Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe says she was recently profiled by an employee at the Chanel store in Chicago. In a heartstring-tugging essay published in Lenny Letter on May 1, 34-year-old Sidibe told the crushing story of her encounter at the posh retailer, explaining that she’d gone to Chanel to buy some glasses (and a pair of sandals for a friend), but left feeling insulted and profiled instead.
“We don’t have any [eyeglasses]. We only have shades. There’s a store across the street that sells eyeglasses.”
According to Gabourey Sidibe, she entered Chanel in Chicago and spoke to the salesperson about buying some frames for her glasses. The actress claims that the Chanel employee responded by telling her that the upscale boutique didn’t sell optical specs, then sent her across the street — to a discount retailer.
As Page Six reports, Sidibe wrote that she felt immediately that the saleswoman was being condescending, despite pretending to be polite. The actress claims that the Chanel employee had decided right away that she wasn’t going to make a commission helping Gabourey, and promptly sent her on her way.
“I’d love to pretend she was being polite, and I’m sure she would love to pretend she was polite, but she was actually condescending…I knew what she was doing. She had decided after a single look at me that I wasn’t there to spend any money. Even though I was carrying a Chanel bag, she decided I wasn’t a Chanel customer and so, not worth her time and energy.”
While it’s not uncommon for salespeople to have a bit of an attitude towards those who don’t intend to make a purchase, according to Sidibe, her interaction with the Chanel employee went deeper than just someone in sales not wanting to deal with a “time waster.” According to Sidibe, she was profiled because of her race. And it’s not okay.
“No matter how dressed up I get, I’m never going to be able to dress up my skin color to look like what certain people perceive to be an actual customer. Depending on the store, I either look like a thief or a waste of time. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground between no attention and too much attention.”
The actress wrote that during her interaction with the Chicago Chanel employee, she “made her tell me to leave, in her pretend-polite way, three times.” Then, Gabourey Sidibe says she told the saleswoman that she needed to buy a pair of sandals, and the “annoyed” saleswoman led her into the establishment. As they walked deeper into Chanel, the saleswoman admitted that the Chanel sunglasses frames in stock doubled as frames for eyeglasses.
Sidibe says she ended up buying two pairs of glasses and two pairs of sandals, and that she’s “sure” the saleswoman in question collected commission from the sale. The star also says she gave the Chanel employee her email address when she paid so that she could fill out an online survey about her experience, but she had qualms about telling the woman’s employer about the questionable level of professionalism and service she exhibited.
Gabourey also wrote in her essay that she wasn’t sure if she was profiled because of her race or because of her weight.
“I suspect it’s because I’m black, but it could also be because I’m fat. Maybe my whole life, every time I thought someone was being racist, they were actually mistreating me because I’m fat. That sucks too. That’s not OK.”
Throughout her essay, Sidibe made it clear that her experience at Chanel was not an isolated one, but was something she’s struggled with throughout her own life. And since she’s become a rich and famous Hollywood star, she often has trouble deciding between responding to bad customer service by throwing money around or walking out empty-handed.
“F**k you! I’ll buy this whole damn store!”
She also admits that she does a lot of online shopping to avoid the kind of interaction she was forced to endure during her Chanel shopping experience.
In the end, Gabourey Sidibe implied that she wouldn’t fill out the customer satisfaction survey, just like she’d not filled out so many before.
After Sibide’s story went viral, Chanel responded to her complaints with a sincere apology and an invitation to return to one of their boutiques. Some social media users, however, found the apology to be inadequate.
“Chanel expresses our sincerest regret for the boutique customer service experience that Ms. Sidibe mentioned in this essay. We are sorry that she felt unwelcome and offended.
“We took her words very seriously and immediately investigated to understand what happened, knowing that this is absolutely not in line with the high standards that Chanel wishes to provide to our customers.
“We are strongly committed to provide anyone who comes in our boutiques with the best customer service, and we do hope that in the future Ms. Sidibe will choose to come back to a Chanel boutique and experience the real Chanel customer experience.”
What do you think of Gabourey Sidibe’s story? Do you think that Chanel’s apology was an appropriate response to the situation? Let us know in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Images]