Macy’s has been accused of racially profiling Asian shoppers, based on a lawsuit filed by a high-profile law firm in New York.
The complaint, filed by law firm Wigdor LLP, alleges that managers at Macy’s flagship Herald Square department store in Manhattan gave instructions to store attendants to racially profile Asian customers with the aim to limit their buying.
Managers were reportedly concerned that these customers might be re-selling the goods on popular platforms like WeChat and Taobao in a practice known as daigou in Chinese, reported Quartz.
In recent years, entrepreneurial Chinese who travel to different parts have been found to be setting up businesses selling stuff they bought abroad on local social media platforms such as WeChat or Taobao.
The industry built around the practice, which is now estimated to be worth $6.5 billion, might have affected the general perceptions of Asian shoppers.
According to a Macy’s employee who is one of the plaintiffs in the case, her manager once instructed her, “Don’t sell to Chinese [customers].”
In her statement found in the filed complaint, she was reportedly told to only sell one unit per product if the customer is Asian, while non-Asian customers are allowed to buy up to six items.
Another employee claimed that her manager gave her instructions to sell “fewer than six” units of an item to Asian customers while non-Asian ones are allowed to purchase eight units at a time. Yet another one was allegedly told by her manager that she could not sell to the same Asian customer within 90 days of his or her last purchase.
It was revealed that a manager’s approval is required for every purchase that involves more than six units of one product. According to the complaint, Macy’s loss-prevention department employees would also “regularly make Asian customers uncomfortable by conspicuously staring at them through the completion of their transactions.”
The four complainants, three of whom are Asian-American, were fired last year after complaining about the alleged profiling to the Macy’s union and to administration.
Based on the complaint, Macy’s managers’ alleged behavior on Asian customers “is based on the discriminatory stereotype that all Asian customers are resellers.”
In response to the allegations, Macy’s released a statement to Quartz denying the claims.
“Macy’s has longstanding policies and practices that embrace and promote diversity and inclusion and prohibit discriminatory conduct against its customers, employees, vendors and business partners,” the statement said. “We are confident that the allegations in this matter will ultimately be found to be without merit.”
A case of racial profiling in 2014, in which the Herald Square store was accused of unlawfully detaining black customers, had Macy’s agreeing to pay a settlement of $650,000.