“We tend to forget that retailers are the victims of crime when it comes to shoplifting,” she said.
But at least nine customers at the Macy’s store immortalized in “Miracle on 34th Street” say in lawsuits that the retailer is abusing the law, wrongly targeting minorities and holding customers for hours, years after it settled similar claims brought by the state attorney general by paying a $600,000 fine and changing practices. That agreement expired in 2008.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating the new claims against retailers. Last week, New York state stores agreed to post a customer “bill of rights” on their websites explicitly prohibiting profiling and unreasonable searches.
Usar’s client, Ayla Gursoy, was detained in 2010 after she carried two coats in her arms up several flights of stairs in the flagship store, according to her suit. Store security accused Gursoy, who speaks little English, of trying to steal. She was asked to sign a form admitting guilt and pay a fine. She refused, the police were called and she was arrested.
Gursoy and others say they were held for hours in Room 140, a bare room with two small, barred holding cells with wooden benches within the store.
Elina Kazan, a spokeswoman for Cincinnati-based Macy’s, said the company’s practices prohibit coercion when recovering fines.
“Our policy of exercising our right to pursue a civil recovery payment is consistent with common practice in the retail industry and within the parameters of the law,” she said.