When the new chocolate-coloured sofa set was delivered to her Brampton home, Doris Moore was stunned to see packing labels describing the shade as “Nigger-brown.”
She and husband Douglas purchased a sofa, loveseat and chair in dark brown leather last week from Vanaik Furniture and Mattress store on Dundas St. E.
Moore, 30, who describes herself as an African-American born and raised in New York, said it was her 7-year-old daughter who pointed out the label just after delivery men from the Mississauga furniture store left.
“She’s very curious and she started reading the labels,” Moore explained. “She said, `Mommy, what is nig … ger brown?’ I went over and just couldn’t believe my eyes.”
She said yesterday each piece had a similar label affixed to the woven protective covering wrapped around the furniture.
“In this day and age, that’s totally unacceptable,” Moore said.
Douglas explained the origins of the word to daughter Olivia, telling how it was a bad name that blacks were called during the days of slavery in the United States.
“It was tough, because she really didn’t understand,” Moore said. “She’d never heard that word before and didn’t really understand the concept of it.”
Moore, who has a younger son and daughter, said she’s heard the word used many times, although it has never been directed in anger at her.
“But it’s a very, very bad word that makes you feel degraded, like you’re a nobody,” she said.
Moore said she called the furniture store the following day and three other times since, and feels discouraged that no one has returned her calls.
When interviewed yesterday by the Star, Romesh Kumar, Vanaik’s assistant manager, passed the buck to his supplier, Cosmos Furniture in Scarborough.
“Why should I take the blame?” he said. “I’m a trader, I don’t manufacture. I sell from 20 companies, maybe 50 companies. How can I take care of all of them?”He said that he would check similar stock and make sure other labels were removed.
“That’s terrible, that’s a racial … something?” Kumar said. “This is entirely wrong, but it’s not my fault. It’s my job to sell good product to people.”
He said the best he could do is to give Moore the telephone number of his supplier, so she could take it up with him.
The owner of Cosmos Furniture, Paul Kumar, no relation to Romesh, said he was upset to learn packing labels on products he sold carried a racial epithet.
“I import my products from overseas,” he said. “I’ve never noticed anything like that. This is something new to me.”
He passed the blame to a Chinese company, but apologized for the labels. He said he would contact the furniture maker in Guangzhou and demand they remove all similar labels.
Moore said she’s not sure she wants the sofa set in her home.
“Every time I sit on it, I’ll think of that,” she said.