A newly engaged woman has accused an upstate New York cidery of racially profiling her and her group of friends and interrupting her now-fiancé’s proposal to accuse them of stealing a T-shirt from the gift shop.
Cathy-Marie Hamlet shared her account on Facebook, calling out Angry Orchard in Walden, N.Y. for singling out her party over the alleged T-shirt theft because they were “the only black people at [the] establishment.”
According to Hamlet, the group of eight people — who had traveled up from Manhattan to have some hard cider in honor of her boyfriend’s 40th birthday — was immediately approached by security staff during their July 21 visit.
‘A young lady from security approached us and said to him, ‘I’m sorry sir, but I have to check your back pocket. I was told that you stole a T-shirt from the gift store,’” she recounted. “My boyfriend then emptied all of his pockets, while still trying to keep the ring box hidden from my sight. She then walked away, and my boyfriend and I sat down at the table and he began his proposal speech.
“MID-PROPOSAL, the same young lady from security walks back towards [us] and says to me, ‘I’m sorry, I need to check your bag. I was told that he gave it to you, and you put it in your bag.’ Mind you, my bag isn’t even large enough to fit a T-shirt. I emptied my entire bag in front of her, and since this was the SECOND time she had walked over, I said, ‘I know you’re just doing your job, but I can’t help but wonder if this is because we’re black. We’re the only black people here at your establishment.’ Of course, she said that that wasn’t the case.”
After the staffer left a second time, the proposal resumed. Hamlet accepted, prompting bystanders to cheer and the couple’s friends to gather around. At that point, the security guard returned to search the entire group.
“Then surprise, surprise ... the same young lady from security walks over to the group of us and says, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you all were a part of the same party. I have to check all of your purses and pockets.’ So at this point, the rest of security walks over and there’s six of them approaching us. Of course my friends told them none of us stole a T-shirt from their establishment, at which point they started getting aggressive and saying that not only them, but also patrons saw my boyfriend steal the shirt and/or transfer it to me to put in my bag!!
“Another woman in security yelled to one of the male security [guards], ‘Call the police! I saw you steal it.’”
Hamlet then asked the guards if they had security cameras — which they did — and told them to watch the tape to prove that the theft had occurred. She added that the group left after staffers started recording them and wrote down their license plate number.
“I have never been so humiliated in my life,” she wrote, adding that she and other friends left “in tears.” “On what was supposed to be one of the best days of my life, I was chased out of Angry Orchard by security who followed us all the way to the parking lot. I’m sorry, and not to sound pretentious, but as a doctor, I have no reason to steal a $28 T-shirt when I could afford to buy ALL of the T-shirts in their gift shop.
“if you don’t want black people buying your product or frequenting your establishment, then maybe put a sign on the door so that we know we are not welcome,” she concluded. “I love hard cider, but Angry Orchard will never touch these lips again.”
Hamlet is asking Angry Orchard to review their security footage and apologize for the incident. She also posted a photo of three staff members waving off her group.
A friend posted the following on FB about how they were racially profiled by security at @AngryOrchard *during her marriage proposal*.— Magdalene Visaggio (@MagsVisaggs) July 22, 2019
Please share so Angry Orchard knows what happened. pic.twitter.com/3pwibjrIXI
In a statement posted to Facebook on Tuesday, Angry Orchard admitted that staff “mishandled the situation” and revealed that those involved have been “replaced.” Staff will also receive training to avoid “unconscious bias.”
“As soon as we learned about this incident, we launched an investigation into what happened and got in touch directly with the guest involved to express our sincerest apology and offer to make it right,” the statement reads. “We recognize that we badly mishandled this situation and our team’s response was inexcusable. As of yesterday, we have replaced the security team members working that day and the manager who was on duty. We are initiating additional, mandatory training on security awareness and unconscious bias for everyone on staff to prevent something like this from happening in the future. We’re deeply sorry that our guests were mistreated. This event does not reflect our company values of respect for all and creating a welcoming environment for our guests, and while we wish it didn’t occur at all, we are treating this moment as a valuable learning experience for our staff.”
The cidery’s Facebook page had been targeted by negative reviews since Hamlet shared her story, with one poster slamming it as “despicable” and “racist.”
Hamlet and Angry Orchard have not yet responded to Yahoo’s request for comment.
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