Some major retailers to list shoppers’ rights

December 9, 2013 Associated Press
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Responding to allegations of racial profiling, a coalition of major retailers agreed Monday to create a customer bill of rights that will explicitly prohibit profiling and unreasonable searches.

Civil rights leaders met Monday with representatives from retail chains including Barneys, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and The Gap, the Rev. Al Sharpton said.

The agreement, drafted by the Retail Council of New York State trade group, prohibits profiling and unreasonable searches and states that workers who violate their employers’ prohibition on profiling will be disciplined and could be fired.

The document also supports internal tests to ensure stores are complying with the prohibition against profiling.

The two groups first met last month after several black shoppers alleged they were racially profiled at Macy’s and Barneys New York. The stores denied they had policies that targeted black customers.

“We intend to stay on this until we can guarantee that racial profiling and shop and frisk become something of the past,” said Sharpton, who was joined by some retailers and civil rights advocates at the announcement. “And that the boundaries are clear with the NYPD and retailers.”

The bill of rights will be posted in stores and on retailers’ websites this week. Retailers have also begun to re-evaluate the tactics used for security. Sharpton said the group has also requested a meeting with incoming Police Commissioner William Bratton to discuss boundaries regarding the NYPD’s involvement in retail security.

A spokeswoman for mayor-elect Bill de Blasio said he appreciates the bill of rights and the retailers’ efforts.

“He has said repeatedly that his administration will have zero tolerance for racial profiling of any kind,” said the spokeswoman, Lis Smith.

Macy’s is cooperating with the coalition, said Ed Goldberg, a senior executive.

“We subscribed to the document that’s going to be realized today by the retail council,” Goldberg said. “I think we’re making excellent progress.”

In October, a 19-year-old college student, Trayon Christian, sued the NYPD and Barneys, claiming he was racially targeted after buying a $349 Ferragamo belt in April at the Madison Avenue store.

And Barneys customer Kayla Phillips, 21, filed a complaint with the city’s police watchdog agency, saying she had a similar experience after buying a $2,500 Celine handbag in February.

Barneys CEO Mark Lee had apologized, saying “no one should go through the unacceptable experiences described by Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips in recent media reports, and we offer our deepest sympathies to them.”

But the company said in a report that its employees did not initiate any profiling, and did not call police requesting or suggesting that the customers be stopped or detained.

Actor Robert Brown filed a lawsuit against Macy’s, saying he was stopped inside its flagship store in Herald Square in June after he purchased a $1,350 Movado wristwatch. Brown said he thought he was stopped because he is African-American.

Macy’s has said it does not tolerate discrimination. Barneys said two weeks ago that it would start monitoring the police as they monitor shoppers in its flagship Manhattan store.

An internal Barneys memo sent to store security staff said Barneys would start keeping a log of which police officers use its security room. The memo obtained by The Associated Press said Barneys would maintain video and audio surveillance of the room where security staff and police watch monitors set up around the store.

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