Barneys To Pay $525K Penalty For Racial Profiling, Pinky-Swears To Not Do It Anymore

Overpriced retailer Barneys isn’t just guilty of lacking a much-needed apostrophe in its name. The swanky store has also agreed to pay the state of New York $525,000 to close the leather-bound, gilt-edged book on an investigation into allegations that customers with non-Ivory complexions were treated like shoplifters by store employees.

NY state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (who got his superhero powers after being bitten by a radioactive schneider) announced in late 2013 that his office was investigating claims from shoppers at Barneys and the properly apostrophed Macy’s were treated unfairly by store staff merely based on the color of their skin.

Two non-white Barneys customers alleged they were falsely accused of credit card fraud by store employees for no reason other than their race.

Additional complaints from shoppers — and even a pair of former Barneys staffers — received by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau include:

• That door guards would only call out minority shoppers as being in need of surveillance;

• That in-store detectives followed minority customers around the store, even after other store employees identified them as bonafide non-stealing customers;

• That in-store detectives disproportionately asked sales associates to reprint receipts after minority customers made purchases in order to confirm the purchases were legitimate;

• That in-store detectives disproportionately called sales associates who handled minority customers’ transactions in order to investigate the customers’ credit card use;

• That some sales associates avoided serving minority customers so they would not be contacted by loss-prevention employees seeking to investigate the use of credit cards by minority customers.

The AG’s investigation also found that Barneys failed to keep adequate records of incidents in which loss-prevention employees stopped a customer to investigate possible theft.

But even the inadequate records indicated that non-white customers made up a disproportionate number of those detained by the store or investigated for possible credit card fraud.

In addition to paying the $525,000 to the state, Barneys has agreed to retain an independent anti-profiling consultant; keep accurate records of its loss-prevention investigations, detentions and false stops; adopt new profiling policies and to investigate complaints from customers who believe they are being profiled because of their race.

“Profiling and racial discrimination remain a problem in our state, but not one we are willing to accept,” says Schneiderman. “This agreement will continue our work to ensure there’s one set of rules for everyone in public accommodations, including customers in New York’s retail establishments.”

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