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Pet Sins December 1999

Cultural ignorance rears its ugly head in Saigoniste Store

Hi everyone,

This was brought to my attention from some friends of mine in New York--there's a store called Saigoniste in NYC owned by non-Asians that uses culturally offensive material on their website and as marketing ploys.

The sign in the store's window says, "Ho Chi Mama say spring is time to put love in air and tropical color all over home." Basically, Ho Chi Mama is a character they created who speaks in broken English. The store tags its products with "Ho Chi Mama say...." Although many Asian Americans, including Vietnamese, have taken offense, the store owner claims that "Asians just love this character Ho Chi Mama" and that all this marketing stuff is considered swell by Asians.

Even worse perhaps is the owners' declaration on their website as follows:

"...we love the name Cochinchine, the former French name for the country when it was a colony of France. (Indochine, which most people associate with Vietnam, was in fact the name for the entire region, including Cambodia and Laos). If it weren't completely un-PC, we'd love it if they rebranded the country Cochinchine to give it a bit of retro-chic appeal. If you are planning a trip to this fabled and fabulous country, there are some insider tips that we just can't keep to ourselves. Read on, or contact one of us at the shop for some personal insight and scoop."

See it for yourself--below are links to their website along w/ their marketing promos in which they've used their 'Ho Chi Mama' character.

http://www.saigoniste.com/about_hochi.html

http://www.saigoniste.com/storeopening/index.html

If you are upset by this, I encourage you to email them your complaint at: contact@saigoniste.com

or sign this petition to have the Ho Chi Mama character removed http://www.PetitionOnline.com/hochima/petition.html

Thanks!

V.
June 2003