Bed, Bath & Beyond, the national house-ware chain, has apologized to the Irish community and confirmed that it will remove from sale items deemed insulting toward customers of Irish heritage.
The move comes after IrishCentral and our sister publication Irish Voice reported that the Ancient Order of Hibernians, America’s largest Irish group, had protested that many items they carried in their Christmas Tree stores insulted the Irish.
An email yesterday from Bed Bath & Beyond Customer Service Manager Raj Chandan to Neil Cosgrove, National Anti-Defamation Chairman of the AOH, stated that offensive items would be immediately removed from their Christmas Tree shops.
"Be assured that Bed Bath & Beyond meant no disrespect to your organization, nor to others of Irish heritage, and we apologize," Chandan wrote. "We have instructed our stores to remove from sale those items identified by you. We have taken the additional step of asking our buyers to be vigilant with subsequent orders to avoid this issue in the future."
The move comes a day after an IrishCentral interview with Cosgrove, who expressed his dismay that the chain was selling items that he said were deeply defaming to Irish Americans through their Christmas Tree shops.
In a letter to Steven Temares, the CEO of Bed Bath and Beyond, Cosgrove wrote that he was outraged that among the items for sale were a beer glass printed with the logo "I’ll Be Irish in a few Beers" and a "St Patrick’s Countdown Calendar Spinner Party Game" that reportedly encouraged binge drinking.
Cosgrove asked in particular that the Bed, Bath & Beyond buyer who selected the items should be "brought to special notice for poor judgment and bad taste."
Cosgrove concluded, "We hope that your corporation will take this opportunity to send a clear message rejecting stereotypes and their pernicious bigotry."
After the reports in both The Irish Voice and on IrishCentral the chain responded quickly to Cosgrove's email, committing to pulling the defaming merchandise from their shelves and adding that they would be sensitizing their buyers not to procure or offer for sale items that defame the Irish.
Cosgrove immediately thanked the chain for taking swift action, but suggested that they may still want to offer an apology on their web site. Nevertheless he was satisfied with the speed and sincerity of their response.
"It is one battle in the long struggle against the defamation of the Irish and Irish Americans," Cosgrove told IrishCentral, "but it is a significant win."
Not all national chains have responded as quickly and emphatically as Bed, Bath & Beyond, however. Spencer's, the novelty and gag gift store, has insisted it will not refrain from offering items some Irish American customers have called culturally offensive.
Last year Professor George Leahy, Adjunct Professor at St. Thomas Aquinas College, told the IrishCentral that one outlet of the novelty chain located at the Palisades Mall in West Nyack, NY took "a very derisive and dismissive of our complaints."
When Katie Anne Basler, a young mother of two small children, approached the staff at one of the kiosks in the mall to express her concern about the tone of some the items on sale, she received a dismissive response.
In fact, Leahy says, one member of staff told her to "get the shamrocks out of your ass."
Among items currently listed for sale on the Spencers website are a "Super Drunk & Irish" green caped pint glass.
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