Updated, May 29, 1 p.m.: You’ll have to visit JCPenney stores in person to buy the teakettle that resembles former German Chancellor and Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
Over Memorial Day weekend, a user on social news site Reddit noticed something odd: a teakettle that looked like Hitler. The Michael Graves Design Bells and Whistles Stainless Steel Tea Kettle ($40) recently showed up on a JCPenney billboard near Culver City, Calif. (If you don’t see the leader of the Third Reich, it’s all about the negative space created by the kettle’s Hitler-hair handle, like seeing the arrow in the FedEx logo.) By Tuesday morning, the kettle had gone viral. By Tuesday afternoon, it was sold out on JCPenney’s site.
While J.C. Penney didn’t respond to messages about the product, the out-of-stock kettle was the only one of the 31 teakettles sold on jcpenney.com to be sold out on Tuesday afternoon. (As of Wednesday morning, it appears the teakettle has been completely removed from JCPenney’s site. The company has also taken down the billboard where the advertisement was first spotted, according to the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles.)
The retailer, which has had to put out one fire after another over the past couple of years, soon began trying to explain its latest hiccup over Twitter, calling the teakettle’s resemblance to the man responsible for the Holocaust unintentional. “If we had designed it to look like something, we would have gone with a snowman or something fun,” the company tweeted.
J.C. Penney has recently been through the most tumultuous period in its history, from the hiring of former Apple and Target superstar Ron Johnson as CEO to his radical reinvention of the entire brand to his eventual firing and the subsequent rehiring of former CEO Mike Ullman. The company is now reversing many of Johnson’s decisions, once again embracing the use of sales and discount pricing.
Considering everything J.C. Penney has been through recently, the Hitler-teakettle ad may be the least of its worries. In fact, it even appears to have moved a few products.
This article has been updated to include the removal of the billboard and the product from JCPenney’s site.