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Originally published December 12 2013

Shopper sues Macy's after being illegally jailed in an in-store prison

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) This time of year is usually associated with holidays and family, friends and tradition, and, of course, gift-giving. But one Macy's shopper will forever remember it as a time for incarceration and lawsuits.

According to various reports, Rachid Bakhari has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the retail chain for being handcuffed and tossed into a jail cell at the flagship Macy's store in Manhattan two days after the 2012 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Bakhari "said the incident started when he tried to return an ill-fitting belt he had bought for $27, according to a lawsuit filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan," reported Canadian news website Canoe.

Not the first customer 'jailed'

According to the suit, Bakhari had removed the price tags from the belt at home. Because he had done so, the suit says he followed a sale clerk's instructions to retrieve a different belt with the tags still on it and then bring both to the cash register to finalize the return.

"Suddenly he was handcuffed by security personnel who tossed him into the store's jail cell, where he was held for three hours, the suit said," reported Reuters.

The jailed plaintiff said in his suit that "within its Herald Square store, Macy's maintains a jail cell, not well advertised in the promotions for its Thanksgiving Day parade."

As you might expect, Macy's did not immediately respond to a request for comment. What's more, Bakhari was never even charged with a crime.

The cell has been involved in other lawsuits against Macy's, and that includes one filed by actor Rob Brown, who stars in HBO's Treme and was one of a number of black shoppers who have accused Macy's of discrimination and who say they were detained by cops after making some luxury purchases (isn't the point of a retail store to sell merchandise?).

In 2003, The New York Times described a private jail in the Manhattan store that contains "two chain-link holding cells. People, some of them minors, are led to this room every day, where they are body-searched, photographed and then handcuffed to a long steel bench."

It's not clear how Macy's management sees its store as a law enforcement tool, but clearly they do.

Reuters reported that Bakhari is seeking $1 million for the "wounded feelings, mental suffering, humiliation, degradation and disgrace" he experienced while being wrongfully imprisoned.

"He never did get a belt that fit, even though he was charged for one that didn't fit, and that was confiscated from him," the lawsuit said.

In a separate report, the Times said Macy's, along with Barneys New York and other major retailers, have posted a one-page document called "Customer's Bill of Rights" that is aimed at racial profiling.

The blame game

The document was produced following talks with the Rev. Al Sharpton and others. Three separate racial profiling suits have been filed against Macy's in recent months.

"Profiling is an unacceptable practice and will not be tolerated," reads the document, which has been posted in recent days in stores like Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. "Employees who violate the company's prohibition on profiling will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment."

The addition of the document hasn't satisfied everyone, however.

Brown's attorney, John Elefterakis, called it "a marketing ploy."

"We don't believe that this is a solution. We're moving forward with our lawsuit," he told the Times.

Brown's suit and the others also names the New York Police Department. The shoppers, who are minorities, were stopped by police after making credit card or debit purchases.

The NYPD says its officers acted on information from the store; the store is blaming the police.


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