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25 Oct 2013

Is Barney’s New York committing “Shopping While Black”?

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October 25, 2013 Category: Week In Review Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Trayon Christian

(Photo courtesy News One/Trayon Christian)


Two Black college students, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips are accusedof fraud based on faulty assumptions from NYPD


By Ruth Manuel-Logan



Last April, a salesperson at the chic and upscale famed retailer, Barneys New York, summoned police to arrest a black teen, Trayon Christian, because it was assumed he could never afford a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt he purchased with his Chase debit card. After all, the clerk thought, how could a young Black youth afford such a pricey belt? Surely it must be a fraudulent purchase — even though the young college student produced an ID with his card! So Christian was cuffed and hauled off to jail. Wrong move! Now Christian filed a lawsuit against not only Barneys, but the NYPD as well, according to the New York Post.


Christian’s experience, he claims in the lawsuit, was not only extremely distressing but embarrassing for him as well. What gets his goat most, however, is that, “In spite of producing such documentation (a receipt), he was told that his identification was false and that he could not afford to make such an expensive purchase.”


The 19-year-old pined for the luxury purchase ever since he saw Harlem rapper Juelz Santana sporting it. So Christian, who attends the New York City College of Technology, saved the monies he earned from his part-time job to buy the belt from the luxury Madison Avenue store. When Christian paid for the belt and exited the store, an undercover police grabbed him and, according to the lawsuit asked, how a young black man such as himself could “afford to purchase such an expensive belt.”


Christian, who has no arrest record, was taken to a local precinct and there, officers called Chase Bank to verify that he was the rightful owner of the card; they released him afterwards.


Christian, who filed the lawsuit with the Manhattan Supreme Court, returned the belt to the popular clothing store because he is reportedly soured by the treatment he received at the store. Not surprisingly, Christian told the New York Post he will never shop at the store again.


When the New York Post contacted Barneys for a comment, they did not provide one. 


Kayla Phillips is accused of not being able to afford a $2,500 handbag


Last February, Kayla Phillips had her eye on a $2,500 Céline bag, and when she saw it at the posh retailer Barneys New York, she purchased it using her debit card. When she exited the Madison Avenue store and walked three blocks away towards a subway station, why, oh why, did four police officers swarm the young woman, then reportedly roughhoused her, as if she had committed a crime? A classic case of shopping while black?


According to New York Daily News, Phillips, pined for the popular suede handbag in a bright orange color, but had not found one until she stumbled upon it at Barneys. Since the 21-year-old student had just gotten her tax return money, she thought she’d splurge by purchasing the bag. Phillips used her debit card to buy the bag and the transaction was a breeze sans confrontation from anyone.


When the young woman made it down the stairs en route to the subway, she alleges that four plainclothes officers suddenly swarmed her, three men and a woman, all accusing her of fraud. Phillips claims that two of the officers pushed her against a wall and the other two blocked her from entering the turnstile. The officer’s ruffian tactics puzzled her because she had purchased the bag and had a receipt to prove it. The officers, according to Phillips, asked rapid-fire questions about her purchase, demanding identification and the debit card used, all of which she produced.


The third-degree interrogation of Phillips taken to the 10th power, continued, and Phillips claims that the officers even asked her what was she doing in Manhattan! They also allegedly wanted to know how could Phillips afford such an expensive bag and why was her debit card nameless. The young woman explained to authorities that her card had not been activated and even showed them a  letter from Bank of America stating she hadn’t activated her card yet.


Unfortunately for Phillips, she was carrying a pricey Chanel bag at the time of the incident and having this also opened up another can of worms for her.


At one point, one of the officers even bent her card incessantly, and when she questioned as to why she had been accosted in such a way, he allegedly responded, “If you were a victim of identity theft, if someone was trying to use your hard-earned money, wouldn’t you want us to investigate?”


Phillips, who is pregnant with her second child and whose brother is also one of New York’s finest, asked the officers for their names and badge numbers. She has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the New York City police department.  Phillips’ attorney, Kareem Vessup, told the New York Daily News an additional civil rights lawsuit against the NYPD and Barneys is pending.


What does Barneys have to say about the racial profiling allegations? The retailer posted a response on its Facebook page:


The following statement can be attributed to a Barneys New York spokesperson:


“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.”


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