After four shoppers came forward in recent weeks claiming that retailers Macy’s and Barneys New York New York discriminated against them because they’re African-American, New York’s attorney general is launching an investigation into security practices at those two department stores.
Some in the media are calling it the crime of “shopping while black” or “shop and frisk,” after customers said they were questioned or held even after showing receipts that proved they had paid for items like designer handbags and belts.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has dropped a Friday deadline on the two stores to hand over info about their security policies for detaining and questioning customers based on race, reports Reuters.
“The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your company’s commitment to that ideal,” writes the head of the attorney general’s civil rights bureau in letters to Barneys’ Lee and Macy’s Chief Stores Officer Peter Sachse.
But the stores say this whole thing is the police’s fault, and that their stores’ staffs didn’t tell cops who to stop.
“We believe that no Barneys employees were involved in those incidents,” Barney’s CEO Mark Lee said after a meeting with civil rights leader Al Sharpton, regarding two reported incidents at his stores. “No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of our internal security and no one from Barneys reached out to external authorities.”
A Macy’s spokeswoman said close to the same thing, denying that store staff were at fault in two incidents at its flagship store in NYC. One of those involved an actor from HBO’s Treme, who claimed he was paraded through the store in handcuffs after he bought a $1,350 gold Movado watch for his mother.
“This was an operation of the New York City Police Department,” the Macy’s spokeswoman said.
Hang on — says the NYPD: In the case of the two Barneys’ incidents and the above Macy’s case, police were just responding to what store security had told them. A fourth case is still under investigation.
“In both instances, the NYPD were conducting unrelated investigations” in the store, a spokesman for the NYPD said.