Merchandise making light of shark attacks has been stripped from the shelves of Christmas Tree Shops around Cape Cod because of complaints from residents who said the language and images on the items were inappropriate following two serious incidents last year between people and the apex predators — one of which resulted in a man’s death.
One of the items removed from the stores was a notepad featuring a drawing of a smiling great white shark. At the top of the pad it said, “Send more tourists,” and at the bottom, “The last ones were delicious.”
A second item no longer for sale was a kitchen towel that pictured a great white shark popping out of the water, below the words “Shark Week.” The bottom of the towel read, “Nice to Eat You.”
CapeCod.com, which first reported on the removal of the items, also documented a shirt that said “Come to the Shark Side Cape Cod” and another that read, “Cape Cod, Massachusetts — Dangerous Summer — Shark Patrol.”
Heather Doyle, co-chairwoman of the Cape Cod Ocean Community, an active online group focused on “surveillance, deterrence, detection, and Community awareness” about sharks off the Cape, said members pointed out the items in a discussion on the group’s Facebook page recently.
Members mobilized — not in a “militant way,” she clarified — and reached out to the chain’s corporate offices about what they deemed inappropriate products.
“Our reality is going to be sharks on everything; sharks on this — but when you start to personify sharks as evil animals that are hunting people and smiling . . . it’s probably not a lane we want to go down,” said Doyle, who went to two of the stores to see the products for herself and take pictures.
“It’s really not that funny,” she said. “It’s horribly inappropriate and insensitive to those of us who live here.”
Jessica Joyce, spokeswoman for Bed Bath & Beyond, parent company of the Christmas Tree Shops, confirmed in a statement to the Globe earlier this week that the items were removed from store shelves on Cape Cod after receiving complaints.
“We understand our vast and diverse customer base consists of people with many different views and sensibilities which sometimes get reflected in their shopping preferences. We appreciate all customer feedback and understand this is a sensitive issue toward which many people have different feelings,” Joyce said. “It is never our intention to offend customers by our merchandise assortment.”
In September, 26-year-old Arthur Medici died after he was attacked by a shark while boogie boarding in the waters off a beach in Wellfleet. It was the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in more than 80 years.
A month prior, a doctor from New York survived a shark attack while swimming off the coast of Truro.
Officials and residents up and down Cape Cod have been grappling with ways to make safety improvements and prevent future incidents following the attacks.
The Cape Cod Times this week reported that since the two incidents, retailers have tried to be more cognizant about the types of items displaying sharks that are OK to sells to residents and tourists.
Doyle told the Globe Thursday that she has no problem with shirts, hats, and other goodies bearing images of sharks — it’s the products that turn the Cape Cod waters into a light-hearted joke.
“We are a home of sharks, and I’m fine with that. We’re not crazy. We understand that,” she said. “But to exploit the hunting theme is a line we should not cross over. If we want tourists to keep coming here and tourists to feel safe, then these [themes around humans versus sharks] need to be abandoned really quickly.”