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Prominent New York City retailers have responded to customers' accusations of racial profiling while they shopped or shortly upon leaving the upscale stores with their purchases. A customers' Bill of Rights will now be displayed in Saks, the Gap, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys stating that customers shall be protected from profiling and unreasonable searches. In addition, plainclothes detectives must identify themselves as such when approaching shoppers. This is an apparent response to pressure from Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil activists and groups after several customers leaving the high-end stores filed suit against them. The customers said that they were apprehended by either store security or New York City police officers who then accused them of charges that included credit card fraud and other crimes. All three customers who have filed suit against Barney's and Macy's are either Hispanic or African-American.

Both Macy's and Barney's have issued denials that their associates racially profile their customers and have passed the buck to the New York Police Department. The NYPD says that the actions of their officers were a response to information supplied to them by store employees.

Rev. Sharpton's response to the posted Bill of Rights indicates a move in the right direction but falls short of solving the entire problem for minority shoppers. Last month, a well-known HBO actor, who is part of the civil suit, came forward with a story of being stopped in Macy's in June, handcuffed and publicly accused of committing credit card fraud by New York police officers.

The allegations appear to center around shoppers of color who purchase high-dollar items like designer purses and belts and either occurred in the store or just upon their leaving. According to the New York Times, the state Attorney General's office and New York City's Human Rights Commission also have initiated their own investigations into the allegations and the security practices of the stores.

No shopper should feel intimidated while browsing in department stores or be accused of fraud after making legitimate purchases. If you have been charged with an offense while shopping or browsing and feel that your rights have been abridged, you have the right to seek legal counsel and choose how to proceed based on the individual circumstances related to your case.

Source: csmonitor.com, "Big N.Y.C. retailers unveil 'bill of rights' to prevent racial profiling" Katherine Jacobsen, Dec. 10, 2013

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