The lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed against Macy’s in New York City accuses the retailer of "coercive collection practice" against minority customers. The term doesn’t refer to traditional debt collections but instead refers to holding shoppers accused of shoplifting and forcing them to pay fines.
Cinthia Carolina Reyes Orellana, said she was shopping at Macy’s in New York City last year when a security guard took her to a "holding cell” at the store, accused her of trying to steal shirts and questioned her for three hours. Orellana wasn't allowed access to her phone to contact her family or a lawyer, was forced to sign legal papers admitting her guilt and had to pay a $100 fine in cash before she was turned over to the police, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit estimates that thousands of customers have been targeted using a similar "money collection scheme" that lawyers argue preys upon black, Hispanic and other minority customers using a "shopkeeper’s privilege" rule in New York's General Business Law that allows retailers to detain customers they believe tried to shoplift and ask them to pay a civil penalty without proving them guilty, according to DNAinfo.
"This coercive collection practice or scheme has become so profitable that Macy’s … has dedicated an entire unit within its existing store, which operates like a typical jail, equipped with holding cells, where alleged shoplifters are held for hours on end, and are pressured, threatened, and often harassed until they find no reprieve but to make civil penalty payments to [Macy’s]," the lawsuit says, according to DNAinfo.
A Macy’s representative could not immediately be reached for comment.
The lawsuit is the latest to allege racist business practices at Macy’s. The retailer came under criticism last year after many black and Hispanic customers emerged with tales of being falsely accused of shoplifting by store staff. Macy’s in August 2014 agreed to overhaul policies related to detaining potential shoplifters following an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
But Orellana's lawsuit claims the retailer has continued employing unfair practices in violation of that agreement.