Warning: Don’t go shopping at Old Navy wearing something you previously purchased from Old Navy. They may accuse you of shoplifting.
However, there’s a chance this rule only applies to a certain store. And one shopper who broke this unheard of rule thinks it only applies to certain people, unfortunately.
James Conley III was paying for some hoodies he bought from the store when an employee questioned his coat. Conley wrote about his experience on Facebook, and it’s gone viral. “Today I was racially profiled by the Old Navy store in West Des Moines, Iowa in Jordan creek,” he began. “I was accused that I didn’t pay for my blue bubble jacket that I got for Christmas that I wore into the store.”
He detailed the encounter: “As I was checking out to purchase some hoodies, I was asked if I wanted to also purchase the jacket that I was wearing. First, I started laughing because I didn’t believe what I was hearing.” Conley called out Beau Carter, the store manager who approached him, for being “very unprofessional” and stereotyping him because he’s a “black male.”
According to Conley, Carter schooled him on the Old Navy rules. “He says ‘anytime someone wears Old Navy clothing they have to always scan that customer’s clothing to insure that it was previously purchased.’ (Where do they do that at?)” But Conley didn’t buy it (although he did buy the jacket!) “Every time I go to this store I have on my same exact winter blue jacket and have never been asked to scan my clothing and the previous ‘non-black’ customers had on identical apparel as me from Old Navy but was never asked to scan their clothing.”
Not only did they embarrass Conley, but they also asked him to repay for the jacket. But Conley offered something else. “Finally the District Manager Shannon (who refused to give out her last name) came out and I made her check the surveillance tape to prove that her and her fellow employees were in the wrong for racially profiling me because of the color of my skin. Once she confirmed that I was telling the truth (after watching the tape) she never came back out to apologize to me nor did the store manager Beau Carter as you can see in my videos below.”
The videos show cashiers scanning his jacket. In another video, staffers ask not to be filmed, while Conley sighs and wearing his jacket, says, “Don’t ever come to Old Navy, because they’ll stereotype you if you’re black” and that he probably will never be back to the store. “Literally just got stereotyped because of the color of my skin. They think I stole my jacket that I walked in with.” The post has been shared almost 150,000 times.
Conley then held a news conference about the incident. He began by explaining that he’d been racially profiled before but never to this extent. “Whatever color your skin, you shouldn’t have to deal with that while you’re shopping,” he said. He noted that he used to shop at this Old Navy frequently for himself, his wife, and his children, and that all of his clothing is from the store. “For that to happen, it really hit home for me,” Conley said. “At first I was going to remain silent,” he revealed, because he’s “not a confrontational guy.” But he felt he had to speak out because it happened “in the way it did in front of other customers, it was really embarrassing…That’s not the right thing you should do to a customer…I don’t wish that on anybody.”
According to the Des Moines Register, the store actually closed Wednesday, the day after the incident, and reopened Thursday. It’s unclear if this incident led to the temporary closure.
In response to all this, Old Navy posted an explanation and an apology on their social media pages. “We have reached out to the customer to apologize for the experience,” the brand wrote. “We are conducting a thorough investigation of the incident at our Jordan Creek, Des Moines, Iowa store Tuesday, January 30, and are connecting with our teams to reiterate who we are as a brand and what we stand for.”
The brand told Yahoo! Lifestyle, “The situation was a violation of our policies and values, and we apologize to both Mr. Conley and to those we’ve disappointed. All of our customers deserve to be treated with respect.” As they promised on Instagram, they did take swift action. “Following a thorough investigation of the incident, three employees who were involved have been terminated,” the brand explained. “We take this matter – and every conversation around equality – very seriously. Old Navy is committed to ensuring that our stores are an environment where everyone feels welcome.”
Conley has not responded to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of racial profiling in retail. A former Versace employee alleges that the store he worked at required staff to use a code when a black customer entered. To add insult to injury, once Versace found out that this employee was a quarter African-American, they reportedly fired him.
A few months ago, a Banana Republic employee claimed she faced discrimination over her braided hairstyle and was told by her manager that her look was inappropriate for working on the store floor.
We’re not sure how Old Navy can make it up to Conley, but it’s probably not by offering Conley a lifetime supply of performance fleece.
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