Barneys, the high-end fashion mecca in one of Manhattan’s most expensive retail blocks, is facing lots of questions and a civil lawsuit after the store’s loss prevention officers detained 19-year-old Trayon Christian, a black student at the NYC College of Technology. His crime? Shopping while black.
The Queens native had walked into the luxury shop last April in search of a new Salvatore Ferragamo belt retailing for $350. He had been setting aside part of his paychecks from his part time job for months, and finally had enough to make the purchase. But as he exited the store with the belt (and his receipt) in tow, undercover officers stopped Christian and began questioning his purchase, according to a report in the New York Post:
As soon as he exited the luxury department store, undercover officers grabbed Christian and asked “how a young black man such as himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt,” according to the suit, filed Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
A Barneys clerk, who had asked Christian for identification when he bought the belt, called police claiming the purchase was a fraud, the suit says.
The responding officers hauled Christian to a local police station for more questioning. Even after producing his receipt, the debit card he used to make the purchase, and his identification, officers continued to insist that the purchase with fraudulent. Only after an officer called Chase bank, which verified that Christian was the account holder for the card in question, did the police let him go.
The incident is the subject of a lawsuit brought by Christian against Barneys and the NYPD, which has faced repeated charges of racial profiling of young black men in particular. The department’s controversial stop and frisk policy has also been in the news for both its reliance on racial profiling and its failure to actually curb any crime.
Barneys has thus far refused to offer an apology to Christian, though it did take the time to defend itself from the allegations. “Barneys New York typically does not comment on pending litigation. In this instance, we feel compelled to note that after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights,” they said in a statement to the local ABC affiliate.
As it turns out, Trayon Christian isn’t the only person to face discrimination by the New York retailer. A day after his story spread across the internet, another young black shopper, 21-year-old Kayla Phillips, told the New York Post that she too was a victim of Barneys apparent policy of racial profiling.
She had purchased a $2,500 handbag back in February when undercover officers stopped her after she had left the store, supposedly after a clerk from Barneys had phoned in her “suspicious” purchase.
Via the Post:
“As I was walking into the train station, four undercover police officers attacked me,” Phillips said.
“They asked me why I used a debit card and why it didn’t have my name on it,” she said of her temporary Bank of America card.
A frightened Phillips called her mom, who told The Post cops had asked, “What are you doing here in Manhattan? Where’d you get the money to buy that expensive bag?”
The luxury department store is facing a wave of criticism on social media, but has thus far failed to offer an apology to Christian or respond to the new allegations by Phillips.