Gabourey Sidibe should be a well-known actress but even if she was not it is always still surprising when racial profiling is still a thing in 2017.
The Oscar-nominated actress took to Lenny Letter where she described an unsettling experience with a sales lady at the Chanel store close to where she lives in Chicago.
I needed new eyeglasses. My friend has a really cute pair of frames from Chanel that I’d been coveting, so I decided to try to buy a pair for myself at the Chanel store near my apartment in Chicago, where I live while shooting the show Empire.
On my way to the store, another friend called. Taraji said she was stuck on set and asked if I would pick up a pair of sandals for her. No problem. I grabbed a cab and in a few minutes walked into the nearly empty shop. I was looking pretty cute.
My wig was long and wavy, I was wearing new ankle boots and my prescription Balenciaga shades, and I had a vintage Chanel purse on my shoulder, over my winter coat with a fur hood. I looked as though I were in a Mary J. Blige video. Just how I like to look! The glasses display was near the door, so I walked right over. A saleswoman and I locked eyes immediately.
I said “Hello” before she did. She greeted me, but the look on her face told me that she thought I was lost. “Can I take a look at your eyeglasses?” I asked. “We don’t have any,” she answered. “We only have shades.
There’s a store across the street that sells eyeglasses.” “Across the street?” I asked, confused. “Yes. In the building across the street on the fifth floor.” She gave me the name of a discount frames dealer.
I had been at her display for less than a minute, and she was literally directing me to another store. I knew what she was doing. She had decided after a single look at me that I wasn’t there to spend any money.
Even though I was carrying a Chanel bag, she decided I wasn’t a Chanel customer and so, not worth her time and energy. No matter how dressed up I get, I’m never going to be able to dress up my skin color to look like what certain people perceive to be an actual customer.
Depending on the store, I either look like a thief or a waste of time. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground between no attention and too much attention. Honestly, if I walked out of every store where someone was rude to me, I’d never have anything nice.
I still had to get Taraji’s sandals, so I asked where to find them. The saleswoman seemed annoyed but walked me further into the store. As we passed through, other employees who were of color noticed me. All of a sudden, the woman who had pointed me out of the store let me know that even though they didn’t have eyeglasses, the shades they carried actually doubled as eyeglass frames, so I should take a look at the shades I’d come to look at in the first place.
Just like that, I went from being an inconvenience to a customer. I bought two pairs of glasses and two pairs of sandals. Unfortunately, I’m used to people giving me bad service. Honestly, if I walked out of every store where someone was rude to me, I’d never have anything nice. So yes.
I spent my hard-earned money on the things I wanted from Chanel, and I’m certain that saleswoman got a commission for finally helping me. “I’ll buy this whole damn store!” To be fair, I don’t know why that saleswoman didn’t want to help me.
I suspect it’s because I’m black, but it could also be because I’m fat. Maybe my whole life, every time I thought someone was being racist, they were actually mistreating me because I’m fat. That sucks too. That’s not OK. I’ve felt unwelcome in many stores throughout my life, but I just kind of deal with it. As a successful adult, sometimes I walk out of the store in a huff, without getting what I want, denying them my hard-earned money.
Other times I spend my money in an unfriendly store as if to say “Fu$k you! I’ll buy this whole damn store!” But now as I sit staring at what seems like the hundredth customer-service survey I’ve accepted but not completed, it occurs to me: does it matter whether my waist is wide or if my skin is black as long as my money is green?
Of course after Gabby wrote this letter, Chanel was prompt with the apology:
Chanel expresses our sincerest regret for the boutique customer service experience that Ms. Sidibe mentioned in this essay. We are sorry that she felt unwelcome and offended. We took her words very seriously and immediately investigated to understand what happened, knowing that this is absolutely not in line with the high standards that Chanel wishes to provide to our customers.
We are strongly committed to provide anyone who comes in our boutiques with the best customer service, and we do hope that in the future Ms. Sidibe will choose to come back to a Chanel boutique and experience the real Chanel customer experience.