BALTIMORE — For Easter, Bright Bluford gifts her granddaughters dolls. This year, six-year-old Zowii wanted a Barbie.
Bluford started her search at the Home Goods in Owings Mills. When she got to the toy aisle, she noticed something was off.
“I didn’t see any African American dolls,” said Bluford.
She went to the nearby T.J. Maxx and didn’t find any there either.
“We live in a diverse country why should we not be included? If I can come into your store and spend $300-400 on home goods and you do have a toy section but nothing there that resembles my granddaughter or myself that’s a problem,” Bluford said.
She called the corporate office to voice her concerns.
“But as I’m giving him the information and explaining the complaint, he neglected to ask my name, address, and what area I was calling from geographically,” said Bluford. “So I said, this is not working. Hung up from talking to him, I emailed you. I said let me call Mallory because this is not sitting well with me.”
Bluford emailed WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii and Sofastaii forwarded the complaint to TJX Companies, the parent company of Home Goods and T.J. Maxx. A spokesperson immediately wrote back, and Bluford received a call from the Manager of Customer Service.
“They sent a Barbie doll, they sent a backpack, they sent clothes for the Barbie, and they also sent video games. There’s an array of stuff in here,” said Bluford.
She also received a $100 Home Goods gift card and a handwritten note from Barbie.
“It says, ‘Mrs. Bluford, happy surprise from your friends at Home Goods and Barbie. Home Goods supports diverse selections in Barbies and we are sad to hear you did not find one in your local store. Please keep looking and enjoy this gift from us all,’” said Bluford.
Bluford hopes this is a lesson for Zowii to speak up and ask questions.
“I’m not saying it’s perfect because I don’t think I should ever be so happy for a company to do the right thing, especially if I have to bring it to your attention,” said Bluford.
However, her actions have already had an impact.
Bluford was supplied a list of local stores with African American dolls and saw several on her next visit to the Home Goods in Owings Mills.
A spokesperson for TJX companies sent Sofastaii the statement below:
"As an off-price retailer, we are fairly different than other types of retailers. We buy certain products when they are available, and this means that sometimes we’ll have more of one item or category of merchandise in our stores than at other times. Further, our stores receive different merchandise mixes, so you won’t find the same merchandise in each store. We have new merchandise arriving several times a week, with each delivery containing thousands of items. Our rapidly changing assortments and the differing merchandise mix create the “treasure hunt” shopping experience that we offer. We generally don't hold replenishment stock in our back rooms and the store managers often don't know what's coming until they open the delivery truck doors. I encourage you to check out the “how we do it” page on Marshalls.com for more details on our buying process."