A second African-American customer has come forward to say she was racially profiled by clerks after she bought a $2,500 handbag at Barneys New York last February—and she is filing a lawsuit.
It is the second racial profiling accusation directed at the ritzy Manhattan store, following 19-year-old Trayon Christian’s revelation that he was handcuffed and put in a jail cell at a police station because Barneys clerks did not believe he could afford the $350 designer belt he had purchased and assumed his debit card must have been stolen.
Christian has also filed a lawsuit.
Kayla Phillips, 21, described a story nearly as harrowing as Christian’s. After reading about what happened to Christian, Phillips came forward and told the New York Daily News and the New York Post that she was similarly harassed by New York police in February after she bought a $2,500 orange suede Céline handbag from the upscale store.
Phillips, a nursing student from Brooklyn, told the newspapers that four officers approached her at a nearby subway stop just minutes after she made the purchase and wanted to know why she used a temporary debit card to buy the bag. Phillips responded that she had just opened a new bank account when she bought the purse.
“They were very rough,” she told the Daily News. “I didn’t know what was happening.”
Phillips called her mother, Wendy Straker, who said she overheard the police officers ask her daughter: “What are you doing here in Manhattan? Where’d you get the money to buy that expensive bag?”
Straker said that the police were on the phone with a Barneys employee about the transaction.
When Phillips showed the officers her ID and new debit card, which arrived that morning, they let her go. But Phillips has not let the matter go: She has now filed a $5 million notice of claim with the city showing her intention to sue the NYPD.
Christian has also filed a lawsuit for unspecified damages against the Madison Avenue store and the NYPD who wrongly accused him of fraud.
Christian, who lives with his mom in Queens, splurged on the belt because he had seen it worn by one of his favorite music stars, Harlem rapper Juelz Santana. But on April 29, he was grabbed by undercover officers on the street after he left the store. According to the civil rights lawsuit, Christian was asked “how a young Black man such as himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt.”
When a Barneys store employee asked him for ID as he was using his Chase debit card to buy the belt, Christian showed the clerk his state ID.
At the local police precinct, Christian again showed his ID, debit card and receipt for the belt, but officers still refused to believe him.
The suit claims he was allowed to leave after two hours in the cell only after police contacted Chase Bank, which verified that the debit card belonged to Christian.
But the NYPD says he was held for just 42 minutes—as if that would rectify the situation.
Christian says he will never shop at Barneys again.
For its part, a Barneys New York spokesman said, “Barneys New York typically does not comment on pending litigation. In this instance, we feel compelled to note that after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual, other than the sale. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights.”
It’s unclear how the police would know to stop Christian on the street and inquire about the purchase if there was no involvement from the store.