Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Bear Facts

Reader Paul Giovanni saw my online and print references to Not a Desperate Housewife's claim of sighting of "Hooker Bear" at a Build-A-Bear Workshop, and wrote to the company's president. Here is the response he received:

Dear Dr. Giovanni:

Thank you for your email and letter of concern. We will investigate this Blog immediately. As a family friendly company, we take our role very seriously and we understand that we have a responsibility to our families to ALWAYS have a fun and family friendly environment.

All of our merchandise is developed by our product design team. Our head of product development is a mother of a three year old girl and she is extra sensitive to the safety of our products as well as how everything looks and fits. She oversees EVERY product. One manufactured [sic], our products are all sent from our distribution facilities to stores along with detailed, display instructions that they are required to implement. We would do not carry any merchandise that would be suggestive of a "hooker" nor would we allow our stores to alter our merchandise in any way to create such a "look". I am equally shocked that a young boy would know the word "hooker" let alone what one might look like and would make that association in conjunction with a stuffed animal in our store. But, I am a little conservative and old fashioned. We don't sell jewelry, make up or high heels for our bears so I am not quite sure what outfits could be put together to come up with an offensive bear that could be labeled as described in this Blog. Someone might not like the style of the outfit or the length of the pants or skirt but we would not intentionally depict a bear in any unwholesome way. While I have not had any store report this incident to me, we will get into this right away.

We live in an age today when a Blog or message board that states someone's personal views or impressions can become fact instantly without any malicious intent. Someone posts a question and presses "reply all" or "send" and soon, a simple question becomes facts to millions. I read Blogs and message boards myself on various subjects of interest to me and I have to admit they can be convincing. I have checked out many to find that some were misrepresentations (though possibly not intended) of information that if not investigated, could be harmful. One was a health website about a "nutriceutical" that worked for one person but could have actually caused people physical harm if taken literally. I do believe most are doing it in good faith and in the spirit of positive communication, but there is also the opportunity to make a personal impression into fact and cause harm to innocent people and company's reputations. We will all have to just be smarter and make every effort to check out the facts when we "Google" a subject. While I think most smart people know the facts especially of companies and products they frequent, sometimes this information can be harmful. We will do our best to track down what might have offended this Guest immediately. I can promise you, if she had called or written me directly and described the situation we would have responded positively and quickly to her inquiry.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write to us and call this to my attention, It is interested and concerned Guests like yourself who help us do a better job. I can assure you that displaying bears in such a fashion is not part of who we are nor would it be tolerated in our company. We appreciate your loyalty and personal interest more than you can know,


Maxine Clark
Founder and Chief Executive Bear
Build-A-Bear Workshop
I sent Clark's letter to Stacy, a k a Not a Desperate Housewife, who responds:
Hello Dawn, wow, I had no idea this went anywhere. Hmm. First, the son that I mentioned is not a young boy. He is my middle child and 15 years of age, so he knows what a hooker is. We were in BABW for my third child, aged 8, to purchase more clothing for his lion. There was a scantily clad bear dressed and placed for all to see. There was a mini-skirt, boots, skimpy top, and yes, she looked like a lady-of-the-night. In my opinion this bear was dressed inappropriate. This was at the BABW at the Flatirons Mall in Broomfield, CO. I did not say anything to the staff and used the opportunity to teach my kids a lesson. So to all of those who assumed that I had poor parenting skills spend some time on my blog and apologize to me via e-mail because it's the exact opposite.
Maxine Clark's e-mail is clearly a sensitive response which brings up important points about how even the most responsible company can be damaged by Internet rumors. I do believe that Stacy saw a "scantily clad bear" at the Build-A-Bear workshop. However, based on her response, I'm not convinced that the bear was actually labeled "Hooker Bear," which is what her original post implied.

UPDATE: Not a Desperate Housewife responds further on her blog. She writes to me that her original post "never implied" that the bear was called Hooker Bear. I invite you to read it and make your own conclusions. At any rate, she does not hold Build-A-Bear Workshop responsible for the scantily clad bear.