A sample stand worker at a Costco in Issaquah, Washington allegedly turned an Asian American child away on the suspicion that he was “from China” and might infect her with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
The 8-year-old boy, who was out with his parents on Sunday, wore a face mask after learning about the virus and seeing other children at school wear it.
The female worker initially asked whether the boy and his mother were from China. She then turned them away, the boy’s father said.
“Ugh @costco food sample lady told kid to get away because he may be ‘from China’ and was worrying about getting infected,” Devin Cabanilla posted on Twitter. “Sad my boy has to receive racial stereotyping. Ironically mask makes him safer to be around.”
Ugh @costco food sample lady told kid to get away because he may be “from China” and was worrying about getting infected #Wuhan #CoronaVirus Sad my boy has to receive racial stereotyping Ironically mask makes him safer to be around Told a store supe, he was cool to hear us #yuck pic.twitter.com/SE6LJmMSUO
— Devin Cabanilla (@devincabanilla) January 26, 2020
Cabanilla is of a mix of different ethnic backgrounds, including Filipino, Mexican, Chinese, Native American and White. His wife is Korean American.
“The painful part was hearing my 8-year-old question for the first time looking different and wondering if his mom’s Asian-featured face was at fault for being the way it was. Then having to explain they are normal no matter what and that is racial prejudice. A virus doesn’t see race,” he added.
The painful part was hearing my 8yr old question for the 1st time looking different and wondering if his mom’s Asian featured face was at fault for being the way it was. Then having to explain they are normal no matter what and that is racial prejudice. A virus doesn’t see race.
— Devin Cabanilla (@devincabanilla) January 28, 2020
Cabanilla worries that the outbreak will cause suspicion towards Asian Americans. The incident also marks the first time his son has experienced judgment for his perceived race.
“One thing that is in the back of my mind is that someone Asian is being judged in public right now,” Cabanilla told Insider. “In general, people are going to have assumptions or be casually careful around Asian people.”
The boy’s father brought up the incident to a supervisor, as well as to Costco’s CEO.
“We are very sorry this incident occurred in our location,” said Patrick Callans, Costco’s executive vice president of administration. “The comments to the boy were made not by a Costco employee but by an employee of an independent demo company. The demo company is taking appropriate measures with its employees.”
As it turns out, the sample stand worker is employed by Club Demonstration Services, which claims to be “the preferred in-house event marketing provider to Costco.” The company also takes pride in offering “the best person-to-person marketing services in the industry.”
“We extend our sincerest apology to the family that was treated inappropriately,” Club Demonstration Services said on Wednesday, according to King 5 News. “We have the greatest respect and appreciation for Costco members and strive to make their shopping experience enjoyable through positive interactions with our team members. We will be providing additional training and information to ensure that we treat everyone with the sensitivity and respect they deserve, and will further educate our staff on the coronavirus to alleviate any fears or misperceptions. People are at the center of what we do, and engaging with customers respectfully as neighbors in our own community is our top priority.”
The first 2019-nCoV case in the U.S. was detected in Washington state. The patient, a man in his 30s, lives in Snohomish County.
As of this writing, the CDC has confirmed five cases of the virus: two in California, one in Arizona, one in Illinois and the one in Washington.