Over a decade ago, I was shopping at Filene's Basement on Connecticut avenue. I'd gone to the men's department and purchased something for Robby and was leaving. As I was leaving, something caught my eye and I picked it up and decided I wanted to purchase it. I walked to the counter and saw a cashier I'd become friendly with, started talking to him as I put my item on the counter for him to ring up.
He chatted comfortably with me and then asked what I had in my bag. I told him it was something for my guy. He asked if I'd already paid for it. Confused I said...um...yeah...that's why it's in the bag.
Him: Can I see your receipt?
Me: Is that necessary?
Him: I just want to make sure you paid for it.
I showed him my receipt, paid for my other purchase and left.
I walked back to my office on L street feeling some kinda way. Filene's Basement had become my go to spot when I went for a walk while at work. I'd look around to see if there was something I needed to have and then buy it or not if my money was funny. I knew the guy from shopping there ONLY. I'd never seen him any other place other than there. He often complimented my suits or my hair or whatever. Just seemed to be a nice, good dude.
But that day...he decided that I'd probably stolen something.
By the time I got back to my office I was full on feeling some kinda way. I called Filene's and asked to speak with a manager. I told the manager what happened and the manager apologized.
I didn't feel better.
I called corporate and got the email for the head dude and I sent an email expressing how awful the experience made me feel. I felt some kinda way...big time but honestly...I think I felt that way MOSTLY...because the dude second guessing me was Black.
In his eye, I probably was only nice to him so I can get away with stealing shit and using him as an accomplish by getting him to ring up my other purchase. I was hurt about that and dammit...I was mad as shit. He should have known better.
But honestly...I guess the culture of the retail establishment was such that it was taught to be suspicious of Black people.
Of FRIENDLY Black people.
I received an email back from the person at corporate with a coupon or gift certificate or something or the other. They apologized, blah, blah, blah. I'd named names so I'm sure it was brought to old boy's attention.
Not that I'd ever know about it because I never set foot in that store again.
Shopping while Black doesn't happen to me often because I generally go to the same places and deal with the same sales associates so they know me but I know it's never too far behind for some. I know that I'm probably suspect since, normally when I'm shopping, I'm uber casual wearing good undies, until I walk up to the trusted associate I have a relationship with and I'm deemed "safe." The last time it DIRECTLY affected me was at New Balance in Chevy Chase a few years ago: Dear New Balance
I haven't purchased a New Balance shoe since then and wear the ones I already owned sporadically.
What about you? Have you been unfairly targeted recently for blatantly obvious reasons? How did you handle?