Bed, Bath & Beyond has come under fire after staff at an Ohio store allegedly called the police on Black shoppers who were deemed to have too many high ticket items in their cart.
In a four-minute video posted on Twitter on Monday 19 June, a Black couple claim they were racially profiled at the Toledo outlet and accused of shoplifting when employees noticed they had selected expensive products.
“I’d like to understand why [police] were called. That’s very simple, why were the police called with the three Black people, thinking that we were shoplifting,” the man filming the video asks a staff member.
“I paid $600 for my things, so obviously I didn’t shoplift. I want to understand why you thought I was shoplifting,” he continues.
In response, the employee suggests says “there’s usually a question” when shoppers have too many “big purchase items”, suggesting they were acting in accordance with store policy.
“Okay, ‘usually a question’, I can understand that, but police being called I can’t understand that,” the man replies.
He then alleges the police were called “when we first got here” before the attendant calls for a “time-out”.
“I’m not being hostile, I’m not being violent. I just want to know why the store called the police because they thought we were shoplifting,” the man says. “We just purchased a new home. We came in because you’re closing, this is a closing sale. I didn’t realize there was a maximum number of items you could buy.”
Bed, Bath & Beyond filed for bankruptcy in April this year. At the time, the company said it will “implement an orderly wind down of its business”, closing down all 475 stores in the US by the end of June.
“You’re not going to be able to resolve this. I don’t know what you want us to say. I don’t care if they’re Black, white, or green, if somebody’s walking around with big, high ticket items...,” the woman working for Bed, Bath & Beyond reiterates their alleged reason for becoming suspicious of the couple.
The police officer at the scene suggests the shoppers escalate their complaint to the brand’s corporate office, adding “we’re done here”.
He explains staff had identified the couple as “two Black males” but officers responding to the call decided not to approach them when they realised nothing was concealed and the shoppers “could be paying for this”.
The video was shared by prominent civil rights advocate Ben Crump, who wrote the couple “deserves answers for this humiliating experience”.
Twitter users have criticised the company for how the incident was handled, with one person calling it the “perfect example of (implicit bias)”.
“Welp this seals the deal on my shopping the closing sales & I would demand a refund, they can keep their high ticket items for their “preferred” customers,” another user wrote.
“I would have returned that c*** and got my money back to be petty,” a third person commented.
In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for the retail company said: “We take matters of this nature very seriously and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.
“We are deeply concerned about the reported incident and are actively looking into the matter, as we do with any incidents described that are inconsistent with our policies and procedures.”
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