Sears and Amazon Tuesday pulled a ring and other items designed with a swastika from their marketplaces after a shopper posted an image of them online and sparked an outcry.
The items were sold by a third party. Sears pulled the items, posted an apology, and said they would contact the seller.
Amazon featured the same items from the same seller on its marketplace but hasn’t received the same public backlash, and hasn’t made a public statement or apology. There remain several other swastika-emblazoned and Nazi-themed items, including a “German youth knife,” for sale on the Amazon marketplace
The swastika was once (and in some corners still is) a symbol of auspiciousness in several religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, from ancient times, and is still used in some areas of the world to invite good fortune. But since being adopted by the Nazi Party in 1920, the swastika is widely seen by most other people worldwide, and certainly in the U.S. and Europe, as a powerfully racist, antisemitic, and neo-Nazi symbol.
While many retailers have come under scrutiny and received decidedly negative attention from offensive designs, these swastika-emblazoned items were on the marketplaces run by Sears and Amazon, where third parties can sell new or used items through the retailers’ websites. The retailers themselves often have no real oversight or give themselves much say before images are uploaded, descriptions are made, or items are put up for sale on the sites.
But third-party sellers don’t just have a platform through which to sell their wares, they also get the benefit of the retailer’s brand. That’s why Sears appears flat-footed and why people were enraged — the items appear to be sold by Sears and Amazon, which apparently didn’t even realize Nazi-themed items were available through their brands (and in Amazon's case, still are). In the age of social media and viral messages, retailers with marketplaces may want to keep closer track of what is being sold under their names.