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Big 5 Sporting Goods / racial profiling/discrimination

Contact information:
Phone: 323-651-2909

I am a 35 year old African-American female. Saturday morning I went into Big 5 Sporting Goods in Beverly Hills to purchase a new pair of sneakers. The cashier rings me up and when he sees I am paying with a $100 bill, he calls for a manager to verify before finalizing the sale. The manager, Jennifer Brighton (Caucasian female) came to the register. The cashier give the bill to her, she begins to thoroughly examine the bill. She rubs both sides, she puts it up to the light, she crinkles it. Then she puts it under their UV light machine and turns to me and asks if I have another form of payment. I stated, No…and asked what was wrong with paying with cash. She said that she could not except the bill because it lit up in the machine telling her it was not a good bill and that I would have to pay some other way. I was absolutely outraged. She hands the bill back to me and I examine it too. I can clearly see the security watermarks within the bill when I hold it up to the light. I am arguing with her because I can see no reason why she wouldn’t take the bill.

She then says it is Big 5's policy not to take money that is suspect. I asked her how she cannot take a bill that I just got from the Wells Fargo bank just three blocks away. She told the cashier to help other customers and that she would take care of me. Upset, I did use an explicative word and she then told me that I had to leave the store. I left the store, went to the Wells Fargo bank, asked the bank manager and teller to verify that this was indeed a valid $100 bill and they provide me a print out where they scanned it three times and showed me under their UV light that it was valid currency. I went back to the Big 5 store, asked for the store number and her name.

I then went to another Big 5 in a more predominantly black neighborhood. I picked out the same shoes and went through the same exact process. The manager came out to verify the bill, and she told the cashier to proceed with finalizing the sale. I stopped them to ask for the $100 bill back, because I just needed to see whether or not a different store, with the same scanning machine, would have the same problem and they did not. I felt as if Ms. Brighton racially profiled me and decided she was not going to take the cash from me based on the way I looked. I was wearing a black hooded sweater, grey sweat pants, no make-up and my hair in a bun.

Later Saturday evening I took a Korean friend with me, gave her the same bill, asked her to walk into the Beverly Hills Big 5, grab anything and attempt to pay with the same “suspect” bill and the evening manager (Hispanic) gave his approval to proceed with finalizing the sale. My friend got the bill back and left the store. I needed to prove a point that it wasn’t about the bill, it was about me. I would understand if I was paying with a check or credit card and did not have proper identification, but cash, US currency, that is clearly valid money. If it is Big 5's policy to profile specific patrons and assume that however they pay is suspect something has to be done about this.

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