The Curious Case of SWB (Shopping While Black)

by Khadijah Red

I’m not naïve enough to believe discrimination doesn’t exist. As a native New Yorker, I’ve seen and heard the many injustices when it comes to people of color. From inequalities in public schools, to the racially biased stop and frisk law, yes, I’m aware. As an African-American woman in her late twenties, however, I have never really faced serious racial discrimination. That is until now. Sure, as a kindergartener, teachers have butchered the pronunciation of my name. I still experience it presently. And yes, I was always told that I’m “so articulate” by white people while I was growing up. I knew what that insinuation really meant, but I always shrugged it off.

It wasn’t until I went shopping in a Burlington Coat Factory in Rego Park (Queens, New York) with my infant son and fiancé, Derrick*, that I experienced the all too common SWB … Shopping While Black. For those of you familiar with retail security, most stores, if not all, have those little black camera eyes hidden in the ceilings. So if you’re tempted to steal — yes, you’re on candid camera.

My family and I walked around Burlington Coat Factory looking to return and exchange a few baby items. If you’re like me, you like to circle around aisles more than once to make sure you’ve seen everything the store has to offer before making your final choice. I scooped up the starship fleece baby onesie that I was looking for and placed it on top of my stroller along with the other baby clothes  I wanted to return.

I then handed my items to Derrick as he approached the customer service cashier. As usual, Derrick forgot something. This time it was his receipt. However, with the use of his credit card, the cashier allowed Derrick to make a return and exchange. As I waited for Derrick with our son, I spotted a cute little Hispanic guy browsing through the women’s section. “Hmm,” I thought to myself, “he’s probably shopping for his girlfriend. And damn is he short.”

As Derrick and I made our way to the exit doors, we were stopped abruptly by undercover loss prevention detectives. That cute little Hispanic guy I was eyeing happened to be an undercover cop (Detective Perez*). He, along with another African-American male, Detective Harris*, escorted us to the back office in Burlington Coat Factory where we were questioned. All I could think of was that this was a big misunderstanding that could be resolved swiftly. I was wrong. Detective Harris questioned Derrick about his original missing receipt and asked him where the items were. It went downhill from there.

“Sit down. Where’s the original receipt?” Detective Harris asked in a hostile voice.

“I don’t have it,” Derrick said. “What’s this about?” Derrick flashed his badge to Detective Harris. (Derrick is also an undercover loss prevention detective for a different retail outlet.)

“Listen. Sit your a** down,” Detective Harris yelled.

“What? I didn’t take anything,” Derrick said to Detective Harris as he stood up.

“I know you didn’t! But we have your wife here on camera stealing!” Detective Harris said, pointing to me.

My mouth dropped. I was floored. This couldn’t be happening. I’ve never stolen a thing in my life. I held my crying son as Detective Harris continued to rant and rave that I had stolen merchandise. When I finally spoke up and told the detective there was a mistake and I didn’t take anything, he told me to “shut the f**k up.” I was completely disrespected and astonished that he was talking to me in this manner. I was a young woman on the verge of getting my second master’s degree, not some hoodlum in the street! Detective Harris, on the other hand, was an overzealous 6’3, 190-pound prick with a flashlight and walkie-talkie.

Of course, Derrick defended his family by checking Detective Harris’ attitude. But that didn’t stop Detective Harris from searching through my belongings — where he never did find “stolen” merchandise. Derrick and Detective Harris continued arguing. I feared it would get physical. Granted, I felt Detective Harris needed to be manhandled because of his unprofessional behavior, but not at the expense of my fiancé getting a criminal record.

Rego Park is known to be predominately white, but being stopped by a black detective who verbally harassed and disrespected a fellow African-American customer for a misunderstanding should never be tolerated. The whole situation not only opened my eyes to the discrimination African Americans face by other races, but also that suffered by discrimination from our own kind. I can surely tell you this: Had we been a white family, would we have faced the same degree of scrutiny and disrespect? No, of course not.

Have you been stopped or followed in a store because of your race? 

  • Ange B

    That officers conduct was over the top it sounds. Why didn’t he know what was apparently stolen? Sounds like he was just trying to show off, flex his power over you. I understand that it can be a tough job but shouldn’t they know what they are looking for? Aren’t they watching the cameras and walking about?….I know for myself I would not be purchasing anything from that place ever again!

  • http://brandingsweets.wordpress.com Joey

    Oh wow. I’m so sorry that you experienced this. I hope you are filing some sort of complaint. No one has the right to be brutally disrespected like this. The thought that you had your child with you makes it even more disgusting. I’ve been followed while shopping but I have never experienced anything like this. Smh

  • http://ladyngo.blogspot.com Lady Ngo

    wow, i’ve fallen prey to the SWB thing a time or two but never to that extent. I too hope you filed a complaint.

  • Starla

    I cannot believe the way they were speaking to you and Derrick in front of your child. Who swears in front of a child? Damn! That was a horrific experience.

    When I see security stalking me in a store, I start stalking them too. Every move they make, I make the same move, right next to them. After a while, they get it and leave me alone. That is the only method I have found that works SWB.

    Being educated does not protect you from ill-treatment. Some of our most educated and best citizens have been treated like crap, just for being black.

  • African Mami

    Of course! I was once shopping and this chick kept ducking in and out of the aisle, as I looked for something. I just suddenly stopped, what I was doing and told her very politely but bluntly, I am black not a thief, I’m actually one of your most loyal customers. If you could please leave me alone in peace to shop that would be highly appreciated, mmmkay, thanks! I do not suffer fools gladly.

    Your case was extreme, and my conclusion is that he was trying to make up for his height by asserting his authority. Glad no “shopping while black” arrests were made!! :)

  • Yb

    I’m really not surprised at how that black detective acted. Black folks in law enforcement (and positions of power in general) LOVE to shuck and jive and harass black shoppers to appease their white supervisors and bosses.

    If I ever feel that I am being racially profiled in a store, I let them know that I do not appreciate their patronising and tell them that I will take my business and wallet elsewhere. Your racism just lost you some money you may of needed.

  • apple

    PLEASE SUE THEM PLEASE SUE THEM.. Sending you an email ASAP, because you need to sue them..that was UNCALLED FOR…as for the Uncle Tom who went against you…totally reminds me of the Boyz In The Hood scene..this is crazy… As for SWB.. in NYC i actually felt a relief when shopping because no one followed or bothered me.. i didn’t have to keep my hands where everyone can see them and be paranoid , like i am in the south..in the south its kind of scary..even though i havent been called out (except by foreigners in their own businesses)..its so sad that i have to make sure i don’t look guilty everywhere i f*king go!!

  • LeAnna

    I worked at TJMaxx (Atlanta) for about six years while in high school and college. I use to have to wear the ear pieces with the walkie-talkie and most of the time they are discussing a possible thieve (most of the time they are talking about black men SMH). I felt like the enemy. The LP agents target minorities. I have seen a lot of people arrested, but majority of the people were minorities. The LP agents that I have worked with actual show proof of the people stealing or switching tickets.

    I transferred to another TJMaxx during my college years. This was a small town and the LP agent there was too power hungry. He followed a black male and of course the man said something. He went on about how he was being followed for being Black. I agreed with him. Being the vocal individual that I am, I told the LP agent about his discriminatory ways. The store manager decided to have a “talk” with me and I ended up going on about white privilege. A couple of weeks later, the LP agent was moved to another location.

    They cannot arrest you. I would have asked for the video proof because they all have that equipment. The sad thing is that this happens all the time. I am sorry that happened to you and your family.

  • GlowBelle

    Wow that is really horrible! They need to be reported stat! Harassing and cussing at you like that especially in front of your son. I also didn’t know security was so tight in Burlington Coat Factory of all places…I’m sorry but the BCF’s in my area look like tornadoes blew through it and the people working there don’t give a damn. They were acting like you stole a expensive painting from a museum or something!

    Still, I’m not surprised by the behavior of these ‘cops of color’. Give ‘em power, and they’ll take it to the extreme. To be honest, in my area (South Texas) I usually get IGNORED more in stores than having someone follow me around, some salesclerks won’t even wait on me, or act like I don’t have the money and they don’t need to waste their time with me sort of like the scene in Pretty Woman. I’ve had one stand-out instance while in Old Navy where the girl actually came into the damn dressing room stall with me…and I promptly told her to back off, and she got scared off of that. Needless to say I don’t shop at Old Navy that much anymore, because if they are going to treat their customers that way, why feed their business with my money? I don’t give time and money to stores and restaurants if I get crap service.

    I’m so sorry that that happened to you, but you really need to file a report and/or sue because that should have NEVER happened.

  • Shirl

    I told a friend (who happens to be white) about my experiences of SWB and she thought maybe I was a little paranoid until we went shopping together. She couldn’t get a sales persons help to save her life but every two minutes I had one asking if I needed anything. Take note if you’re a minority and are gonna shoplift take a white woman with ya. While the cameras, security and sales people are following you your (white) partner in crime can clean the place out. Everyone knows that white folk don’t steal (#cough..Bernie Madoff). Double shame that you had to go through this with a so called brother.

  • vk

    This hit insanely close to home because I live in Queens and often go shopping here in conjunction to the neighboring stores like Century 21, Dallas BBQ and everything else on Junction and Queens Blvd. I never thought this behavior would happen in our area but I am deeply saddened and hope that this article explodes the web and cast a light on BCF and department stores everywhere. As a single female getting her second master’s degree as well, it’s disgusting that even possession of these items can’t erase skin color…by a minimum wage employee no less. smh

  • Comment

    There is an uncle tom / uncle ruckus syndrome that some black men in an authority position seem to have. Cops, security guards, bouncers etc. They don’t like black women and they will take any opportunity to disrespect one under the guise of the “law.” The best advice I can give is to get these jokers on recording — keep that recorder app handy on your cellphone and file a complaint whenever possible. Soon enough they will tom their way right out of a job.

  • Anthony

    I wish I could say I was shocked at the story, but all of us either go through this or have someone we know go through this. Your story reminds me of the last time I was in New York. I was heading home and going through security. A young black man was the TSA agent. He gave a group of young Latino men ahead of me a ridiculously hard time. They were upset, but knew he had the upper hand. When it was my turn, it was not enough to put my things through the metal detector, he “had” to search me too. The next person was a white man who about my age, and if he touched him, you all did!

    Some of us have swallowed negative stereotypes much more than whites, or at least we feel free to act on these assumptions in ways that would embarrass most white people.

  • Sick

    Unfortunately this crap still happens, even though the majority of people stealing is the young blond girl and her mother. They never watch them and they know it so they take full advantage. Store security will tell you this. Back in the day when I got my first job as a retail sales clerk, the security people stated that the majority of the people stealing were older white women. Yet they still follow blacks around. I have seen whites carry merchandise from one floor to another (without paying) and even put unpaid merchandise in their bags and say “oh, I forgot I had this.”

    In this day and age, I never get followed, only at the beauty supply outlets, which is why I never, ever go to those places anymore. When I need something they normally carry, I purchase it online. Black people should avoid beauty supply stores anyway, as they shut blacks out of owning them. Take your power back people, if this happens to you, boycott them and watch them go out of business.

  • http://lipstickstick.tumblr.com/ Kristhle

    The cops initial attitude and approach to the situation disgusted me. His attitude most definitely needed to be checked and I hope your husband addressed that.
    In no way to justify his misunderstanding, I know coming from retail that whenever someone comes in with something to exchange, it is important that they distinguish and/or make clear WHAT it is they are returning and WHAT is new merch. Often times the stroller is a huge red flag for authorities because women use this as a clutch to steal (ALL women, not just women of color, I want to make that clear). I can understand how they might raise an eyebrow, however it is THEIR job to check the cameras and MAKE SURE that their ASSUMPTIONS were correct. I hope you can take some sort of legal action because that is just crazy.

  • Boone

    Exactly!

  • a. chigozie

    some stores have a policy that does not allow the loss prevention folks from arresting/escorting you unless they are 100% sure you stole something. No speculation. Because if they find nothing, you could sue them. I’d definitely look into it because not only is it humiliating, it’s just wrong.

  • E.M.S.

    I’m sorry to hear that happened to your family, it’s unacceptable. But unfortunately you’re correct: our own kind suspect one another of ill behavior all the time. You know something’s wrong with society when we view our own in the same negative way everyone else does.

    As for that detective, I’d say he needed to be reported for his treatment of you and your husband.

  • I got sense!

    “Had we been a white family, would we have faced the same degree of scrutiny and disrespect? No, of course not.”

    And you know this how? Because you’re psychic Nope, don’t think so.

    The because the security guards were minorities and we were thing so they should have handled it differently is the same exact thing that you are complaining about. Treat everyone the same. If you are nice or a butthole. They don’t know you so your degrees don’t mean squat. People with degree lie, steal and kill. I’m glad you got your reality check so you can get a better understanding of the world you are living in.

  • Mitt_Romen_Noodles

    Our brothers and sisters that get that lil bit of minimum wage power always want to flex their muscles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annika.harris.7 Annika Harris

    I also have experienced SWB, and I beg you to take this to Burlington directly because while the “detectives” were questioning you and your husband someone else could have been stealing from the store.

  • Shirl

    your screen name is an Oxymoron…

  • http://gravatar.com/momof2dews momof3dews

    preach!

  • Aloha

    People! This wasn’t her husband. It was her fiancee aka her baby daddy. So even “as a young woman on the verge of getting my second master’s degree, not some hoodlum in the street” she had academic sense yet no common sense to be having a baby with a man who didn’t make you his wife yet. Either way this story is tragic but for all the commenters…he is not her husband yet so don’t classify her as wife watching her husband getting accused of shoplifting. Spare me.

  • i mean

    I hope you filed a report

  • MySister’sKeeper

    For my sixteenth birthday, my mom gave me her credit card (and put me on a very tight limit) to do a little shopping at Bloomingdales. Despite his protests, I forced my brother to go shopping with me. As we were shopping, this white lady was clearly following and watching us. At first we laughed it off, knowing we stuck out but eventually my brother became so uncomfortable he begged me to leave. Til this day we laugh at this incident. My brother should have known better. I don’t tend to shy away from conflict. Rather I flagged her to come over and then began drapping all the clothes I was waiting to try on over her shoulders and arms. She asked if I wanted her to take them to the fitting room. I told her “No. Since you want to follow me so badly, you will continue to do so until I check out. Stand there and hold these.” She was in shock. She began to apologize and said she would leave me alone. I told her too late and made her stay there and follow me holding crap I had no intention of buying. My brother was so mad (at me). HA.

    When I was ready to checkout she directed me to her register and I refused but headed instead to another. In those days, these associates worked on commission. When she told the associate to use her employee number, I demanded that she not. She told me she had to give credit to the woman who was assisting me. I asked for a manager and then explained to the manager that the woman was only assisting me because I forced her to. At the end of the day, I have no idea who got the sales credit (probably the ass that was following me), but I had a hell of a time embarrasing her (and my brother too).

  • Informant

    The intro to your article about your intelligence being praised reminds me of Scott Schumann from The Satorialist I remember reading somewhere of him praising Pharell Williams at the CFDA saying how impressed he was with his intelligence/articulation or something to that effect you could tell that it was something else underlying there. They’re so deceptive with that mess it’s disgusting!

  • NewLook

    Wow. that is horrible. Knowing me (and my angry self) I would have made them run the security tapes as we all watched (and wouldn’t have left his office until he agreed or called for backup). And then proceed to waste even MORE of his time by demanding that he called his supervisor before I filed a law suit. I love embarrasing people that try to embarrass me with racism or plain stupidity.

    –A similar thing happened to me (not caught stealing, just partying while being a black female college student) the cop said something racist…and followed us home…with his lights off(we were walking)… so we called the President of our University and had all of the cops line up as we pointed him out (and then he gave a bs apology). Dont let them get away with that Tom Foolery.

  • http://gravatar.com/pocketsizednegro Courtney**

    Your judgements really contributed something here. No, seriously.. they did.

  • http://passionistaplace.blogspot.com jenna pearle

    wow! i’m so glad you mentioned the exact store. that’s the one that’s right behind my house. i haven’t noticed anything like that myself but believe and support you. therefore, i won’t be supporting them with my money. i will also let my family and friends in the neighborhood know about this. disgusting! i certainly have experienced the swb syndrome in all types of places. the most obvious place may be in the hudson news magazine stands in the port authority and penn station in ny. smh

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Agreed! I hope the author and her finance fileba complaint against these rent a detectives ASAP! I avoid petsmarts for thos reason! I nearly alwaus jave a bad experience or feel like I am being watched when I enter like damn black people can’t have pets…le sighs…

  • loving the love!

    Jenna Pearle,

    ” I haven’t noticed anything like that myself but believe and support you.”

    This is the type of love and support our community and more importantly our young ones need to see and emulate.
    I salute you Jenna Pearle!

  • ScriptTease

    I ain’t condoning the attitude of Harris, but maybe if the complainant would have did the refund/exchange before she started walking around in the store with the items, then the confusion would have never taken place. That would be the normal thing to do.

  • ScriptTease

    Oh yes because this is so unheard of. Why are you even on a website like this because you seem way to holier than thou to think outside the christian box.

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    um just because you are working on your masters doesn’t mean that you’re better than somebody who works minimum wage. how do you know if they aren’t working on their 3rd damn masters but working at that place part time?

    how dare you turn your nose up at somebody just because they work minimum wage.

  • Eric

    PLEASE SUE THEM PLEASE SUE THEM.. Sending you an email ASAP, because you need to sue them..that was UNCALLED FOR…

    Thank you. I agree. I was incensed reading this.

  • Eric

    Thanks for the insight

  • Eric

    Take note if you’re a minority and are gonna shoplift take a white woman with ya. While the cameras, security and sales people are following you your (white) partner in crime can clean the place out. Everyone knows that white folk don’t steal (#cough..Bernie Madoff).

    @Shirl BEST COMMENT OF THE DAY!!!

  • Eric

    For the record, as a BM who is not enamored with BW. I am with you. Cuz, Psssss, they treat BMs like garbage.

    When you are included in the circle with whites, you unconsciously take on hateful white ideologies

  • Eric

    @I got nonsense

    #mansityoazzdown

  • Eric

    @Aloha I understand where you are coming from. But the issue is not her marital status, it is discrimination based on skin color.
    Save that vitriol for another post.

  • Eric

    File a f*cking report & sue that pants their b*tchasses. And I know for you, it is not about the money, but do it just for the sake of giving them the same hard time that they gave you. And take the money.

  • http://www.facebook.com/manns1963 Linda V. Miller

    Ummmm what does you r comment have to do with the article? Did yu even read what the article was talking about? Who care if that was her baby’s daddy/her daddy’s baby no nes disputing that. I think stupid we discussing how this woman shopping with her family was profiled (swb) by a rent-a-cop who too was black. The inequalites by women receive while shopping as appose to our white female counter partners. Damn did you understand any of if? Here you are ranting about her marital status. One thing for damn sure you don’t have a degree of any kind judging from your asanine statement. ijs

  • Frank H Stakley

    Regretably, this madnes continues. It happened to me on several occasions as a college student back in the 1970s and it has happened to me as an adult in recent years. One thing I now do when I notice I’m being followed in a department store is take the fool on a tour of the entire store, stopping in every dept possible, browings as many racks and shelves as possible, for as long as I have the time to do so. Drives em crazy, especially my being male when I waltz thru the women’s departments! Every now and then, I’ll even walk up to them and ask “are we having fun yet” or I’ll announce which department I’m next heading to. . .

  • Frank H Staley

    PS years ago, 60 monute (?>20-20?) did a story on just this topic. At the time, the profile of the typical shoplifter was a upper middle clas white woman. Stores claimed not to be training their “inventory control” staff to watch Black and expressed frustration at the fact that they did otherwise once they got out of training. I recall once, while being followed by a store cop ,seeing a white woman shoplifting but I said nothing as I figured he’d simply think I was trying to deistracty him . . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/theresa.watkins.7 Theresa Watkins

    I agree with you. I thought that when you return merchandise to a store, the customary thing to do is to let a store employee be aware of your actions. To be honest there are a lot of shoplifters around and the store employees can’t distinguish shoppers from thieves. I have never gone in a store with merchandise I plan to return and not inform the store employee of my intentions; to do otherwise is asking for trouble. JMHO .

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    “They cannot arrest you. I would have asked for the video proof because they all have that equipment.”

    Not only that but they have no right to search you. They are not sworn police officers. I’m not even sure that it’s okay for them to detain you.

    I know I have been asked by security to search my backpack a couple of times and I said no and walked out.

  • Tif

    Oh my god, I love this. Why not confront folks for following you and make it work for you.

  • Scilla

    Kudos to you, MySister’sKeeper . You threw the racism right back in her face- well, over her shoulders. I bet she felt like a fool.

  • paul

    @I got sense

    They don’t know you so your degrees don’t mean squat. People with degree lie, steal and kill. I’m glad you got your reality check so you can get a better understanding of the world you are living in.

    Amen – to this.^^

    Here in London the only time we mention our education is on a job application and even then, only when our certification matches that required to do the job.

    You’ll never hear a black, white or other person say -

    “I was a young woman on the verge of getting my second master’s degree, not some hoodlum in the street!”

    really?

    You’d be eaten alive over here for such arrogance and classism and mocked for going around with the delusional belief that a two bit degree (or even one from Oxford or Cambridge) put you above suspicion.

    To be fair this woman clearly only mentioned her education to make the point that she spends her time engaged in non criminal activity, but then she goes on to point the finger of suspicion at anonymous bad guy (“hoodlum in the street”) –

    WHEN NO CRIME HAD BEEN COMMITTED, no one was guilty of anything.

    So she is endorsing suspicion as a crime prevention strategy against “hoodlum in the street”, (code for you know who) and protesting suspicion against the masters degee class she feels she belongs to – despite the fact that no crime had taken place that warranted suspicion of anyone.

    This idiot is unwittingly helping to create a social environment in which unwarranted suspicion can thrive and in so doing has reaped what she helped sow.

    Good.

    This is a perfect illustration of how of BUFFER CLASS nigro culture is every bit as self destructive as black underclass culture is held to be.

    Masters degree my ass – about as brainy as a gold fish with alzheimers.

  • Ceefa

    This is not just a US thing. An almost identical thing happened to me here in the UK and again, Black security. I think they feel some kinda way about being accused of letting ‘one of their own’ get away with it. Only problem is we are doing nothing to be getting away with and I don’t consider your skanky self one of my own!

  • Carolyn Miller

    Yes, I agree some of your comments come across as racist also. I am African American and you said “cute Hispanic guy” and because of your education “you are not some hoodlum on the street”. Not everyone who does not have degrees is a thief. I can just about imagine your attitude and that surely added to the situation.

  • Eyes Wide Shut

    This reminds me of the Wayans’ Bros. parody “Don’t Be A Menace……” There was a scene where the 2 main characters (Sean and Marlon) walk into the Korean convenience store with every intention of paying for their stuff, while the Korean owners followed them around with a vengeance and shouted at them “hurry up and buy!” Meanwhile, a white man in a suit walks in and practically robs the place blind while the shop owners were busy harassing Sean and Marlon’s characters. At the end of the scene while the blacks were going to pay for their stuff with the owners leering at them, the well dressed white man stole all the money from the cash register!!!!

    Saw the movie a couple of nights ago (it was like my 10th time seeing it). This incident reminded me of that same scene.

    @ Frank: I believe it was 20/20 that ran the report about how dept stores make it a policy to follow blacks around with a vengeance while whites can practically steal the store empty! I believe it was a black whistle blower from one of the major dept stores (Macy’s I believe, but they didn’t say bc they blurred out the logos on the bags, but they didn’t blur it out all that great…). I thought it was very brave for this lady to speak out even though they hid her face due to her fear of a backlash from said dept. store……

  • Eric

    @Frank H Staley

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQHdbW36XjE

    America is off the hook

  • Maman

    It is the same with libraries and museums. I actually went to court and won about this, because I had no items, plus the “security lieutenant” nor anyone else showed up, plus the Jewish DA implied adamantly that he had no fond memries of the same place. My daughter and a gay Asian male classmate were tld that the MMofA was closed the day they went there together to use their college passes. I know firsthand that whites get away with theft and visitor violations at stores, libraries, musesums, etc. Whether it is this SWB scenario or an insult, I correct it right away or surprise the bastards with “The pen is mightier than the sword”. It does wonders with foreign-born and bigots, because I add in what I know of their culture in the context of their actions. In other words, a Russian will not disrespect me when they come from the world’s biggest welfare state during the Communist years, nor will an Ethiopian who came from despotic rule under emperors and dictators, etc. where none of them had any priveleges unless they were a part of the status quo. I blasted an older Italian-American Whole Foods for this when we had just entered our first aisle. There he is, asking how we are doing, and I railed, “Why in the hell didn’t you ask those on the other aisles you passed when we came in. Here keep all of the stuff in this basket.” We left, after I went to customer servoce to summon the head of the store. I let the Whole Foods hierarchy know I was not buying their excuse of training their staff to greet customers as such, beause it is not done uniformly. He transferred soon afterwards. Another older white male retard there asked “if I needed help” when he was obviously leaving work. I told him, “No, I need to shop in peace. At my age, I have fixed tastes and enough sense to know what I am looking for and where it is.” P.S. The “lieutenant” mentioned told me he had a master’s degree, meaning what?! I have two graduate degrees – one Summa Cum Laude.

  • Leo

    There is some truth to that parody actually. White elderly woman shoplift the most out of all groups. Since old white people can get away with pretty much anything.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linda.rochonali Linda Rochon-Bey

    No, I have never been stopped. But I have been ignored by salespeople. I went to Ann Taylor to make a sizeable purchase. I was ignored and then pawned off to a new salesperson. By the time I finished shopping the new salesperson made a $200. commission and the other salespeople were pissed.

  • CR

    “Steal the store empty!” ROTFLOL! That statement is hilarious! LOLOL!! :-)

  • Travelin Light or just “Trav”

    Damn, I clicked on the wrong shoe.
    I liked what you did and meant to click it UP

  • LeftCoaster

    Sorry I don’t get it. You don’t know enough to go STRAIGHT to returns when entering a store with their own merchandise, and you also happen to forget the receipt? WTH did you expect?

  • M. Smith

    If you charge an item, and don’t have a receipt it’s easily found with your charge card. And if you are the right person, they take returns because those tags on the clothes tell exact where it comes from. I was once a clerk in a top class store and I know. Sometimes a clerk is a jerk, and so is a detective. Not denying some people steal, and one must be aware, but usually in a case like that, a clerk gets a good idea what real or not.

  • Eyes Wide Shut

    I remember awhile back there was some consumer analysis group that analyzed online shopping. One of the key (yet surprising) findings from their study was that blacks are utilizing online shopping in a way many other racial groups are not. Another analysis group (run by blacks, I forgot which one) basically put it like this: b/c of Shopping While Black (SWB) scenarios keep happening all the time with no end of changing, many blacks have opted to do shopping online bc there are no rude security guards, disrespectful salespeople etc, following you around like a thief. Plus there’s less of a chance of being ripped off (charging extra for blacks while not doing the same for whites and other races). In all honesty, when online, no one can see the color of your skin………….I thought this was a very interesting finding and quite frankly it makes a whole lot of sense the shift from physical shopping to online shopping for blacks.

    Although, nothing beats getting my bargain shop at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. Going through racks and racks to find Ann Taylor, Tumi, Calvin Klein deeply discounted gets me excitied!!!! (Note: I haven’t experienced anything racially-hostile/racially-biased at these stores from staff in Brooklyn and Vermont [I believe Vermont has to be the whitest state of the Union]) Although I did have a run-in with an elderly white woman at the Marshall’s in Vermont, and the Marshalls staff were more than quick to check Rose Nylund for her racially charged BS.

    Other places I have been where I have NOT been followed or acosted were Sephora, JCPenny, MAC, Target. If anyone has had any SWB experiences with these places, please do share! The more people are made aware of these things and raise Cain, then these practices MUST change!!!!

  • Debra Hope

    Several times shopping with black friends – two stories are memorable, shall we say: Once while I was holding my friend’s coat so she could quickly try on several coats in front of the store’s mirror (got the clerk fired over that one). The second story occurred at Oakbrook outside Chicago, a shopping center known for its unfriendliness, shall we say, to blacks, with a friend who has lived in Amsterdam for years and is one of the funniest people I know. A security guard spotted us immediately, walked toward us and stopped nearby, staring. Alfonse, as only he can do, loudly started mocking the security guy, beginning with a blatant “Ooooh, it’s a Negro, better watch him” comment, then asking the guard what he thought of certain merchandise, inquiring if he was sure nothing was being stolen, inviting his opinion on colors, suggesting there were white shoppers who he should probably be stalking, just putting on Alfonse’s Own Laugh at the Guard Show. Other shoppers stared; some laughed. I was afraid we were both going to be locked up, but I think Alfonse’s refusal to cower saved us. The guy kept his distance; we left the store with Alfonse declaring he’d spend his money elsewhere. The funniest thing? When he comes to the US, he comes with money and shopping lists from his Dutch friends . . . this store lost big-time.

  • Yvette

    I love messing with store detectives! One time years ago, one followed me around Mervyn’s and I doubled back and started following him. He turned around and I said, “You’re wasting your time on me. I make over $80,000 a year and I’m an officer in the military. Do you really think I’m going to risk my career by stealing reasonably priced clothing?” He left, listening to the sounds of my laughter.

  • Toni Davis

    I think it is funny that she feels so disrespected but made the statement “I was a young woman on the verge of getting my second master’s degree, not some hoodlum in the street!” You are giving them a valid reason based on your skin color. You believe that certain black female should be talked this way.

  • Sparky

    Hmmm . . . either something is missing in this story, or the detectives acted perfectly appropriately.

    The author says: (1) She picked up a new onesie and put it on the stack of baby clothes she was returning, (2) Derrick made the return, and (3) then the couple “made [their] way to the exit doors.”

    So when did she pay for the onesie???

  • d_g

    i understand your anger, but i have two questions:

    1) who doesn’t know to take returned merchandise DIRECTLY to customer service upon entering the store?

    2) what does your number of degrees have to do with anything? as if someone with degrees cannot steal? this statement makes you look ridiculous.

  • Sparky

    “Not only that but they have no right to search you. They are not sworn police officers. I’m not even sure that it’s okay for them to detain you.”

    Read the article again. It says at least one was an undercover cop. Also, they both had the title, “Detective.”

    Oh, and even they were just store employees, they’d have the right to detain and search you (provided they had probable cause). It’s called the “storekeeper’s privilege.”

  • Ellen

    You might have a case of illegal confinement.(false imprisonment). This will depend entirely on your state’s laws. I would certainly consult with a lawyer and, if practical, you should consider filing charges. This behavior has got to stop.

  • Ellen

    Actually, that will depend upon the state. One of the stranger jobs I had while working my way through college was a store detective. In my state, I was actually sworn in and had the power of arrest for the legal premises of the stores.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaydee2kool Jessica Danelle Dearbonne

    This statement in the article caught my attention as well.

    However, I read it as: If a college-educated, mother and wife can be disrespected in this manner in front of her husband, there’s no telling what may go on in other stores and “back offices” to people who may be younger, may or may not be “hoodlums”, and may not have a spouse, parent, or friend to defend them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaydee2kool Jessica Danelle Dearbonne

    “Return” probably meant “exchange”…

  • M. Smith

    When I hear of or read of demeaning behavior, I take action. I contacted the corp. headquarters, they email me immediately, said the were unaware of the incident, and thanked me for informing them., They will look into it immediately. I believe them, they value customers and know the effect of net media. When I contract Kroger’s in Atlantic about mistreatment, they posted an apology in the Atlantic newspaper the next day, and made restitution to the customer. We have the power to deal with these injustices today.

  • M. Smith

    You are absolutely right on your first question. But the question is, did that detective have a right to talk to her that way. I have worked in a high end shop, and the answer is no. Believe me, even in a case of real theft, he would not have talk to everyone in that manner. He is poorly trained, and unprofessional. He thinks he is Barney on Andy Griffith show.

  • apple

    yea that might be right but guess what they claim they had it on video when that was a LIE, and they repeatedly cursed them out when they tried to explain..so whatever

  • Kharyl

    Well, I just emailed the corporate offices of Burlington CF and told them they need to speak with security officers in Rego Park, because they could possibly have a lawsuit filed against them!

  • Brandy Brown

    Or if you’re a normal person while returning clothes you also pay for the ones you picked up, instead of making two trips

  • Patience

    I am reminded of a previous employment experience. Worked for a national retail chain while attending college. Initially the store employed a white loss prevention supervisor who aggressively pursued black customers in hopes of catching those who would steal the store’s merchandise. One profound moment occurred when he sent two of his fellow LPOs after a 6 year old child who had become separated from his mother. It was not one of the store’s greatest moments as the child was visibly shaking and wailing as the LPOs walked the child through the store by his collar. No store items were found on his person. His mother was livid, crying and insisted on speaking with the store manager. At one of our daily meetings an employee challenged management on how the little black child was treated. Management’s response was that blacks committed a disproportionate number of thefts in the store. Ultimately, the white LP supervisor was fired as he was caught stealing high ticket items from the store.

    The store subsequently hired a very energetic black LP supervisor who had served in the armed forces. I remember hearing him say, he didn’t care about the color of those who chose to steal, he was going to bust them. And that he did, blacks, whites, Latinos, old, young, disabled in wheelchairs, etc. Amazingly, the number of whites collared went up significantly. I overheard him saying on his last day of work that while blacks were being caught stealing sunglasses, he most often would catch whites shamelessly stealing by rolling luggage and big ticket items out the door, hiding things under the quilt that covered grandma’s lap as she rolled along in her wheelchair, giving their children toys to play with and allowing them to walk out the door with them. My takeaway from the experience was “Seek and you shall find.”

  • elle

    This is really sad and I hope the author filed a complaint against the company and the detectives. Don’t give them too much power over you. They have no right to talk to her that way, these people are on a power trip! It’s really sad these days that these detectives are people of color and they should know better. Hell who can you trust these days? You can’t trust white people and now our own people too?! SMH!

  • Josephine Smart

    You missed the point in the article where she said “return and exchange”.

  • http://pecunium.wordpress.com pecunium

    I work in retail… About 2/3rds of our exchange purchases (in NYC) are people who come in, shop, and come to the counter to make the single transaction.

    If it’s a credit card a fair number of them have no receipt.

    The same was true before I transferred to my present location from San Francisco.

  • http://www.facebook.com/butters.stotch.1004 Butters Stotch

    Don’t forget, you’re only getting the author’s side of the story and she clearly has an agenda. Just because she say’s she was spoken to that way does not mean she was…and if she was who knows whether or not she was simply getting what she or her fiance was giving.

  • http://gravatar.com/pocketsizednegro Courtney**

    That’s right, folks. Don’t forget that literally everyone who says that they were profiled or experienced discrimination is lying until we have videotaped evidence with timestamps. Also, don’t forget that we can never expect minorities to accurately recount their stories of discrimination or profiling because we’re prone to rampant hysterics and exaggeration. Also, because we’re clearly and scientifically aggressive, if we don’t mention how combative we were during these alleged instances of discrimination, we’re obviously leaving this shit out. All black people who recount tales of being profiled are clearly only doing so with a distinct, vindictive agenda. Maybe that agenda is simply saying “hey. This racist shit happened to me. Shouldn’t be this way in 2012.” But in this post-racial age, with racism finally defeated once and for all (save reverse discrimination and affirmative action, of course, which continue to oppress white people every day), we must immediately be suspicious of any claims that the ghosts of this defeated dragon still live on.

  • http://gravatar.com/thisismyoyster Valsays

    I hoped you sued.

  • arriando

    Sad when simple reminders to be diligent, fair and intellectually honest are seen as acts of oppression. This is the normalization of psychological dysfunction, and it is a huge threat to the black community. Those who are smart will eventually disengage and let these people stew in their own spiritual pollution, and these conversations will continue to increasingly become a poisoned echo chamber.

  • kbon

    Same here – I never stand in line twice: once to return and then again to purchase. I don’t have time for that. Because of this, I do make an effort never to mingle the item(s) I’m returning with the items I’m purchasing. On camera, that can look suspicious.

    On the other hand, the guard did behave in an incredibly unprofessional manner. But I’ve worked in retail, and I’ve heard of worse. In fact, based on what I’ve seen go down in stores and some of the shenanigans I’ve learned of from the security guards I’ve worked with, I would never, ever accompany any of them into a back room to settle anything. You are welcome to search my bags, sir, but let’s settle it politely–and visibly, with witnesses–right here on the sales floor, thank you very much.

  • http://www.themultipleOblog.com bluebloodedmama

    I’m all for an apology and restitution, but I’m afraid I’d insist they take it one step further and remove the offender from his post, to guarantee that it will never happen again. I’d want his head on a platter. But then again, that’s probably just me.

  • Brittany

    You should have smacked the pigment out of his skin….:(

  • liftingasweclimb

    Agreed. This is why I do most of my shopping online. I refuse to invest my time in torturing racist staff, complaints and lawsuits when I can simply shop where my dollar is respected and save time to boot!

    It saddens me that the author invokes her education as a defense. It reminds me of the endless complaints of “educated” black men in New York about the challenges of getting a yellow cab when black and Dominican owned car services were providing super car services, a quick phone call away. But I can’t be angry with her. My anger is resolved for the racism that provokes these kind of responses in the first place.

  • liftingasweclimb

    It’s not just you.

  • liftingasweclimb

    Amazingly = Predictably

  • http://www.browngirlbeautyx.blogspot.com Dutchie Fresh

    My blog is called “Brown Girl in the Beauty Aisle”. I do alot of SWB and have learned to not take my purse into drug stores for fear of being stopped and searched. Sad, but effective. When I don’t have a bag or pockets I can actually shop in peace :(

    I don’t seem to have as much trouble at the High End counters ironically.

  • http://gravatar.com/ceecollegegal CeeCee

    The economy is struggling to recover, and business owners are complaining about the number of shoppers in stores, but fail at customer service by discriminating against minorities. Two stores in particular come to mind: Circuit City and Borders, both stores have gone out of business (Circuit City is exclusively online now). I stopped shopping at Circuit City because every time I went into the store I could never locate a store representative to assist me or a store representative followed me around the store, so naturally I stopped shopping there. Borders was the same way, every time I walked in the store someone was there to follow me around, so naturally I stopped shopping there and they too went out of business. In the future I see JcPenny’s, Best Buy, and Dillard’s going out of business. I have had bad experiences at these stores and no longer shop at them. I heard Best Buy is struggling and that is why they started doing “price match” and they updated the return policy. I predict in years to come, that a lot more businesses will be going out of business do to discrimination towards minorities and just overall bad customer service. I’m glad that people are starting to wise up and hit these jerks where it hurts “in their pockets”. I shop online for my electronics, intimates, and clothing items (if something doesn’t fit I ship it back). Its sad because the majority of clothing stores in the mall appeal to my age demographic, but I have not had good experiences shopping in them.

  • JP

    So you followed up with a call and letter to management and their corporate offices and hit up their Facebook page and twitter to let them know how you were treated, right.
    Also you asked for the video tape and recorded the session.

    Did you return the items as soon as you were allowed to leave the backroom and call for a manager?

  • guest4

    I was a young woman on the verge of getting my second master’s degree, not some hoodlum in the street! Detective Harris, on the other hand, was an overzealous 6’3, 190-pound prick with a flashlight and walkie-talkie.

    Ah yes, racism = bad, elitism = good. Are you suggesting that had you been a mere plebeian with a high school education, this would have made the situation more acceptable?

  • guest4

    while i agree mostly with what you say, i couldn’t help myself from laughing about your comparison to England, where your accent can very much affect the way you are treated.

  • guest4

    first of all, kudos on turning the tables. i’m not sure if race was a factor in your being followed, but i did want to mention that being 16 probably didn’t help, white or minority, in an upscale store. lastly, please don’t use someone else’s credit card, even with their permission. Now that could get you into trouble!

  • karmell

    I have actually been stopped and accused of theft when I had no bag and form fitting clothing on. I asked them where the hell I put the stolen merchandise? Meanwhile, a white girl had just left with a huge bag and they didn’t bother to check her.

  • http://gravatar.com/ohsohonestlyjasmine jasmineEmedia

    Elitism is one of those unconscious things “educated black people” do, I’m sure the writer doesn’t mean any harm but you make a good point. I can’t count how many times I’ve felt discriminated against and thought “I don’t look ghetto today why am I being treated like this” If black people are going to live safe productive lives we have to stop this us vs. them mentality. I shouldn’t have to wear a a suit and carry a designer bag to compensate for my skin color.

  • http://gravatar.com/ohsohonestlyjasmine jasmineEmedia

    BAHAHAHAHAH I work in a major retailer and we had the crazieist old lady who happened to be white stealing, it was so funny because she was so slow and obvious about it knocking over trays of perfume and scooping them into her purse. When the Loss prevention staff questioned her she said “It’s just not fair everything’s so damn expensive”

  • paul

    guest4

    Not sure how your point is relevant to anything I said.

    I didn’t say there is no class system here, and I didn’t say that people are not judged by class, race, gender, accent – in all the usual ways that people make assumptions about other people wherever you go in the world.

    What I said is that you don’t hear people citing their education at every opportunity as they seem to do in (black) america, certainly not as a reason they shouldn’t be questioned by store security.

    You’d get ripped a new one if you voiced such vulgar classism here.

    But i would still beg to differ that accent is a marker of criminality in England.

    It’s the same old here.

    it’s not accent that makes you “suspicious” it’s youth sex and race aka young male and black, and only in inner city areas.

    In less cosmopolitan places – it’s just young and male.

    Hope that clears it up for you.

  • Zane

    My sister and I were at the mall once upon a time. We’d just come out of the dollar store where we had bought batteries, and I had the plastic bag in my hand. We were in the process of looking for our parents when my sister noticed were being noticed we were being tailed by a white rent-a-cop (security guard). We picked up our pace, but he he didn’t peruse us.

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