Update 3:24 p.m.: The controversy surrounding the image of a teakettle that some say resembles Hitler comes at a bad time for JC Penney. The company is unprofitable and CEO Ron Johnson was fired after he failed to turn the company around. A strategy to reduce the amount of coupons and replace heavily discounted sales with everyday low prices backfired with consumers.
Britt Beemer, CEO of Charleston, S.C.-based America’s Research Group, doesn’t think shoppers will remember the teakettle brouhaha for long.
"If you want to imagine it to look like Hitler you can, but I mean, it just doesn't," Beemer said. "It's a beautiful teakettle. I think it's a big to-do about nothing."
He recently surveyed shoppers on the fires that happened in retail factories in Bangladesh and only about 6 percent of consumers had heard anything about it.
"I'm not sure whether consumers really truly care about where clothes are made and some of the working conditions," he said. "They care, but it's not a story they are going to pay much attention to."
He said if JC Penney focuses on providing great sales to bring consumers back to their stores, shoppers will focus on the sales, rather than some teakettle.
— Wendy Lee
Update 10:58 a.m. While JC Penney pulled down their Culver City billboard that some said showed a kettle resembling Hitler, Culver City's mayor isn't happy.
The city's mayor, Democrat Jeffrey Cooper, expressed outrage at JC Penney over the tea kettle scandal in an email to Mother Jones. “I am disappointed JCPenney actually put the billboard up in the first place and more outraged that they actually attempted to defend it,” Cooper wrote. “As a Jew, I am offended, [and] as an elected official, I am mad that the city I represent is linked to this.”
However, the Anti-Defamation League, which aims to fight anti-Semitism, was more positive. In a response to Mother Jones, they praised JC Penney’s response.
“JCPenney did the right thing by responding to public concerns and removing the tea pot from their product line.” They added, “We take JCPenney at their word that any resemblance to the Nazi dictator was completely unintended.”
Perhaps we should just call this the Teakettle Dome scandal.
— Mike Roe
Previously at 7:51 a.m.: JC Penney has been receiving a lot of attention this week — but probably not for the reasons they’d like. It’s over a tea kettle, advertised on a billboard in Culver City, that some pointed out on social media seemed to resemble… Hitler.
The retailer quickly responded to the growing number of stories, pulling the billboard down Tuesday, ABC7 reports.
JC Penney also responded on their Twitter account to numerous people tweeting about it, saying that they definitely didn’t meant to make it look like, well, Hitler. A sample of JC Penney’s responses (including one to Mia Farrow):
@miafarrow Certainly unintended. If we designed it to look like something, we would have gone with a snowman or something fun :)— jcpenney (@jcpenney) May 28, 2013
The item’s notoriety also means that it sold out to all the Internet fans buying it ironically. (We hope they were purchasing it ironically.) They explained this to comedian Patton Oswalt, who’d noted JC Penney was about to sell a ton of them to ironic hipsters:
One smart-aleck reviewer who is, of course, from Brooklyn:
— Mike Roe