A controversy erupted over a giant Teletubby in Hong Kong after a department store charged the family of a five-year-old boy for breaking the 1.8m-tall statue.
Staff at Mong Kok’s KK Plus store in Langham Place shopping mall had accused the boy of kicking the porcelain statue, which is worth around HK$50,000. [over £5,000]which broke into pieces.
The boy was reprimanded by his family and they offered to compensate the store for the item, ultimately paying HK$33,000 [£3,400].
But days later, a video of the incident went viral online showing the boy had actually only gently leaned against the statue while trying to avoid bumping into another patron.
The store has now apologized to the family and refunded the full amount they paid in compensation as it faced a backlash from social media users accusing it of ‘ripping off’ the family and criticizing handling of the incident by store personnel.
Online commenters pointed out that the Teletubby figurine seemed to fall very easily and was not protected by any sort of fence.
The boy’s father, Cheng Pok-man, 39, was cited by the South China Morning Post saying his son was “shocked and scared” on Tuesday, and watched in horror as the statue fell and shattered into pieces.
“He was trying to avoid hitting someone and leaned on the doll slightly,” he said.
Mr. Cheng said he walked out of the store to take a phone call. He was visiting the store with his wife and two sons.
After the video of the incident went viral, the father said that “the employee seems to have misled us as to how this incident happened”.
Mr. Cheng also said that “the store should have placed railings around the statue to protect passers-by and the statue itself as it could have easily fallen apart. Of course, as parents, we also have our responsibility for not keeping a close eye on our son.
Kidsland International Holdings Limited – a publicly traded toy retailer and operator of the KK Plus store – issued a written apology to the family. The money was refunded to them on Tuesday.
In the statement, store KK Plus said the Teletubby figure had been in the same location since last November and “has not caused any inconvenience to any customer before”.
The statement, however, was later deleted.
The five-year-old’s father said the boy had to take the day off after the incident. Mr Cheng said: “He took the day off today [Monday]. Yesterday he asked me three times why the doll was so terrifying.
According to local reports, the toy store opened as usual on Tuesday.
The Hong Kong Free Press reported that the manager of KK Plus admitted that the store did not take necessary precautions to avoid such an incident and promised to train employees to avoid such incidents in the future.
He said the store had removed all toys over a meter high from the store floor.