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A Series of Unfortunate Recommendations

6 Jan, 2006 By: Holly J. Wagner

Wal-Mart is apologizing for a glitch on its Web site that started offering African-American-themed recommendations to customers who bought movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the "Planet of the Apes" TV series from the site.

The company shut down the cross-selling feature after complaints about recommendations that in some cases appeared to be racial slurs.

Wal-Mart explained it as an error resulting from a cross-promotion set up last January ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. day.

"In that spirit, we linked certain movie titles to an 'item group' of film boxed sets, so they would be prominent to our Internet customers. Four African-American films — What's Love Got to Do With it, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Martin Luther King: I have a Dream and Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson — were linked to a group of boxed sets that contained 263 other films."

A blogging consumer noticed links to those titles from a page promoting the boxed set of the "Planet of the Apes" TV series and the glitch got national attention, forcing Wal-Mart to disable the DVD recommendation feature until it could be fixed.

"We again want to apologize for the recent inappropriate promotion of a series of African-American films on our Web site," VP of corporate communications Mona Williamson said. "Since becoming aware of the situation, we have worked around the clock to find out exactly what happened and try and ensure it doesn't happen again."

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