It’s perfectly acceptable to judge a potential purchase based solely on its appearance through a Macy’s store window, however, as the retail chain recently found out, judging customers in a similar fashion is not so acceptable. On Aug 20, the New York Attorney General’s office announced a $650,000 settlement with Macy’s that seeks to correct the company’s alleged use of racial profiling against customers.
The AG’s office began investigation into Macy’s security policies following over a dozen complaints of wrongful detention and racial profiling, all of which occurred at the company’s flagship store in New York City. According to reports, Macy’s loss prevention team detained African-American customers traveling between floors with merchandise and repeatedly denied non-English speaking customers phone calls or interpreters in the event of credit card issues, making allegations of fraud instead.
During a winter 2013 probe, the AG’s Civil Rights Bureau found that Macy’s failed to take the proper steps to address profiling issues and discriminatory practices. The company also lacked a standardized record keeping policies and did not collect proper information in the incidents that prompted complaints.
In 2005, the company entered a consent decree with the AG’s office to address similar issues related to asset protection and handcuffing policies. Sitting AG Eric Schneiderman’s office acknowledge that the decree had aided in the reduction of complaints, but that once it had elapsed in 2008, the company fell back on its bad habits.
In addition to the $650,000 fine, Macy’s has agreed to hire outside help to ensure profiling is discouraged throughout its stores; it will also post a list of customer rights in Spanish and English in highly visible locations and implement a new record-keeping solution. A full list of the terms has been posted on the AG’s website.
AG Schneiderman said in a release accompanying the announcement that, “It is absolutely unacceptable -- and it’s illegal -- for anyone in New York to be treated like a criminal simply because of the color of their skin. Recent allegations of racial profiling at some of New York’s most famous stores stand as a stark reminder that the protections afforded by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are still needed today.”
A similar settlement with Barneys New York makes this the second of such deals in August. In addition to agreeing to hire outside help to squash profiling practices, Barneys agreed to pay $525,000. The two incidents act as a reminder to retail security teams, let the customers do the eyeballing.