Versace stores use a secret code whenever a black customer enters the building. So claims a former employee who is suing the high-end retailer, saying the store fired him after complained about the policy.
As TMZ reports, an unidentified former employee, who is black, is suing the luxury fashion line for mistreating him on the job and then firing him once he learned about the secret code.
The man, who worked at a San Francisco Bay-area Versace store, said that security told him early on that whenever a black customer comes in, store security will use the code “D410.” As it turns out, according to Daily Dot, “D41” is also Versace’s code for cataloging black items in its inventory. For example, if you Google “Versace D41,” you’ll get hits for black clothing items; if you search for “Versace D410,” you’ll get items that are black, white and blue.
The fired employee says he was shocked when he learned that there’s a code for black customers.
“You know that I’m African-American?”
From there, things went downhill for the man. He says that his manager refused to give him breaks, and then he was fired after two weeks. The reason for his firing, he claims, was that his manager claimed he hadn’t “lived the luxury life.”
The fired employee is suing for unpaid wages and other damages. Versace, for its part, has denied the allegations and has filed a motion to have the man’s lawsuit dismissed.
The former Versace employees allegations highlight a trend highlight an ugly problem in the retail industry of treating black customers with suspicion, particularly at high-end retailers. And sometimes, such incidents make the news.
Earlier this month, Kimberly Houzah, a black woman, reported that she was at an Alabama Victoria’s Secret location doing some Christmas shopping when a different black woman was accused of shoplifting. According to the Washington Post, the manager of the store then kicked out all of the black customers in the store.
— infowe (@infowe) December 10, 2016
“I just, you’re kidding me. I already didn’t need to be spending the money, but I’m like, you know — I’m going to treat myself… and I got to come down here and deal with this B.S.”
Similarly, according to a 2015 Time report, New York-based retailer Zara was also accused of widespread discrimination against black customers. Like Versace, Zara even had a code word — “special order” — to identify a suspicious customer. And the code word was applied to black customers far more often than white or Latino customers, according to former employees.
The problem of racially profiling black customers has become so widespread that the phenomenon has a name: Shopping While Black. And according to the International Business Times, the problem is widespread. Black customers report being followed by security guards or store employees, treated rudely by employees who just want to get rid of them, and all too frequently, being accused of shoplifting when they’ve done no such thing.
Ojmarrh Mitchell, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida and a member of the Department of Justice’s science advisory board, says that aggressively profiling black customers is not the best way to prevent theft — or “shrinkage,” as it’s called in the retail industry.
“It’s bad business to mistreat your customers.”
Mitchell has helped develop some advice that helps retailers identify racial profiling among their employees.
“[Profiling] is something they should be looking at aggressively and responding to aggressively, if there is any problem.”
[Featured Image by CervelliInFuga/Shutterstock]