SHELBURNE, Vt. – A straightjacketed "Crazy for You" teddy bear has drawn rebukes from the governor, mental health advocates and human rights groups — but it's a hit among shoppers.
The $69.95 bear, which is accompanied by commitment papers, is selling well despite complaints that it insults and stigmatizes those with mental illness.
Vermont Teddy Bear Co. (search) President Elisabeth Robert says the bear is meant as a funny Valentine's Day greeting and has been popular among customers.
"We made a very difficult decision not to withdraw it from the market," she said. "I listened to customers, from a lot of feedback from our employees. These people are Vermonters who really don't like to be told what to do."
Mental health advocates have called for the company to stop selling the bear, calling it "tasteless" and saying it stigmatized the mentally ill. Gov. Jim Douglas (search) called the bear insensitive and inappropriate.
Robert said the company had planned the bear as a one-time offering for Valentine's Day, and that it will continue selling the bear until it is sold out.
She said the company is "truly sorry if we hurt anybody with this bear" but added that freedom of expression was at stake.
She said the bear got "the highest favorability rating" from customers and that she consulted with the Vermont Teddy Bear board of directors and radio stations that advertise the bear before deciding to keep it.
"We're not in a position to be told what we can and cannot sell," she said.