Global children’s store Toys R Us has come under fire for calling on entertainers to work for free at a forthcoming event.
In a letter sent to entertainers, Toys R Us in Exeter said it was marking international children’s day on May 30 with a party, and that this would “be a great base in which to promote local children’s party businesses such as yourself”.
“We feel that if you are able to contribute to our party and/or give a couple hours of your time, it will not only benefit our party but will also serve as an advertisement for your business as our customers are sure to enjoy your party services and tell others about it, benefiting your business in the long run,” the letter states.
However, children’s entertainer Ozzy D challenged the store over its appeal for performers to work unpaid.
“I rang up and said, ’Is the store open?’ and they said, ‘Yes’. I said, ‘Will the staff be paid?’ and they said ‘Yes’. So I said, ‘Are all the toys free then?’,” he said, adding: “So the store is open and they want us to come along for free to promote their stuff but they don’t want to pay us. Why ask us to do it for free when you are a multi-million pound company?”
The entertainer said it was similar to Sainsbury’s recently asking artists to paint one of its canteens for free.
Equity has taken issue with Toys R Us’ letter, which it is believed may have been sent out to entertainers in other areas where there are stores.
Emmanuel de Lange, low pay no pay officer, said: “Our members face enough problems with low and no pay without large corporations trying to get them to work for free. Toys R Us wouldn’t dream of asking their staff or contractors to work for nothing, so this regrettable incident shows just how deeply rooted the lack of respect for artists’ and entertainers’ work has become.”
Toys R Us had not responded to a request for a comment as The Stage went to press.