October 30th, 2013
11:24 AM ET

Shop And Frisk? Barneys and Macy's Under Fire for Racial Profiling

The New York state attorney general is investigating Macy's Inc. and Barneys New York Inc after multiple allegations of racial profiling in which black customers say the New York City department stores targeted them because of their race.

The stores have until November 1 to submit information to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office concerning their policies on stopping and detaining customers, calling the police on suspicious customers, and policies on anti-discrimination and race, according to letters sent by the attorney general to Barneys Chief Executive Officer Mark Lee and Macy's Chief Stores Officer Peter Sachse.

"Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is committed to ensuring that all New York residents are afforded equal protection under the law. The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your company's commitment to that ideal," the letters read.

“There have been four claims in all. Two from Macy’s, two from Barneys,” reports CNN’s Nichelle Turner.

Macy’s is saying its employees weren’t involved in one of the incidents, and not commenting on the other, while Barneys is saying its employees weren’t involved in either of the incidents, that it was a police procedure, Turner explains.

But the police are saying they were alerted by store security and only got involved after that.

“So there’s a little bit of a ‘he-said-she-said’ nobody knows and who’s going to take the blame in this situation now that there’s been some legal action taken.”

Former NYPD Detective Harry Houck offers his insight, saying an arrest could not be made without a legitimate complaint from the store.

“You’ve got to have reasonable suspicion to stop somebody. You need probable cause.”

“Usually the store security will catch a shoplifter, or have a suspect in custody already, then call the police and patrol will respond, and they’ll make an arrest based on the security in that store,” he says.

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  1. Rory

    I have experienced discrimination in stores and it's unfortunate that you become numb to the treatment. Most of my incidents happened as a younger man and now that I am older I wish I had complained during those times. Unfortunate that hate still is at the center of our great nation.

    November 4, 2014 at 9:46 am | Reply
  2. Katie

    My Indian doctor friend was accused of "switching tags" in Century 21 when one article she was purchasing at the counter did not have a price tag attached. She was brought into the basement for 2 hours and yelled at and accused of switching tags. When she tried to call her husband or 911 her phone was snatched away and flung on another table. The police came and handcuffed her and put her in a cell for another 2 1/2 hours. She has a platinum loyalty card to this store. Please do not patronize Century 21. This is part of a the ongoing "Shop and Frisk" harassment that has been going on throughout New York City

    November 20, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  3. Jeffin

    Being an employee at Macy's was really an experience to how we really treat customers based on their race, gender and ethnicity. It was morally wrong in my opinion to actually judge on customers appearance whether they can purchase and afford clothing and or items that are really expensive. We need to educate and learn more about stereotyping and get over the fact of judging other people just by their appearance and the color of their skin.

    November 17, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Reply
  4. Amber

    This is ridiculous!!!! Why are we still racial profiling? White people (including rich white people) have been known to steal as well. Wynonna Ryder for instance. This whole situation is shady. I believe the store is crawfishing big time in order to avoid a law suit. This is maddening.

    November 13, 2013 at 9:43 am | Reply

    This is so wrong in many levels, how could this be happening in 2013,with the ways we have to identification if a credit card belong to that person or not. The way this was handle was wrong I think the security guard just when a long with what ever the store told him to do , because we know he could not see or know if that card was fake or stolen from where he was standing.

    November 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  6. Nyna

    I think the stores are lying to protect their companies. I also feel that once a full investigation is done more people will come forward with their stories and justice will be served. These companies risk being sued for discrimination, even though, we all know that this happens in retail stores and some people have even experienced it themselves. These stores don't even realize that while they are "profiling black people" or people they "think" are criminals ...the real criminals are right before their eyes and they don't even notice it because they are to busy watching the wrong people.

    November 11, 2013 at 7:42 am | Reply
  7. Robbi

    Having worked retail for several years, I know that there are certain protocols in place from every company when it comes to loss prevention. These stores seem to have thrown these policies and procedures out the window. There have to be more details that we are not getting. A large store that does high dollar transactions on a daily basis should have a ID checking policy also when it comes to credit card purchases. So that seems to be a fairly clear cut case of harassment and profiling. It's a real shame in this day and age that people cannot see past color long enough to avoid these types of situations.

    November 10, 2013 at 10:58 pm | Reply
  8. Nyna

    In my opinion, the department stores are lying. They know that they could be sued for discrimination if they actually say, "yes we profile all black shoppers". So no they are not going to out right say that they have done wrong, but I am confident after the complete investigation more people will come forward with their experiences at these particular stores and justice will be served. It is completely unacceptable for this to happen but we all know it happens or we may have even experienced it ourselves.

    November 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  9. Martika Thompson

    my first thought of course was "I just know all of these people were black." I feel as though it is beyond ridiculous for security to handcuff and hold someone due to how they look. A person looked a certain way so he/she cant buy an expensive belt or $300 worth of shirts? Its sad that people really have views this way. Handcuffing someone just because of an assumption? Sad. The workers should be looked at themselves because if they were doing their job they should have asked for ID upon checking the customer out anyway ..but a transaction made worth $1,200 and he's black so he's stealing? its really angering as an African American myself. And it's sad that some people really be racial profiling and its even sadder that this still goes on today. Both stores and any worker who participated in such senseless situation are all wrong.

    November 10, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  10. Thelma

    After reading the story I believe that it is racial profile when a person is shopping and get stop for the color of they skin .If there is no alert that the card is stolen then what reason do they have to stop a person of color.

    November 10, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Reply
  11. Kiethena

    People now a days are so stereotypical. They think that a Black American cannot be well off, and they associate them with crime and violence. People need to open their eyes and realize that just because someone is of a different race that does NOT make them a bad person. Just because someone is black and goes into a store and makes a large purchase, that does NOT mean that they have committed credit card fraud. I agree that the stores should have to submit information to the Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office concerning their policies on stopping and detaining customers, calling the police on suspicious customers, and policies on anti-discrimination and race. I also believe that more will come out of this investigation, and agree with Mandy that police don't just happen to come to the store by themselves and automatically suspect someone of criminal activity when they are paying for their purchase. The police have to be called to the scene. I think that the stores are just trying to cover up everything and blame the police in attempt to save their reputation, along with their employees' reputations.

    November 10, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  12. Kara

    There is always more to the story we don't know about. Do i think the employees were involved in the incident somehow, yes. Far as the policies, the companies should ask for identification with every credit card purchase, regardless of race. As a white female, I love to have the company ask for mine, that ensure me that if my cards were ever stolen or lost that another individual would not be able to be used my card. The question on my mind is, if the individuals paid with cash, would they have been targeted, after their transactions, like they were.

    November 10, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  13. Ilsa

    I have also witnessed other incidents where people from minority groups were asked to show proof of ID and people from other groups were not, even through the store's policy states that every customer must show proof of ID. Discrimination among other social issues occur in almost everywhere in the United States. I am glad that people are starting to speak up and complain about it. It is hard to believe that we are in the 21st century and these kind of social issues still exist nationwide.

    November 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  14. Ilsa

    I have also seen other incidents where people from minority races were asked to show proof of ID when paying and other races were not, when their policy states that proof of ID must be shown by every customer. Discrimination occurs in almost every place and I am glad that people are starting to speak up and complain about it. It is hard to believe that we are in the 21st century and still have discrimination among other social issues in the United States.

    November 10, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  15. Leah Duplantis

    I think that the both stores are definitely at fault. As far as the police, it is hard to say if they were in the wrong or not and I feel with further investigation that will come out. But just the plain fact that these four people are black and are spending large sums of money on clothes, jewelry, and purses is a ridiculous reason to assume that they are using stolen credit/debit cards. It's sad that the cashiers working had no problem calling security when the customer was right there but now that it is being made public everyone is trying to play the blame game on somebody else. This just goes to show that racial profiling and racism is a huge problem in our society. Who cares what color someones skin is, that shouldn't determine if they have money or not. This is really embarrassing and I feel bad for the individuals who were subjected to this treatment.

    November 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  16. Georgeann

    I feel that there is much more to this story than we are being told. I think that it is necessary to have security in the stores but the racial profiling has got to stop. Just because I might wear jeans and a t-shirt in Macy's to shop doesn't mean that I don't have the means to pay for what I want. Just because I might be green polka dotted with tattoo's and purple hair doesn't mean that I have a stolen credit card. If the card comes back as stolen or you actually see someone put an item on their person without paying for it; then you can detain them. When you detain a person you should still treat them with respect and dignity. There is no reason to try and demean a person just because you THINK they might have committed some criminal act.

    November 7, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  17. Ashley

    I also agree with the detective that more will come out of this story due to what was mentioned in this video. It seems like the stores or the police are not telling the truth. Even if the stores called the police due to being suspicious about a shopper, why would the police detain a person for a hour when he has proper proof of id, and credit card? I agree that this story should be investigated and that the Attorney General making Macy's & Barney's show there store policies will show if they are committing racial profiling on African American's in their stores.

    November 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Reply
  18. LaRissa

    After reading this story, I feel the employees are lying. The employees are trying to cover themselves. I worked in retail since 2010, and I know the holiday season was tough, shoplifters come in different races, height, and weight. They do not have a specific race. Security guards come during or after an incident, not before. I am glad the people who were accused to come forth and say something. This is 2013, not 1960s. Let's get it together and stop the judging on a particular race.

    November 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  19. Markus C.

    I think think both stores are in the wrong and now they are doing all they can to save face and not ruin their image. Wheter it was a private security company working in the store or a store employee, the store is responsible regardless. I hate to think it, but I feel that the only reason these customers were singled out was becuase of their race. I work retail and during the holiday season, the outside security is employed by the company, therefore, and working for the store. I think , even if the suspicion was valid, there could have been a much better way of handeling these situations.

    November 6, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  20. Mandy

    For starters, the associate should have been doing their job and asking for identification along with the credit card, especially for higher priced items like that. All this could have been avoided had they looked at the customers ID. I work in retail, so I know a little of what has to go on for someone to be detained. Either the customer is already being watched for "suspicious activity" in the store without the associate knowing about it, or the employee is the one that set off security for them to keep an eye on them while they are browsing the store. Either way, the police have to be called to the store. There is no way for them to just happen to be there and know what is automatically happening.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  21. Sally

    I think the store employees are lying. There is no way a security guard standing at the door would know or even suspect someone of using a fake or stolen credit card if they were not alerted by the employee who took the card at the point of sell.

    November 1, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Reply

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