Shopping While Brown: a sister syndrome of Driving While Black and Flying While Arab.
The newspaper ads screamed in 150-point fonts about the GRAND OPENING of a new department store Boscov's to replace an old flagship store that had closed. While I'm not exactly a shopping maven, I decided to set aside time to visit the store, especially after a pair of tickets to the 'exclusive preview' arrived in the mail. These promised an extra 'free gift' of a nice-looking(in the ad at least) Lenox cookie jar.
The grand opening day arrived. I was all set to go out on my own to Boscov's when some good friends of ours stopped by for a chat. I coaxed P into accompanying me, waving the extra ticket and the promise of the freebie.
We happily wandered around from floor to floor, looking at the offerings, much the same as any usual big departmental store. A refreshing change of salespeople, I thought, as I caught more glimpses of other skin colors than exclusively white behind the cash registers. We were politely directed to the location where we could pick up our free cookie jars and wandered near the suitcase area. One red 3-piece luggage set caught my eye. Advertised as a special at $14.99, I had seen shoppers wheeling their prizes all around the store.
I saw one propped up at the empty register and pounced on it. No sign of any employee to ring it up. P wanted one too, but decided to check back later after we looked around the children's department. So we went up the escalator there, and I helped pay for her purchase, along with my suitcase set, since she hadn't brought her purse.
We went down the escalator again, this time seeing an employee at the suitcase department register. He took one look at our clothes ( I was in full salwar-kameez, bindi regalia) and did a double take as he saw me holding the luggage set- "Was that placed here on the register ma'am?" he asked.
"Yes, it was. I couldn't find anybody to ring it up here, so I paid for it upstairs", waving my bill to show him.
"Sorry, ma'am. You have to pick this up at the door. I can't give it to you right now. It's my last piece"
What a curious procedure, I thought,. "Why?" I asked. "Store policy, ma'am" he replied.
"Alright". I walked to the door, while P browsed another display in the home electrics section. I waited for about 5 minutes with no sign of the employee showing up with my suitcase. I walked back to the suitcase area register to see him ripping off the product wrapper ( and with it the barcode that matched what was on my receipt) as he handed it over to another gentleman at the register.
I lost my temper then.
I marched up to the counter, grabbed the suitcase and wrapper from the startled employee and demanded to speak with a manager. The employee spluttered "This isn't yours, ma'am". I said"Yes, it is. I can prove I paid for it. Why did you try to remove the wrapper and barcode? Are you trying to tell me that I haven't purchased this, when I showed you my receipt? I couldn't care less about these silly suitcases, but I want my money back, if you are going to discriminate and offer the products only to people of a certain appearance."
The store manager reached the bottom of the escalator at this opportune moment. The employee "Let me try to explain..." I interrupted " No, you listen to me first", and I laid out the whole story to the store manager before he could get a word in edgewise. She was apologetic, promising to get an extra suitcase set from the stockroom for P, and falling over herself assuring me that I was indeed entitled to walk away wheeling the luggage set that I had purchased. The employee rang up the new purchases, apologetic yet whining about how he had been misunderstood and that he had thought that I was trying to take the suitcase without paying for it.
Well, that ended my expedition to the new store on the block.While I always keep out the usual sharp eye for good deals in the local department stores, my shopping trips have not taken me back to Boscov's back again.