Barneys apologizes after racial profiling accusations

October 25, 2013 5:49:54 PM PDT
Barneys has issued an apology after coming under fire from at least two customers claiming racial profiling.

They have also hired a civil rights expert to figure out how this happened.

One of the city's most prestigious department stores has pushed its damage control into overdrive.

Barneys New York's CEO wrote, "Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies."

"It just made me feel so low, like I didn't deserve to shop there," said Kayla Phillips, a former Barney's customer.

Kayla Phillips recounting for Eyewitness News exactly what happened last February at Barney's flagship store on Madison Avenue. She had wanted to purchase the pricey, $2,500 Celine bag for quite some time.

"I waited until I got the full money enough to buy it," Phillips said.

She used a new, temporary debit card the bank had given her. It didn't have her name on it.

"And you had no trouble with it at the store?" Eyewitness News asked.

"No, no," Phillips said.

But she says there was trouble after she left Barneys and got to the subway station.

"I was stopped by my arm by two officers and another two blocked me off," Phillips said.

She says when they started to question her legitimate purchase she started panicking.

"I'm going to write down they guys' badges numbers, so that's when one of the officers touched my hand. He said, 'don't go in your bag, don't go in your bag,'" Phillips said.

Kayla's lawyer told Eyewitness News she filed a notice of claim against the city last June. She wasn't planning on going public about any of this, until 19-year-old Trayon Christian came forward this week.

He also said he was actually stopped and arrested after legitimately buying an expensive Ferragamo belt at Barney's.

The city's police commissioner was peppered with questions about it at his briefing Friday, but only addressed the overall theft problem in the area.

"In the 19th precinct, which is where Barney's is located, the number of grand larcenies has gone up 70%," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

Now there's an online petition urging mega-star Jay-Z to sever all ties with Barney's, Kayla has returned her beloved bag.

But mere hours after demanding a meeting with Barneys management, Kirsten Foy, of Al Sharpton's National Action Network, says he received a personal call from CEO Mark Lee who pledged in his statement, "A thorough review of our practices and procedures as they relate to these matters. We have retained a civil rights expert who will be provided with unrestricted access to all aspects of our store operations."

And then, on Tuesday, there will be a meeting with community leaders, including Foy.