Costco says it pulled dolls over customer concern

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Costco Wholesale Corp. on Thursday apologized to any of its customers who may have been offended by a doll the company pulled from its stores after a complaint about possible racist connotations.

The doll wore a headband that said “Lil’ Monkey” and was cuddling with a stuffed monkey. The “Cuddle with Me, Doll with Plush Monkey” doll came in Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic representations.

But shortly after the toys were put up for sale in late July, Costco received a complaint from a customer in North Carolina concerning the version of the doll that showed an African-American baby with the monkey.

Costco immediately pulled the doll from its shelves and discontinued the product. The Issaquah, Wash.-based retailer said the doll was carried only in its Northeast and Southeast regions and the company’s Web site and was only for sale for a matter of days before it was pulled.

A number of reports and Web sites have criticized the retailer for carrying the product, and Costco said it apologizes.

“We are sensitive to any complaint that a product we carry would cause discomfort to any segment of our membership,” Costco CEO Jim Sinegal said in a statement. “As soon as it became clear to us that this toy item was offensive to some of our members, we decided to remove it from our warehouses. We don’t believe there is room for argument in matters of this type, even though it was an honest mistake, made while we were attempting to do the right thing.”

Costco continues to carry the version of the doll that shows the baby cuddling with a panda.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.