Judging What We Don’t Know: The Intangible Value of Status Symbols

If you, like Errol Louis, have trouble comprehending the logic behind a "not-filthy-rich" person buying a $2,500 purse because you would never want that yourself, I'll put it into language you can understand.

Arrest Quotas and Racial Profiling at Luxury Stores

New York state's attorney general is launching an investigation into Macy's and Barney's after news reports revealed that blacks and other minorities were routinely being stopped by police after purchasing luxury items. The Daily News reports that one of the reasons why this kind of racial profiling has been happening is because Macy's may have a quota of "five arrests per week" and an "internal race code system."

Racially Profiled While Shopping at Barneys

This is how a shopping trip to buy a belt should go: You see a belt you want. You go to a store to buy the belt. You pay in cash or credit/debt or with a check (if you’re still paying for things with a check for some reason), and the cashier checks your I.D. if necessary. Thank you, have a nice day, enjoy your new belt.

Here’s how a shopping trip to buy a belt should not go: You see a belt you want, which happens to be a designer belt that costs $349. You go to a store to buy the belt, and that store happens to be Barneys. You give the cashier your debit card, and the cashier asks to see your I.D., which you hand over. The clerk rings up the purchase and doesn’t say anything to you as you leave, but after you leave the store two undercover cops stop you, and then tells you that your debit card isn’t real and that Barneys called them to report you. Confused, you do everything the police ask you to do, including allowing them to search your bag and handing over all the I.D. you have on you. You also answer questions from them like, “How could you afford a belt like this?” and “Where did you get the money from?” The police handcuff you and take you into custody where they hold you for 42 minutes and then let you go after verifying that your debit card is authentic and actually belongs to you. Also, you’re a 19-year-old black college student studying engineering from Queens who works part-time.

This happened to Trayon Christian, and he’s filing a lawsuit against Barneys. He also went back to the store to return the belt.

Photo: Stacy Huggins