Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters has responded to accusations that its employees used code names to racially profile customers, Today reports.
In recent weeks, social media users identifying themselves as former employees at the company have shared experiences where their colleagues used the code names “Nick,” “Nicky” or “Nicole” to disproportionately profile Black shoppers. The news comes amid similar allegations against employees at Anthropologie, which, along with Urban Outfitters and Free People, are all owned by URBN.
“I worked at Urban Outfitters, the same company that owns Anthropologie and Free People, for 3 years,” one person shared on Twitter. “I worked mostly at the Georgetown location in DC. The terms ‘Nick/Nicole’ were used to specify someone who could be [shoplifting.] Most of the time it was used for a Black person.”
I worked at Urban Outfitters, the same company that owns Anthropologie and Free People, for 3 years. I worked mostly at the Georgetown location in DC. The terms “Nick/Nicole” were used to specify someone who could be shoflifting. Most of the time it was used for a Black person pic.twitter.com/TwosfDH4Q8
— Talia (@tsbrodie) June 17, 2020
Others took to Instagram to share similar experiences.
“Both urban and free people use this term and it has made me so extremely uncomfortable when working there,” one person wrote in response to a post from Diet Prada. “We are taught it is a term for any suspicious shopper but I quickly learned most people that were labeled a ‘nick’ over the walkies was a [Black] person. So so so awful.”
“I worked at urban outfitters (both are part of Urban Inc) and we used the term ‘Nick’ to identify [shoplifters],” another added. “It’s sickening that it seems many other stores in the brand used it to racially profile POC!”
In a statement to Today, Urban confirmed that the code names, along with similar ones, are used to refer to potential shoplifters but expressed disappointment at the fact that the policy had been “misused.”
“We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the reports of racial profiling in our stores, and we profusely apologize to each and every customer who was made to feel unwelcome,” the company said. “Urban Outfitters absolutely rejects racism, racial discrimination and profiling of any form, and we have revised our shoplifting prevention policy to eliminate the use of any code words.”
The company, which had been previously accused of also appropriating cultures for monetary gain, said it would make an effort to foster diversity and inclusion at the company by conducting a third-party review of its store practices, organizing mandatory diversity training and hiring more employees of diverse backgrounds.
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