“If you’re a nice person and you work hard, you get to go shopping at Barneys. It’s the decadent reward.” That is, apparently, what Sarah Jessica Parker once told Vanity Fair, and the store proudly uses the quote as its Twitter bio. It’s taken on an unpleasantly ironic twinge in the last day, however, after a black teenager named Trayon Christian filed a lawsuit against the store, the city, and the NYPD, saying he was hassled and detained by police after purchasing a $349 Ferragamo belt. The lawsuit quickly went viral, and now Barneys is attempting to do a little damage control.
According to his lawsuit, as well as an interview with the Daily News , Christian, then 18, a student at New York City College of Technology who lives with his mom in Queens, bought the belt on April 29. The purchase itself occurred without a hitch, with Christian showing I.D. and paying with his debit card. But as he left the store, two undercover detectives stopped him, telling him “his identification was false and he could not afford to make such an expensive purchase,” per the lawsuit. According to Christian, the police told him “someone at Barneys called” them. The teenager was detained at the 19th Precinct for two hours before he was released without being charged. (A spokesperson for the precinct told the News he was only detained for 42 minutes, which seems a bit hair-splitty.)
The backlash against Barneys has been immediate. Black news blog The Root suggested the store at the very least owed Christian an apology, as well as compensation. Reporter Keli Goff added, “If Barneys is unwilling to help Christian recoup some of the dignity his allegations indicate the store robbed him of, then we should be unwilling to spend our dollars there.”
Yesterday, in an effort to stem the tide of angry blogging, Barneys issued a statement through Twitter and Facebook. It reads, in full:
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.
The statement, surprise, doesnt appear to be having its desired effect: soothing the angry hordes of would-be Barneys shoppers.
“You’re going down for this one, fuckers,” writes one cheery customer on Facebook. And another: “Nordstrom it is!”
That one must sting. Christian is suing for a whole laundry list of things, including unlawful search and seizure, unlawful arrest, unlawful imprisonment, assault, negligence on the part of the NYPD, and “negligence, carelessness and recklessness” by Barneys, for falsely alleging he’d committed a criminal act.
Christian has also returned the belt, and told the News he’ll never shop at Barneys again. His full complaint is below.
Trayon Christian Complaint
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 24, 2013