazon, the price can sometimes change when you select different colors of the same product. I would think this is a similar scenario – except people are getting angry because it’s a sensitive topic.

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  6. Jennifer Johnson says:

    How do you know she’s American?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2
  7. Grey Williams, Little Rock, AR says:

    The big question is, why does noone offer a dollhouse with both? More and more families look like that.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 9
  8. JohnnyPeps says:

    How is this racism or price discrimination?

    If a black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, etc. customer wants the white dollhouse, they all pay the same price.

    Same goes if they want the black dollhouse.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2