For an experience that’s supposed to be so lovely and luxurious, shopping for fashion can be everything from frustrating to dehumanizing, and it can be those things all too often for some shoppers. Over the past week, Barneys’ New York flagship store has been hit by allegations that it surreptitiously called the cops on two paying customers for nothing other than having the temerity to be black while buying something expensive. One of those customers, Kayla Phillips, says she was targeted after buying a Celine Luggage Tote.

Unless you fit the narrow, impeccably dressed profile of what many luxury stores consider to be the kind of people to whom they’d like to cater, you probably know what it’s like to get a dirty look or be totally ignored while trying to spend your hard-earned dollars on a handbag. As a young, non-skinny woman with pink hair, I rarely get attention from sales associates at high-end stores unless I’m carrying an uber-conspicuous handbag or a large shopping bag from an equally elite store. As embarrassing as it can be to try to flag down assistance from someone who has already judged you as poor, distasteful or both, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to complete a purchase with your own money, leave the store and then get stopped by the cops. I can’t fathom that sort of humiliation while shopping, or why store employees feel they have a right to treat anyone like that.

Barneys, for its part, denies that any of its associates called the cops on anyone and that it was the NYPD itself that decided to question the African-American shoppers once they left the store. The NYPD, on the other hand, insists that they were summoned by employees. No matter who started the ball rolling down hill, the assumptions inherent in both incidents are clear: if a young black person has enough money to buy something expensive, it’s not because she worked hard and saved money, or she, like so many people in New York City, just has money to spend on silly things like handbags. It’s because she stole something. In the end, the implication is that nice things aren’t meant for those people. Fashion certainly benefits monetarily from its close association with hip-hop (an association which is only getting closer), but if you want to stroll into a high-end store and expect high-end service, you best be Rihanna.

Over the weekend, several fashion industry vets on Twitter linked to Horacio Silva’s 2007 New York Times Critical Shopper column about the opening of the Tom Ford boutique on Madison Avenue. Silva didn’t have the cops called on him, but he was treated like he didn’t belong in the store on his first visit, shoo’d away from personal shopping areas and mostly left to wander the store without assistance, as though no employees wanted to encourage him to remain in the store longer than he might otherwise be inclined. (On a second visit, after the staff had been tipped off to his place of employment, Silva got the white glove treatment.) Fashion retail has had a tough time walking the line between “exclusive” and “exclusionary” for quite some time, and it looks like scant progress has been made. If you don’t look the part, down to the color of your skin, good luck finding someone to help you lighten your wallet.

Have you been profiled at a high-end boutique or department store because of your ethnicity, weight or general appearance? Let us know about it in the comments.

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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • JenniferC

    It’s really disgusting the treatment you get at some stores. I’m black and have experienced this numerous times, even in a city as diverse as Houston. Once I was shopping for a Chanel tote for my mom for mothers day, and as a young black person, I was treated really awfully. I was told I was not fit to even touch the bags i was interested in buying, and the SA made a point of loudly telling me the prices of the bags before showing them to me when I had not even asked. To make things worse, after the SA determined I had been in the store for too long, she ushered my to the front of the store where the various key-fobs and card holders were kept and told me these items were “better priced for me.” I was so angry at that point that I left, went to Hermes, bought 3 Kelly Wallets, Jumping Boots, and scored a beautiful Mykonos Birkin that I brought back to the Chanel Store just to have my own Pretty Woman moment with my orange shopping bags. A little petty, I know, but it was satisfying to see the shock on the cruel SA’s face. Shopping while black is a real problem in high- end stores, and salespeople really need to be educated on their roles in the store.

    • Guest

      Why didn’t you report the SA to corporate? When I experience terrible customer service, I make it my personal agenda to make sure the representative learns how to perform his/her job correctly.

      • T Tara Bagnista

        I agree that the SA should be reported. For particularly egregious behavior, I’ve written to the CEO.

      • Gigi Cake Shoppe

        I am well known for writing letters to corporate when I’ve had a bad experience. I would have definitely written a letter to complain. My money’s just as good as everyone else’s….

      • Dan

        Did you get any responses? I’d be interested to know how a company reacts and if they defend their staff to avoid accountability.

        On a positive note, one time in a Melbourne Burberry store, I saw a pleasant, somewhat opposite case where a rather poorly dressed and groomed (“stereotypically homeless”) person was chatting and joking around with at least three equally-humorous SAs. Maybe they were grouping to defend their products, but at least they were being kind to the guy and not calling security to kick him out.

      • T Tara Bagnista

        Responses I’ve received are very apologetic about poor treatment and are often accompanied by a gift card as a way to say we’re sorry.

      • Selene Spencer

        Well I was visiting one of the Graff Diamonds in Dubai, it ‘s a small store and there was only one Russian sales girl there , she saw me and my guide and pushed the alarm underneath her desk and this dark skinned security guard came out with an angry looking face staring at us. It was such an awkward experience especially when I received such great service at their London store. My family has been shopping from Graff for ages and that was the first time such an unpleasant experience happened with them. I sent an email to Graff and got an apology with inquiries who that particular staffer was. They handled it well but the only jewelry shopping I did in Dubai was at Bulgari. I never wanted to buy anything from Graff there because I always associated the negative experience with that store.

        I find when it comes to high end shopping always make a connection with 1 sales associate for a favorite brand. The only brand I find that has maintained excellent customer service at each location is Tiffany’s and Ferragamo. Even customer service at a Chanel store varies. The one in Tysons corner in VA is dreadful. But Ingra and the store manager Ester are great so I deal mostly with them. The men are hopeless. I do have to mention though to be fair Chanel main corporate service has always been pleasant to deal with. I rather call them to help me locate a bag rather then the store which is like calling some low rent car towing company.

      • SUZE

        The sales associates are doing their jobs correctly, their racial profiling. Doing exactly what management has told them to do.

    • Maya

      Love it!! I also tend to write e-mails to corporate when I have a bad experience. And when it comes down to it, whether you are a billionaire or broke, you have the right to be in any store you want, even if you just want to look at nice things!!

  • E08

    “Shopping while black” has forever been an issue in some high end stores, but I’ve always had this experience shopping in Barneys (downtown Chicago). My husband had purchased me a bracelet over Christmas that I wasn’t too fond of so we returned it. While there I went to shoe section to see if I could find something else as my gift. It took over 20 minutes for anyone to ask if I needed assistance and there weren’t any other customers at the time. A causcasian SA passed me several times and when I finally stopped her she said she would send another SA over to help me and dissapeared to the back. Perhaps it was time for her break, I’ll never know, but I don’t feel like I should have to ask an SA for assistance if they’re not busy. Oddly enough, like the other commenter, I had a WONDERFUL experience in Hermes. My husband and I didn’t end up purchasing anything, but the SAs were helpful, attentive, and very welcoming to the store.

    • JDW Shopper

      It has happened to me. Years ago I purchased a Gucci bag from what Bullock’s (now Macy’s) in Century City. I gave the salesperson my credit card and waited for almost 30 minutes for her to return with my card and the bag. Apparently she wanted to make sure the card wasn’t stolen. WTF? I had identification if she was that concerned. I guess a 20-something black woman wasn’t supposed to be buying a Gucci bag.

      • JDW Shopper

        One other comment – I have seen it mentioned in various stories about the incidents at Barney’s about how some people are dressed and didn’t fit the profile of it typical consumer – When I purchased the Gucci bag, I worked at Laura Ashley, where we had to wear the clothes. I was shopping on my lunch break, so I was dressed in a Laura Ashley dress and pumps.

    • pe.riche.

      I went to school in Chicago, and had plenty of “shopping while black” experiences, mostly along Michigan Ave.

      When I go into high end stores I find that I have one of two things happen: I am ignored and have to search for an SA, or, I am followed to the point of wanting to cry.

      • Gigi Cake Shoppe

        If someone follows me in the store, I stop short, turn on them and start handing them my items to hold as I continue to shop. If you’re going to follow me around, then you are going to work lol.

      • Abby

        Omg, that is awesome, lol. I have to try that one next time.

      • J. Barnett

        That’s actually the best way to help them learn. If I’m followed, I always make them work for me. At the end of my shopping, I always ask them: “Aren’t you glad you followed me?” lol

      • Cherryorchard

        At my local grocery store years back, there used to be a guard present at all times. It was almost always the same old man who was always nice and greeted all the customers etc. When he was on holiday, this new bloke took over and he was the following kind; the first time I went in on his shift he made a point of following me around. So I did what any sensible 25-year old does and started leading him around the store, doing a zig-zag pattern around the shelves and throwing sneaky looks at him every now and then. Took him over 10 mins to realize I was having a laugh at his expense! :D :D :D

      • Kats

        You have moxie, Gigi. I want to be you when I grow up, lol

      • Gigi Cake Shoppe

        I’ve been told I’m a nut lol

      • Adrienne Roberson

        Oh soooooo stealing that idea. Pun intended :-) lol

  • Drena Bathemess

    I have worked high end retail, as well as shop at high end stores. Who hasn’t had the Pretty Woman moment? The irony being that you find yourself being judged by people who make an hourly wage and most that depend on a commission. Without those employee discounts, even they can’t afford to shop in these stores. I have had more than one person tell me that they feel too intimidated to step foot in most high end stores, even if they have the money. It use to be that shopping in high end stores meant that you were to receive above normal customer service. I guarantee no where in the employee handbooks does it state to take it upon yourself to decide who is worthy to shop at the store that pays your bills. I can already see the training memos going out now at various companies to try and prevent this from happening at their stores. Bottom line, you are a sales person. You are there to sell items. And unless you are telepathic, you can’t judge a persons tax bracket or social status by their cover. Time to redefine what customer service really means.

    • Kema

      What makes me angry is that corporate for most of these brands are aware of this behavior and do nothing about it. They don’t realize that the SA’s represent them and are the face of their brand. We people are treated rudely it reflects badly on them. There should be a ZERO tolerance for bad customer service in the luxury retail business. But in a way I’m not surprised. The majority of these brands don’t even feature ethnic models on their runways so it’s no surprise they allow this type of behavior to happen.

      • SUZE

        As I’ve said corporate writes the policy. However, if they can afford to watch money walk away, you can walk away with it. Right to Hermes. I was in Paris a few months ago and went into Hermes (just to look around) I must say, I was treated royally.
        Parisians, know how to live, it’s expensive, but yes they know how to live. They do it with dignity, grace and much respect.

    • inmyopinion

      The Gucci store in New York is nice. I was shopping the sale and “only” bought a wallet but the Asian sales associate was REALLY friendly and down to earth.

  • Sophie Proust

    This is incredibly vile, though sadly unsurprising. I hope the publicity surrounding this incident helps shine a light on episodes such as these, which are probably all-too-pervasive in high-end retail.

  • Faiza H

    I feel like sales associates can make or break a purchase. There have been numerous times that because of their behavior and attitude I’ve ventured to a different store to make my purchase. Sometimes I feel like saying “I can afford to buy that item, unlike you who works on commission; so stop with the attitude.”

    • Pissed

      That’s exactly how i feel every time i meet a snotty SA. I kept thinking; “it’s not like she or he can afford to buy any of these handbags.”

  • sara

    I am curious if anyone has noticed a difference in profiling, especially related to general appearance, in NYC (East Coast) vs. Los Angeles/Orange County (West Coast), etc. I live near Newport Beach (West Coast) and the general appearance of many people in this area is pretty laid back/casual compared to NYC. It could be difficult to tell who has money here vs. who does not.

  • Nerdster

    I have had this type of treatment many times at both high end department stores and individual designer stores. For some reason, I get this treatment more at individual designer stores. I have noticed that over the past few years, the high end department stores here in Houston have gotten better. I’m not saying that each experience has been great but in general the good experiences outweigh the bad. This is why I prefer to shop in department stores rather then in the designer stores themselves.

    When I go shopping, I am usually dressed casual because to me, shopping is not something I get dressed up for. When I shop, I like to be comfortable and like to be able to change in and out of something fast if I’m buying clothes/shoes. My choice of attire plays a part in how I am treated. What is funny is that just because I am ‘dressed down’ does not mean that is how I should be treated. I am pretty sure I make more money then the SAs. When I am not acknowledged or ignored, I often tell myself ‘if only they knew how much money I would spend here if they were nicer to me.’ The way I am treated in the store does determine if I will buy something there. Why should I spend my hard earned money in a place that does not think I should be there? I am most likely to buy something from a store that has a friendly, helpful SA that is willing to do their job.

    Shopping online is the best!

    • Faiza H

      I so agree with you. In most cases it has nothing to do with race but
      whether you fit the stereotypical clientele (skinny, blond, chinese,
      wearing designer brands etc.) SA’s look at certain things to understand
      whether they want to give you their time or not. No wonder people dress
      their best, carry a great bag just to get attention.
      Shopping online is great but I like to see how the item looks like, size, color etc before i make the purchase.

      • Nerdster

        Your point about dressing to get attention is right on. Shoppers shouldn’t have to dress a certain way just to get attention (from other people or SA) when they are shopping. I dress for myself and use it to express myself.

        When it comes to buying pants for myself I always go to a store because I fit differently from one brand/style to the next. :)

      • SUZE

        Simple. don’t spend your money in a store (high end or otherwise) if you don’t like the service. How long can they stay afloat if no one shops there. No retailer can afford to watch money walk away. And, if they think they can, walk away with it and let’s find out. They don’t make us we make them. Non violent resistance, wins every time.

  • Yerani_KM

    While I don’t condone profiling as a SA, and I don’t believe that that it was a SA, I believe it was a LP person, it really isn’t easy to work in sales anymore. I did it to put myself through school and I have stories that would blow you away. Stories of theft, returning damaged and used merchandise (which meant I had to give back the commission I earned on that sale), to being attacked both verbally and physically by customers. I know I was good at my job but you can’t win with everyone and if someone is having a bad day they will take it out on the minion who works behind the glass case. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is there’s 3 sides to every story: theirs, yours, and the truth. I also know how crappy it feels to be target! I went into the Fendi boutique in LV during the height of the Spy bag (carrying my own prized Spy which I had purchased in Europe recently) and a SA approached me and told me I wasn’t welcomed because she and her colleagues had deemed my bag to be fake and if I could please leave. So with my dignity intact I told her to F— off and walked out. Her loss not mine.

  • kaikooks

    I’m an Asian. I went to Europe with my family two years ago. When we were in Milan, we visited the first Prada store in Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II. I went inside the store wearing trench coat, knee-high boots and a Chanel medium/large classic flap bag. The SAs looked at me from head to foot. Leaving the store, after purchasing a Prada Saffiano Lux Tote, my husband told me about hearing someone from the group of SAs saying “She doesn’t even look like she knows how to speak and understand English.” They laughed, thinking that we cannot afford to buy designer label handbags.

    • kaikooks

      *an Asian Tourist

    • tracy

      that sale person is so out of date.. don’t they know Asian now always line up in front of high end store in Hong Kong just to get in to spend their money… I as a Chinese was shopping in LV store the other day in New Jersey and the sale associate even bring out the champagne for us .

      • ruby

        I know what you mean. Five years ago, as Indonesians my family and I were used to discriminating treatments from high-end stores SA during our travels to Europe, even when we were standing at the cashier with ten leather bags and twenty overpriced ties. Now every time we travel and stop by a high-end boutique we are treated like royalty, even if we’re just stopping to try shoe sizes.
        I’m not even sure what the hell was that about :|
        Every time I go to Hermes boutique in Paris, there is this Asian SA who seems like she would rather die than be at least civil to me (or any other Asian client, I have observed). One young, blonde SA treated me beyond what was expected from her–she and my mother even exchanged personal cellphone number and she would update her from time to time.
        I have to say though I got better treatments from SA’s in the US (where I usually travel to with my friends, crashing at our friend’s place and eating hot dogs everyday) than in Europe (where I go with my family, aka traveling ATM). Just goes to show that customer profiling can be quite ineffective.

    • doudoufeiyu

      it is a shame for us, I am an Asian too.

  • pe.riche.

    I most certainly have my fair share of “shopping while black” experiences. The worst having been when I lived in Chicago for school.

    Mostly I would be ignored when in the high end stores along Michigan Ave, or, I would be followed until I was so uncomfortable that I would leave.

    The best service I received while shopping high end was in Wellington/Palm Beach, Florida. There was one SA at the Mall at Wellington Green who was so friendly and so accommodating that my reason for my purchases was because of her service. And I haven’t had any bad experiences on Worth Ave in FL, either.

    However, I am from NE Ohio, so being treated rudely or just plain ignored while shopping (even at like a Macy’s for example), isn’t something that is new to me. However, I have never experienced being detained by the police or accused of credit card fraud either. I honestly feel bad for the young woman. All she wanted was to treat herself to a beautiful bag, and instead was greeted with an ugly, scarring experience.

  • twoturntables

    I really glad purseblog wrote an article about this issue. How disgusting. Where do people get off treating others so badly?

  • Kats

    Thank you, Amanda for drawing attention to this troubling issue. Poor sales service to persons who appear not to be “good enough” to purchase luxury items seems to be symptomatic of high-end stores all over the world. I’m a black woman from the Caribbean, and I can relate to what someone else posted about feeling you have to dress up to look worthy of being served. The exception is probably the Michael Kors store on my island, where the sales assistant was so attentive I was in shock!
    I’ve made the decision not to spend any of my hard-earned money in stores that don’t appreciate me, and that’s why most of the time I buy online.

  • Viv

    Yes, all the time. I am Asian, overweight, and I don’t wear a lot of make up. It’s only in Arizona where I live, that I feel comfy shopping at high-end stores because all the SAs are used to seeing people dressing-down when shopping.

  • Chantal

    I am chinese and my bad experiences outweigh the good. I live in Canada and always shop on Bloor St in Toronto. The sales associates at Tiffany & Co, Prada and Holt Renfrews NEVER HELP ME. I am young 18 but I have the money to purchase these luxury items, I’ve been working very hard for these over the months. My mother, father and I have all gone into the store together to purchase things and they still treat you badly. They profile you on your age and race as soon as I walk into the store. The sales associates take one glance and continue to talk amongst themselves not even helping you at all until you’ve asked several times or they make up excuses.

    My worst experience was purchasing a Alma BB from Louis Vuitton in Yorkdale Mall, these woman don’t help they just look at you and proceed to say rude things about your appearance infront of you. They lied to me that they did not have anymore bags in stock when I had previously already checked which helped make my decision on where to purchase, then once I had gotten home there was a rip. I returned it to Downtown Louis and got way better service.

    They would also speak Mandarin to one another so I couldn’t understand what they were saying, ( I speak cantonese) Anything to be ignorant to the younger generation is their soul purpose even young professionals, are judged. I am disgusted by how they treat people who shop at their stores, Woman who work hard for their money no matter your race, age or style shouldnt be acknowledged in this manner or have to feel bad about what they’ve purchased once they have left the store because of these insensitive SA’s. Every second of your experience should be magical and not leave you with such complications.

    Hopefully one day I can walk into a store be helped the way I should be when spending several thousand dollars on a purse and actually feel HAPPY once I have left the store. Instead of buying it because i really wanted it but feeling horrible once I have left the store.

    Sorry for the ramble, I’m 18 haha, and angry at this form of bullying.

    • gsquared

      I’m from Toronto too and agree that many of the high end stores on Bloor have terrible service. You need to be lucky to find a good SA and it’s really hit or miss. I’ve shared my experience about Hermes in Toronto and would never shop there. Hermes Calgary was the complete opposite and were so friendly! Whether it is the dollar store, grocery store or high end shop-bad service is never an excuse even if they don’t think you’re their “target” customer. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect even if they’re not “showered” with compliments. Pity because Torontonians are friendly, but you would never believe that if you shopped on Bloor.

      • Chantal

        Yes its awful, Torontonians are wonderful people, but these high end boutiques SA’s certainly don’t fit the part and in my opinion just are uncultured swine.

      • H

        I completely agree. I frequent the high-on shops on Bloor St. and have received horrible service at many of them — especially Hermes, Chanel and Holt Renfrew.

        I can’t count the number of times I’ve went into a store, prepared to drop X amount of money on a certain bag, pair of shoes, etc, and just been treated like I do not exist. I’m a white 20-something with a well-paying job. It also happens frequently when I’m shopping with my Mom, who is a doctor with plenty of disposable income, but prefers brands like Coach, etc and doesn’t dress to the nines at all times. Very sad. We walk away and usually end up buying from Michigan or New York (fantastic sales gals at Neiman Marcus in Troy, Michigan as a side note!)

        I have to say though, the sales people at the new Mulberry store, as well as the Burberry store, are fantastic :)

    • cgj

      I agree, I have the same problem regarding my age. I’m 25 years old, but I look like I’m in high school. Many times I’ll be ignored or even pulled over to cheaper purses because the sales people don’t think I can afford a nice purse. I understand sales associates want to make sales so they match people up with what they think they can afford, but all customers deserve to be treated with respect equally.

      I had a terrible experience last weekend at a department store when I went to pick up a particular purse that I was wanting. I was looking at the purse when a sales lady saw me and told me that they had some clearance bags at another rack. I followed her to the clearance bags because she was very persistent and I’m not a very confrontational person. I was hoping she would just take me there and go away, but she watched me like a hawk while I looked at the purses. I told her I was more interested in the original purse I was looking at and she looked at me with the most offensive look. She asked me, “You DO know that purse costs $____??” I said yes, then she continued her rudeness by asking me if my mother buys me my purses. I told her nicely that, no, I have a job, then SHE got offended, saying she had a job too but doesn’t go around buying expensive purses. Obviously, after that, I just wanted to leave the store and get it elsewhere, but she continued to pressure me into buying it in a “prove it” kind of manner. I stood firm though and insisted that I had to think about it more, even though I really just didn’t want to give her the commission.

      On a happier note though, on my way out she mentioned a small sale for the next week and got my number, thinking it would help me make a decision and buy it from her. I bought the beautiful purse at the other store from a very sweet sales associate a few days later… and cheaper! :-)

      • Chantal

        That is really rude, she was confrontational too. Working retail from my experience is stressful only when you have customers who are over the top in demands but, theres no reason for them to be so rude to people when we ourselves haven’t even given them the time of day. Even if the SA is having a horrible day and such they should treat everyone with a fake smile and happiness. Also go by the mantra that how your attitude is in life and your efforts at what you do in anything reflect you as a person…. Which doesn’t look so well on the SA’s.

    • frivifruglista

      Been to the LV store in Yorkdale and I always leave empty handed because no one helps me. I am a petite, young looking and African (not young in age or money) but they look down on me like I dont have any business being in there. I have decided never to get an LV and stick to Coach because they treat me like royalty!

      • Chantal

        What a shame though, I am inlove with these fabulous handbags but I refuse to loose my dignity whilst purchasing a leather good with my hard earned money because some twat’s judgement.

    • SUZE

      I turned the table one day. I have previously ordered several items from Tiffany on-line. The service is great (can’t see my face). Any how after speaking with a sales associate to inquire if my order had been completed (medic alert bracelet, hand carved), I told them I would be in in a few days to pick it up (making sure the size was right (small wrists). The sales associate was very helpful and offered me special items on markdown, because I was a loyal customer of many years. She informed me that when I arrived to pick up my order, to please inform the sales associate to ask for her by name, since she would be the one presenting me with my bracelet and showing me, my special items on markdown. When I arrived at the store the SA, came off wrong immediately. Because I knew the backstory on this, I used her up. I asked to see several very expensive items and she gave me plenty attitude. After I got tired of playing with her I asked for her to inform Ms. Whoever, that I had arrived. The look on her face was colorless as she informed Ms. Whoever, I had arrived. WELLLLLLLLL Ms. Whoever, couldn’t kiss my butt, long enough. She presented me with my order, took her time to show me the mark down items (since I was a long time valued customer) and took time to inform Ms. Snotty SA, that from now on, she would be the SA that would specifically attend to my needs, All I need do was call ahead.
      The look on my face to the SA was (how ya like me now)
      Tiffany and Co. All Day Long.

  • van dine

    I always feel a little diminished when I hear stories like this, but it’s uplifting to see good dialogue around such important issues. Sadly, we can be treated unfairly by those who have failed to recognize or overcome their own human vices and frailties. I’m Japanese American. I can’t say that I’ve ever had an egregious shopping experience (just lucky, perhaps) but just as I treat SAs with respect and kindness, I expect to be treated as fairly and conscientiously as any other shopper. Looks like these companies need to put serious lens on these issues.

  • Dee

    I agree that multiple types of profiling occurs in stores. However, that is very different from being stopped and held by the police after making a legitimate purchase. Accosted on the street and then interrogated. They took that young man away in hand cuffs! The young woman was surrounded by four police officers! Seriously?!! I would have been absolutely TERRIFIED. I understand the attempt to draw a connection to general sales associate issues, but this is so much bigger than that. I can walk out of a store. SAs have no inherent power to impact my life in the real world. But the police are a different story. The extreme nature of these cases is the critical piece of the the puzzle here. I just want us to be careful about minimizing their significance by categorizing them as just another everyday case of snobbery. This was crazy. Impressed that you featured the story, Amanda. It is so important to keep a spotlight on injustice.

    • We’re always glad to feature things like this when we can. Fashion seems silly sometimes, but it interacts with race, class and socioeconomics in a lot of important ways that shouldn’t be discounted. Everyone has their snotty sales associate stories, but treatment of non-white customers is often downright shocking.

      • EGlez ?

        It’s worse when you’re mexican shopping in the US. Had a terrible experience shopping for a suit at Neiman Marcus in Houston, fortunately I ended up going to Versace, where I was treated as should be. I had my “Pretty Woman” moment in Greece at Ferragamo, where the SA didn’t even turn to look at me. Ended up buying at D&G which was next door, I went back to Ferragamo and told the SA that my 3 giant shopping bags could’ve been her commission.
        I will never understand why SA’s are so entitled.

      • Dee

        I’m sorry that happened to you. That SA must have felt pretty stupid. :-) I don’t think it’s a matter of who gets worse treatment, but that everyone should be treated with respect. I love voting with my dollars. Kudos to everyone who chooses to spend their money elsewhere when a business doesn’t meet appropriate standards. People start to pay attention when their money is affected.

      • FashionableLena

        This is so funny because I was treated badly at the Neiman’s in Houston. Never shopped there again.

  • Lilly

    When I started my first well paying job after college, I had a gold visa with a huge limit. After four years as a penny pinching student, I went to my favorite high end shoe store, one that I’ve only window shopped drooled at, to treat myself. I was was clean, I smelled good, and was dressed cute but casual, and every single sales person ignored me. I practically had to beg for my shoe size, while all the other shoppers were catered to like royalty. Humiliated and angry, I should have left, but did not. I I ended up purchasing three pairs of shoes and a purse, totaling a ridiculous amount I had no plan on purchasing. Another sales person who was in the back, ring up my purchases, asking me who assisted me, the bitch in me came out. In a loud voice I replied “not one of these bony assholes.” I became a regular in that store, but always refused the assistance of those three girls if they were working.

    I’ve been profiled everywhere, and my mom’s advice always comes to mind–as long as you don’t plan on stealing anything, you can touch, smell and try on everything.

    • Sebastien

      Your mother sounds like a sickening Diva with a fierce gait.

      • Lilly

        She was an amazing woman and I miss her everyday.

  • Orighomisan Dediare

    I think the green eyed monster was involved in this case. Most well heeled customers treat the PA’s as dirt on their shoes so in turn the PA’s have huge boulders on their shoulders. Most likely is the case that when one rubs shoulders with supposed rich, the underdog wants to believe they live the glamorous life their customers are living. What they employees at Barneys do not understand is that if hard working clients who work hard for their money do not come into Barneys, the most probably would be out of a job. By the way, don’t the PA’s work on commission as well?

  • Orighomisan Dediare

    Great advice and attitude Lily. That’s exactly what I did at Chanel. Now I know how to spot the nasty brats in most boutiques and ignore them totally and ask for someone else to attend to me.

  • Spencer

    I work at Nordstrom and since I work on commission, I make it a point to be nice to all of my customers because one can never tell anymore of who can afford what. I also know this by experience because I am a small Asian woman in my early twenties and I don’t always dress to the nines when I shop. Some salespeople take my appearance as a clue to how much I can afford. This happened way too many times at Chanel and Barneys to me and it’s so insulting. I wait for my customer to give me price points and tell me directly what they can afford or not so I don’t judge them. Nordstrom all the way for customer service!

    • jadejou

      I had a bad experience some years ago at Nordstrom. Bought an expensive blouse and decided I didn’t want it. Was dressed nicely when I purchased it, returned it wearing sweats. The SA smelled it before giving me credit. I am a white girl. Some SAs are not very nice people.

  • Phee Phee

    Yes I have.. I got profiled in the Prada store in Manhasset, LI. I walked in there and was ignored by all SAs, and i believe it’s due to the fact that I’m a young black female. Perhaps it was ignorance on their part, or perhaps they just didn’t think I could afford to pay for a $2100+ bag. Thankfully, while I was walking out of the store, a SA stopped me and asked me if I would like her assistance in choosing something, and I said yes, and showed her the one that I wanted, and paid for my bag giving her the full commission of my new Prada executive tote, plus the wallet to go with it.. while the other SAs stood there in shock. Chanel was far more accommodating as that was my next stop and I was shown around and put on the wait list for my Jumbo Caviar Chanel flap. It’s sad that such things still happen to this day.. but i guess it’s life.. I just know that I rather purchase my prada bags in the future online rather than in that store again.

  • Rosan

    Last year I went to the LV at Bloomingdales in NYC to buy a wallet as a 17th birthday gift to myself. The SAs were ignoring me and I had to wait around 30 minutes until the security guard asked an SA to help me (very nice of him). It wasn’t just negative treatment due to race but also due to age. I guess there aren’t that many Indian guys that buy designer goods. SAs need to understand that most 17 year olds do have jobs nowadays…

  • MyBagHabit

    I am a bagaholic (and black) and really had to think about if this had happened to me because I sometimes have tunnel vision when on a shopping mission. However after mulling over this subject, I have to say, yes. While consignment shopping for vintage bags in Miami at a well-known high end shop the sales associate after being very dismissive finally told me that I could not see a bag ( which I asked to see) because the bag was “heavy” and unless I wanted to purchase it then the bag would remain on the shelf. Now, this could be plain rudeness but I think it was tinged with a bit of racism.

  • Gigi Cake Shoppe

    the only color stores should care about is green! If people have money to shop then they should be allowed to shop, no matter what race. Really? This is 2013…let’s get it together, people!

  • GoogleMe

    In the DC area I have not had any issues at local boutiques. In Paris, I did not have any issues. In NYC, I had a few “I feel invisible” experiences and have been quizzed to see if my bag was authentic that I was carrying….nothing over the top rude. I had a great experience at others in NYC, including Bergdorfs and VBH.

  • Fiona-Brasil

    I was at Hermès Buenos Aires last august and there was only one salesperson in the shop ( and only one customer) , this one helping me. At one point I lost my ring and only noticed when I was about to pay, the salesman looked and pointed the floor and told me it was there.How rude was that?Than I gave a second look at him , he was the ugliest male (?) specimen I ever saw, with a very old suit, working in a place where he is surrounded by beautiful things he most certainly can’t afford to buy. So he resents me a successful middle aged ( not bad looking ) woman doing some retail therapy.Moral of the story : it is not just the color of your skin or your weight, or if you are middle aged, whatever, sometimes they are just angry and frustrated people, we just need to ignore them…

    • Eun

      I apologize if I can’t see what’s so rude about this. He pointed out the ring you lost….that’s good enough isn’t it? Sure it’s great if he would have bent over and fetched it but, at least he tried (and did) locate it.

      • Fiona-Brasil

        Well if you could see the look he gave me when he pointed it you certainly would understand the whole story, besides he saw I lost it much before I realized it…

    • Natalie

      I hear you Fiona, he should have rushed and pick it up for you, nobody expects you to pick up a fork yourself if you drop it in a restaurant, the same here.
      Also I recalled a funny story from Hermes in NYC, I was there with my husband, all SAs were extremely “busy”, and few more people walked in. Among them was a couple – a famous Russian designer and his wife (I knew them from media because I follow international fashion) and SAs were not so educated. Their look was casual, their English was not perfect, they were ignored pretty much all the time. But they might have come to place an order for 10 Birkins, who knows? If only someone gave a hint to those snotty SAs:)))

    • J. Barnett

      That isn’t the same thing. You’re talking apples and the question was about oranges. Let’s not diminish the agony black people endure when they have received prejudice.

    • Katkooty

      Sorry i dont see whats wrong. It happened to me once, my ring flew off when trying to take it off lol.. and while they rushed to help, i said no, i will pick it up.

      Getting good service is one thing but over not picking up your ring in a public place.. i just find it unreasonable..

      And calling him ugly…now wont it be another thread if these stores only hire the pretty ones.. Just Saying!

  • ymmayer

    Ooh I’ve been waiting for this to come up on PB, thanks for writing it and being on “our” side.

  • Jeloi

    I think it is great of PB to post a story about these incidents, so thanks for that. I am amazed that the police was called because someone paid for an item. It would have been different if her card was stolen, if she tried to steal it, but she paid for it. Now both are blaming each other. I honestly don’t believe the NYPD is standing around in a mall waiting for a black female or male to exit a Barney’s store. I believe someone called them. And not to excuse them why didn’t they ask the person who called some additional questions such as: did she steal something, was the credit card that they used stolen or was the money the used counterfeit. Don’t they have better things to do than harass a shopper. We all know that it definitely had something to do with them being black, but it is apparent that both the NYP and Barney’s employees are stupid! This is 2013 and people are still stereotyping, this is very sad too me. It is great to read the comments made by the PB family, that we all go through discrimination and that too is sad!

  • C

    I’m Asian and this attitude thing isn’t just targeted at African Americans. When I was on vacation in Hawaii with my family just this past summer, we went for a quick dip in the ocean one late afternoon and later walked in a Loewe in coverups and sandals just because it’s on our way back to the hotel. The SA was SO rude to us I couldn’t believe it. When my mom picked up a tote just to see how it fits on her shoulder, the young SA rushed over, literally snatched the tote back, and said “THIS IS VEEERRRRYYYY EXPENSIVE!” I was so pissed I told her she probably didn’t even know what Loewe was when my mom bought her first Loewe. Not to mention we had just left Cartier, only their shopping bags were a little small so I stuffed them in my beach tote–maybe if I had the Cartier bags in my hands, that snooty-ass SA would’ve treated us differently.
    Still, having SAs like that is really disgraceful for all those high-end luxury stores.

    • Jenn

      Why would you wear swimsuit coverup and sandals to a high-end store? No wonder SA was rude to you. You were rude to the bags first!

      • Rosee

        I hope you are being sarcastic.

      • Eun

        Salt water can damage leather goods, pretty sure of that.

      • Antiguashores

        They were soaking wet..another idiot.

      • Gerda

        Its normal to go and walk around in Hawaii with your coverup and sandals because if you have ever been in Hawaii, all the high end stores are next to the beach in Oahu. And even if they had saltwater by their shoulders, there is a better way of letting the customer know to not touch the bags instead of snatching it.

      • Antiguashores

        No she’s not …she’s racist not sacastic.

      • Antiguashores

        Racist much, if she was white the approach would be toally different and it’s Hawaii not NYC, so wearing sandals are common attire in Hawaii…idiot!

  • iisme

    Well, it happens with everyone, but i feel more often with non caucasian races. I’m asian (Chinese) and i remember way back in the days, asians would be stereotyped as poor second class people. But that’s all changed now, since China has become a powerful country with lots of wealthy people, we get treated with much more respect. Bottom line is, it shouldn’t matter who you are what you do or where your from, we all deserve the same which is called equal treatment.

  • Jane

    I am glad you did this story it is very important to discuss and share stories so we all can become more tolerant. When I was 16 my sister lived in East Hampton I was wearing cut off jean shorts and a white v-neck t-shirt, it was summer and we were just wearing casual clothes. We went into a CANDY shop and I wanted to buy a Pez dispenser as a gag gift for my then boyfriend we were ignored the whole time, but watched the whole time. When I went to pay for the overpriced Pez dispenser the employee wouldn’t even take my money she made me put it on the counter I guess she felt my money was dirty some how. I felt like crying I was 16 in a stupid candy store and I was considered not worthy of a stupid candy dispenser. My self esteem fell to the ground and I asked my sister to take me back to her place because I felt so crappy about myself. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like to be targeted and arrested. I do want to say I am married to a cop and not all of them are bad and it makes me happy to read that it hasn’t become a discussion about cops being evil. So thank you all for that. I hope Barney’s and other high end retailers will learn from this and become more educated.

  • V

    I’m a black woman with a love for handbags that borders on obsession.(Its a sickness but I love them). I’ve never had a problem in Europe when purchasing a handbag but here in New Jersey, that’s another story. I was thrown an extreme amount of “shade” when I was in an LV store here in Jersey. I was so angry that I purchased a very expensive limited and promised myself that this would be my last Louie. I meant it and have not purchased another since. That was 4 years ago. I also began to rid myself of many of the other LV’s in my collection. I’m tired of giving these companies my money and having them treat me badly. It took me too long to realize, these companies will stop this behavior if we hit them where it hurts. Hermes, in New Jersey, treats me very well. That’s LV’s loss.

    • SUZE

      I agree, Hermes in Paris, treated me like a QUEEN.

  • T.U. A.

    What I want to share is a line from Sex and the City:”She’s not paid to think, she’s paid to make you happy.” Sorry, if a SA is going to be a b***h, then i’ll teach him/her how to spell respect.

    • Chantal


  • Mr.Bunny

    The fact that she’s sueing for 5 million tells me it’s nothing but a cash grab. I hope it gets tossed out of court. It’s not right what Barney’s did, but it’s not a 5 Million dollar crime.

    • J. Barnett

      Barney’s can afford it. Whatever she asks for was initiated by her lawyers, not her. And if it takes a 5 million dollar payout to have a retraining program..well…Barney’s can afford it.

    • Guest

      The compensation of this lawsuit is more about sending a message to the company than simply a dollar amount. If Barney’s has had numerous complaints about this type of behavior and has done nothing to remedy it, then the judge may see it as fitting. This kind of punitive reward happens in corporate cases. So no, it’s not just a cash grab.

    • SUZE

      Barney will feel the hit whether she wins or not. This suit will only bring out other lawsuits, which will lead to the “no customers” at all title. or many customers looking for a reason to SUE. It floats.

  • ivanny

    I really don’t understand this profiling that we often get from sales person. They are only employe there, and treat us like a garbage. I am an asian, and I get this profiling all the times. It really makes me mad when they do that. Every customer is a king, that’s what is should be. They always makes me feel not welcome, unless I dressed nice and carried a nice bag. I even got told “It’s not on sale, the sales ones are at the other room” in an armani store in SOHO I was only looking at the $50 underwear, who doesn’t have $50 ? I was so angry I left the stores within seconds, and told her it’s so rude of her to be profiling me like that. And I received so many of that treatment at Barney’s, Chanel stores. I even complained to the chanel soho location manager about one of the employe that always do that to me, still nothing done, so I always buy my chanel at bloomingdales or saks5th ave. They are always been nice , even if I am in my yoga pants.

  • Natalie

    I shop mostly online because I know products well and I get better deals or from my list of wonderful SAs that I built over years. Yet when it’s sales time and I happen to be in NYC or Paris I go through my favourite brands’ boutiques. I never had any really bad experience, I don’t expect to be treated royally either, I don’t care. I’m always up to the point looking for an exclusive colour or deal. I guess wearing 2-3K bags and knowledge of the products helps, SAs are really scanning you. My style is causual chic, unless they spot the bag or shoes they are a little passive. LOL
    Yet once I had a nasty look from SA because of body image. It was in Bottega Veneta store on Fifth, in ready-to-wear section I commented how something looked nice on mannequin, and young male SA with bitchy resting face gave me a look like “it’s not for cows like you, it’s for gazelles”. And I’m size 4-6, I guess “gazelles” are size 0-2. Whatever. I scooped a bag on sale there and kept strolling to other boutiques without a second thought. SAs, who cares?

    • J. Jones

      I have the same attitude. It’s a teaching moment for some people. However, when you’ve had to deal with this for more than 40 years it gets very old. Shopping on Madison Ave. I’ve never had a problem, but that may be because I always have my husband in tow lol. You’re right about the sales people looking for cues by checking what you have on. I have a pair of pink baroque Prada glasses and they get a lot of attention, but when I wear my more masculine Zegna’s which costs far more, they get less attention lol.

  • Amira

    This story makes me so mad! No one should be made to feel like a criminal when spending their money, and no one should be made to feel like they’re not worthy of shopping in a particular store.

    I have most certainly been profiled at high-end boutiques and department stores before. The most memorable incident for me was at a Tiffany & Co store. I was with my dad and sister, we were all casually dressed since we were on holidays (I’m from Sydney, Australia but we were in Florida for my 21st birthday – though I have experienced the same discriminatory practices here in Sydney too!).

    The sales assistants all ignored us when we walked in and I had to ask several times for some help and to see the diamond earrings that I wished to purchase. One SA reluctantly helped me and only when I pulled out the cash to pay for the item did his attitude change. The whole time he was really reluctant to put the earrings on the tray in front of me, like I was going to grab them and run. He clearly thought we, but specifically me, could not afford the several thousands of dollars for the earrings and were just wasting his time, or trying to steal.

    Funnily enough, after I paid, my sister was browsing the store and him and his fellow sales assistants ran around pulling out random pieces of jewelry, even ones she wasn’t even looking at or interested in!

  • Kema

    I was profiled at the Hermes boutique in Chicago. I was on my cell walking around looking for a trinket to take home from my trip. I was followed from the time I came in till the time I left by a big security guard. The SA’s ignored me and everything. It hurt my feelings because I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I left and went across the street to YSL and met a very helpful SA who even took time to try show me a 3 of a kind bag that they had for sale. I purchased it along with a bunch of other items simply because she made my shopping experience personal and fun. Had Hermes done this instead of judging my skin color they would’ve made a killing that day. Profiling customers based on race is a stupid move business wise. You never know who’s who or how much they have to spend. Treat every customer like gold no matter what they are or what the look like.

    • SUZE

      As I previously stated corporate only looks at the bottom line. When Hermes looks at theirs and YSL looks at theirs guess who’s going to win. Hey, it cost money to rent in those pricey areas. No customers, no money……….By

  • J Barnett

    Yes. For years because I’m over 55. However, I know how to deal with it. I ask for the store manager and point out the person that didn’t give me proper service and then ask if it’s store policy to treat black people differently than other customers. The managers have always responded with a look of incredulous outrage for me and make another salesperson give me proper treatment. Having just moved to the Hudson Valley and finding that shopping at Woodbury Common is easiest for me, I’ve had to do this in several stores. I must say that after letting store managers know that I will be frequenting their stores and I expect impeccable service I do get it. In fact, I’m called and emailed for special sales and new inventory. I must admit my age has something to do with it, as well as my spending budget and frequency of return. Add to that, I’m shopping on the higher end of the mall in the luxe stores. In the end, it worked out, but it’s sad to know that things like this still must be worked out. PS- I check your blog all the time (and we’re homies I’m from Ga) and I love the bag you designed. Congratulations!

  • Maya

    Same thing, I, most of the time get ignored by sales associates at high end stores (I really don’t understand why the attitude) but whatever, if that makes them feel better about themselves… Funny thing sales people are not quantum physics nobel prize winners last time I checked! ( I can be really mean when I want to!). And YES, I absolutely agree, a nice, warm sales associate (they do exist, thank god!!) will most likely make me spend a lot of money, a rude one will make me walk right out…

  • katkooty

    I agree this sort of behavior is really uncalled for and the extremes barney took. I am SO shocked they called the police.

    Well Racial Profiling can backfire too if they automatically assume u are well off. While i always receive good service, nearly everywhere i have traveled (Im from the United Arab Emirates), when you do go to Salons or places with non fixed pricing, You should just see the amount i pay because “U are arab, u have oil!”. Seriously its not in my back yard! I took a cab recently from the Spanish Steps in Rome to our hotel because i couldnt find the car and was exhausted, and boy, i was harassed! At the hotel entrance the cab driver refused to budge and even though i paid 50% more than the metre said, he said “Your arab, your rich, give me more”. The bell boy had to shoo him off and i was left traumatized.

    People just need a lesson in life and sometimes i feel sorry for people with such narrow opinions on people in today’s world! It must be sad to live thinking you know better but ending up the fool.

  • Antoinette

    Barneys is the worst! I had the worst experience shopping there!

    • SUZE

      Barney’s is the worst ever against blacks, wonder how well that’s going to go over, now that the carry J-Z’s clothing line…………Major Fail.

  • I.C

    Why would you shop at Barney’s anyway, it’s such a shit store

  • Ana

    I got treated like that on a freaking Levi’s store (ridiculous I know) just because I was looking like the casual 20 year old I am. I am white, but I was overweight at that time, so it might have been that. Still, it amused me that they would do that to me. I mean they work there and payment isn’t that great, so they probably have as much or less money than me.

    • SUZE

      I have a friend that got treated that way at Kohl’s no doubt. He was there to return an item and the snot nosed SA told him that he couldn’t return the item without a receipt. Exactly how do you do that if the item was a gift. Anyhow, my friend called the Kohl’s store where the item was purchased, but they were out of the item. When the got to the second Kohl’s store they were told the item, could not be returned without a receipt. He went off (low blood sugar). One very young SA told him to lower his voice he replied “you don’t want to go there with me little”, consequently, the police were called and he told them the entire story. He also told them who told him to come to the store to return the item. They called that SA at the other Kohl’s store, put the call on loud speaker as she told them that EVERY register in Kohl’s has a button that say RETURN NO RECEIPT. The officer tries to push things around after that and reminded my friend that loud speech would not be tolerated in the store. He actually was going to write him a ticket???? or something. However, while writing the ticket, summons or?????????? which he said was part of the procedure, if you speak loudly in a store, he asked my friend his name only to find out he was the director of the department the officer worked for. hehehe

  • Amy

    When I was 20, my friend and I were just browsing the shoe floor at Saks looking for leather boots when an SA approached us and asked if we needed help, and we said no thanks, just looking for now. Instead of just leaving us alone, he asked us if we had been to the floor with the contemporary brands. “The UGGS are on that floor. I think you’ll have lots of fun there.” We were absolutely appalled, and the only response that came out was a defensive “I don’t wear uggs.” He said “Oh, Christian Louboutin?” and laughed. That was the last time I ever even considered buying anything from Saks.

  • Cherryorchard

    Being chubby and having a very casual style when it comes to clothes is another good way to get overlooked in a store…I regularly get nonchalant service in designer stores if I’m wearing anything but something really dressy (which isn’t me).

    Last summer in Stockholm I got treated really crappy in a designer second hand store close to Karlaplan; I tend to wear jeans, Super Stars and a hoodie accompanied by an inexpensive bag when I travel, so the boutique owner must have drawn the conclusion that I was poor and therefore had to be kept away from the bags and other items. I took a closer look at a Mulberry, and while I was trying to test the zipper by opening and closing it, I had the bag yanked from my hand (“I’ll do that!”) and put back on the shelf. Then, I asked about another bag; “What’s that then, I can’t quite see the brand from here? (behind your back)” “It’s a XXXX XXXXX.” *blank stare* She didn’t make a move to show me the bag. I did this with a couple more bags and got the same reply. Accompanied by the unkind, blank stare.

    After a couple of minutes, she decided she did have something for me after all – a hideous, overpriced low-end brand bag. It was only after I told her my best friend is always interested in blogging about good places to buy authentic designer goods that she started showing some interest. It was kinda disgusting. I walked straight out and went to NK’s Mulberry store, where I got the loveliest service from a friendly lady. Too bad I wasn’t in the market for a 1 000 euro bag that day, or she would’ve made a sale there & then.

  • Iréne Shûkriya-Dutta Scharief

    This is totally disgusting. I will never shop these stores, NEVER! The manager needs to fire these SAs!

  • weaslgrl

    I’m surprised that no one’s mentioned what I’ve always believed is a big contributing factor to profiling — the commission system. Commissions incent the SAs to profile their customers; while I certainly don’t agree with it, I can understand why SAs do it. Why not just pay them a living wage to start with, and eliminate commissions entirely? I realize this won’t completely address the problem (e.g. profiling for potential shoplifting), but it might be a good start towards reducing the need to profile for how much they think you can spend.

    • Cherryorchard

      If I worked as a SA, I’d serve every single customer within my reach with the same loving attitude. For several reasons:
      1. If you’re on commission, every sale counts and if business is slow, the one who works for it, makes the sale.
      2. You really can’t tell a person’s financial status by looking at their sex, age, ethnicity, clothing or anything other than their bank account.
      3. People’s lives change. The customer that gets excellent service today while buying the cheapest wallet in the store may be the one that comes back with a bucketload of money to spend, demanding service from the same SA tomorrow.
      4. It’s bad professional behaviour to diss a customer.

      So no excuse really.

  • Rashida

    I hope I can be judged on the content of my character… I haven’t had horror stories such as this, but I am nervous to even enter the store due to stories like these. My money is green just like other people, The color of my skin should not determine my purchasing power. I work hard and I should be able to buy what I like…

  • FashionableLena

    I was accused of stealing from a Coach store. I was the only black woman in attendance at a book signing that the store was holding. Because I wanted to earn points from B&N, I bought my book at Barnes & Noble and brought it with me. I got my book signed and two people informed me that I needed to pay for the book. Even after I told both SA, they told the manager. She only let me alone after I got really loud and told her not to cause a scene in front of my son whom I had with me. I have never nor will I ever purchase another Coach handbag, and I sold every one that I already had. Reported it to Coach and never heard back.
    I was also skipped over at the sunglass counter at Neiman Marcus. I contacted corporate, and they gave me free lunch in the cafe and a personal shopper. Took the free mean but not the shopping. I wasn’t giving them any of my hard earned. Never went back and that was over 10 years ago. Rather go to Saks, Nordstroms, or Bloomingdales. Never had a complaint while shopping there.

    • SUZE

      If they can watch money walk away. Walk away with it………..PERIOD. The words gets around. You can’s be a SA, if no one is coming in to make a purchase. Corporate only reads the spread sheets. That’s what’s important.

  • June

    Bottom line, nasty SAs are jealous + bitter for having to cater to someone who can drop $3-4k or more on a bag, shoe, or outfit that’s worth god knows how many months’ rent for them.

    They nitpick at the clothes + shoes you’re wearing, the bag you’re carrying, whether or not you’re actually going to make a purchase, and in worst case scenarios, the color of your skin, and if any of the above criteria seems to be ‘lacking’ in their pov, they use it to treat your poorly.

    Some may, in fact, be racists, but I’m white and when I walk into Bergs on a Sunday in my workout clothes and just a wallet, I receive horrendous service as well. (SMH) I go to the same Bergs carrying my Celine after work on a weekday, it’s like I’m in a different store. (SMH even more.)

    Whenever I encounter such attitude, I immediately ask for a different SA even if the nasty SA is standing right beside me, and I make my purchase from the kinder SA right under their nose. The time I was in my workout clothes and received poor service/bad attitude? I made the nasty SA get her supervisor to address my concerns on the spot in the store – with the culprit SA observing. (You never know if calls to corporate will ever trickle down to the individual store/SA.)

    I try not to let such bigotry or immaturity affect me. After all, we’re there to shop while they’re livelihood depends on our patronage.

  • EbonyLolita

    Yes I have & THIS is the main reason why I keep my $$$$ in my bank account. If you can’t respect me as a customer I sure as HELL will not give you my coins. I will buy purchases from trusted & secure websites before I spend it in a Barney’s!!!

  • Mia

    I’m from Australia and I definitely found this was an issue when I was in the US, especially in New York at Barney’s and Bergdorf Goodman. After standing around holding the isabel marant bobby sneakers, a sales assistant finally approached me, and then after retrieving the shoe for me, said he’d be right back but never bothered to return because he had decided I couldn’t afford them (later bought them at the soho store). I also had a similar experience at Bergdorf Goodman where I walked into the Celine handbag section only to have 3 sales assistants to look up & ignore me and return to their phones. As soon as my boyfriend and I left another lady walked in who was politely greeted and such. I was only given proper respect at the store after purcahsing a proenza schouler leather jacket, and the assistant told me about all the sights I should visit in ny. It’s really disappointing when you’ve worked so hard to travel half way around the world and make a big purchase only to be treated so appallingly.

  • lulu

    What a topic Im glad this is brought up. Last year I went to Hong Kong and before going there I had already planned to buy my first Celine bag from there. Of course I did a little search and ended up in PurseForum. I found a thread all about where to find the Celine stores and which branch is selling what bag and colours. Then I read things about ‘Oh that Celine store has a nasty SA’ or ‘That Celine branch hides the special bags for a significant type of clients’ and I was like..a little stressed thinking woah I had no idea I have to worry about SA that bad! Luckily I ended up with a respectable SA can’t remember which mall, maybe coz I obviously looked middle eastern and then the stereotype that we are all filthy rich. I actually prepared myself mentally to face this SA before entering the store if I were to get mistreated in anyway coz that stuff don’t pass by my without getting justice. I earned what I make and I always spend/invest wisely on what I buy. I don’t look like a million$ nor do I have the sexiest body..but I sure hell know that I should not be judged by an SA who thinks she better than me coz she skinnier than me and is dressed in a sexy uniform wearing a white gloves.

  • Halim Amin

    Sometimes I don’t blame the SA. Even seemingly educated persons handle merchandise badly. After the ocean with you mucky fingers touching Loewe goods. I beg to differ. I always clearly state to the SA that I am browsing if I am. I have never been profiled.

  • whateversu

    I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever been poorly treated thankfully. I understand that they are doing a profile of you to quickly figure you out and if you can afford it. That’s what sales people do. Maybe it’s my own obliviousness but I’m fairly direct at approaching them, asking them for help and then deciding if I really want something. I don’t need them to ask if I want help.

    When I was in my early twenties, it was a bit daunting to go into these high end stores but I’m there for a bag and by damned I will get what i want! Nowadays, I have to say I’m a bit more confident if eventhough I still am less intimidated if i’m dressed nicely and have a friend along.

    • Jill


      I could care less about the attitudes of the SA’s. These are people who work retail, most on a commission of some sort. My husband and I together make about $400k a year working in oil and gas in Africa. I’m black and early thirties.

      I prefer to look through a store on my own and then whenever I’m done, I walk up to whatever SA is available or walk out, as I please. I am not bothered if no one greets me, even though I must admit that most SA’s I have encountered do greet me when I enter their stores.

      It’s really about confidence. If you know your own self worth, why would it bother anyone if a random SA is ‘nice’ to you? Why would it drive your purchasing decisions? The SA does not own the store or company? You are depriving yourself of something you want to spite an SA?

      Having said that, I do appreciate SA’s who smile and go the extra mile but I would never base a purchase decision on an SA’s attitude.

  • Lucy Tony

    I love this

  • Walk in love

    Why don’t all the people that they have racial profile ,come together and file a multi million dollar lawsuit.i bet you’ll get there attention then .dont get mad make them pay.

  • Krissie

    I wasn’t discriminated in any high end store but in barnes & noble no less. The wrongfully asked to search my bag after an alarm went off while walking into the store with a group of people but they singled me out proceeded to put their hands into my birkin. It was because I am middle eastern. The sales girl said to me it was their policy to check handbags and that it was to make sure I didn’t steal again (I just walked into the store mind you) when I went over to the manager I was extremely upset and to my surprise he told me to “gtfo out of his store” and proceeded to call me a very derogatory name to call someone from the Mid East. I contacted their DM and she was a real piece of work. So I went higher up and guess what? I got cursed out. It was a traumatic experience for me and embarrassing. The hate against middle easterners in this country is incredible. Funny thing is this was in NYC where you think people would be more tolerant and open minded.

  • Scottsdale Kim

    I am white and have felt ignored in several stores that seem to focus on Asians. On every occasion I was dressed well and carrying a designer bag.

    Of course commission people are going to show prejudice. If they are likely to sell several bags to a group of visitors from Asia, they will focus on those customers first. It can be very frustrating because the price point should include the most pleasant shopping experience and that is very rarely the case.

    My worst experiences have been at Celine in Manhattan and many Hermes locations. I love both of these designers so this is extremely disappointing.

    My most coveted bags were made possible by building relationships with the SA. The best bags rarely make the shelves of Barneys, Neimans, etc.

  • Crystal

    It’s really disgusting to have SAs like that.
    I currently live in Hong Kong.
    I look younger than my actual age therefore I always get terrible customer service when I purchase from these High-end stores.
    Once a SA try to tell me that its too expensive for me, not suitable for your age , sort of these rubbish ETC…
    But once I carried a CHANEL handbag with me, the SAs are providing better service. wonder people dress better to get these SA’s attention.
    But I don’t think this is correct. I think anyone should get the right service no matter age, race or how do you dress.
    I usually write to corporates when their SAs fail to provide the right service.

  • Jimmy Chan

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  • Greda

    These high end stores have a ton to learn from the Macy’s and Bloomingdales of this world. The reason why mid end and low end stores are much more successful is their welcoming nature because money spent is money in their pockets and ROI. For this reason alone, this is the reason why I don’t go into high end stores or rarely go into them. I only go into specific ones that are friendly and warm. After all, they are salespeople…they should just do their job and stop acting like their in high school. And to be perfectly honest, most “really” rich people do not shop at high end stores…they don’t have the time (they send their associate to do that), so these stores need to just learn the art of great customer service. I’m glad this issue is out in the open so that the industry can be more aware and change their sales training methods. If you have yet to learn about Apple, this is what they are good at….you want to be successful as a company: put all your customers first and stop the profiling. Comeon we are in the 21st Century. Get with the program Barneys Prada, Tom Ford, Gucci, Chanel, Graff, etc. etc.!

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  • Mdmfk fn

    Enough of playing the goddamn race card, I’m sick to death of it.