Do you ever walk into a store and no matter what you do, you feel like you’re a criminal? Like, you just have this sneaking suspicion that you’re being followed, and then you actually begin to believe it. Your mind races, thinking “oh god, did I actually slip a pair of wedge sneakers in my bag?” And then you check and of course there is nothing there because you are not a criminal. But for a while, you’re absolutely certain you must be a thief because why else are people consistently asking you how you’re doing.
Well, if you’re black, it’s much worse.
The labour advocacy group Center for Popular Democracy looked into six of the brand’s seven New York City stores after a series of controversial items made their way into the store for sale. One in particular, a child’s shirt that looked an awful lot like a Holocaust uniform, was among the pieces that caused the most ire.
Its probe consisted of surveying 251 of Zara’s 1,500 New York City employers and the study’s claims are quite eye-opening. The report discusses what Zara reportedly refers to as “special orders,” which is the company’s code for potential shoplifters. The practice, the report states, is to call in the “special order” and then have employees follow potential criminals around the store as soon as they enter.
“The majority of employees believe that black customers are coded as potential thieves at a higher rate than white customers,” the report states. “Special orders were also defined as ‘Anyone who looks black, not put together or urban.”
Of the employees questioned, 43 per cent refused to answer questions about the brand’s “special orders” mandate. However, 57 per cent of respondents did say that black customers were called “special orders” always or often. That’s pretty startling, considering respondents believed that Latino shoppers were considered thieves 14 per cent of the time, and white people were profiled at a rate of 7 per cent.
Corporate entities did not participate in the survey, and have gone on record stating that all accusations are completely “baseless.”
Just remember, if you are made to feel like a thief and you’re not a thief, then you’re not a thief. You’re spending your money and thus should feel welcome, and if you don’t, then you can just walk out the door.