A North Carolina woman was shopping at a Pineville Staples when she says an employee humiliated her by claiming she was shoplifting.
According to WSOC News, Sherell Bates is expecting twins, but she wanted to pick up some school supplies for her existing children. She now says that she regrets it.
“Being pregnant is already high-risk, and having to deal with that, just additional stress that I don’t need,” Bates said.
As she was checking out, Bates said that a police officer approached her and asked if she was shoplifting.
“Mid-transaction, a police officer approached me and insisted he wanted to speak with me,” Bates said. “He asked what was under my shirt.”
She said that she thought it was a joke.
“So, my response was, ‘Twins,’” Bates said. “I’m 34 weeks with twins. I’m having a boy and a girl.”
She said that the officer didn’t believe her and asked her again.
“At that point, to avoid him asking me again, I actually lifted my shirt just a little bit, just to expose my belly, so he could see that I’m just a regular pregnant person buying school supplies,” Bates said.
The Pineville police said that the Staples manager asked the officer to speak with Bates because it was feared she was “concealing merchandise.”
“When I confronted her about what happened, she admitted that, ‘In the past, we’ve had a lot of people putting school supplies or merchandise in their clothes and hiding, so I asked the officer to reach out to you,’” Bates said.
After the news broke of the story, Staples’ corporate office released a statement saying that the manager apologized to the customer and gave her back her money for her entire purchase.
“After a quick conversation, the issue was resolved, the manager apologized to the customer and refunded their transaction due to the inconvenience,” the statement said. “At Staples, we want all customers to feel welcome in our store and work with our store associates to try and foster an inclusive culture. As an organization, we would like to apologize to the customer if that was not the case in this instance.”
Bates said that she wants to speak to the corporate office on Monday about the incident and the statement.
“You pretty much jumped the gun without any type of evidence, except my stomach is large,” Bates said. “That’s not fair. No mom should have to go through that.”
Staples told Raw Story in a statement: “On Friday at our Pineville location a Staples’ manager mistakenly assumed a customer was shoplifting and reported this assumption to a police officer visiting the store. The police officer questioned the customer and quickly confirmed there was no theft. Based on the outcome, Staples’ issued a full refund to the customer. Staples has since conducted a full investigation into the matter, and determined that the manager in question did not follow correct protocol and also failed to adhere to our existing policy on how to interact with our customers. As a result of this finding, the manager has been terminated and Staples has apologized to the customer. At Staples, we want all customers to feel welcome in our stores, and work with our associates to foster an inclusive culture. As an organization, we would like to apologize to the customer as that was not the case in this instance.”