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Colorblind Collaring

Avoid retail racism in your efforts to nab shoplifters and serve customers.

This story appears in the May 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When Amanda Berube started working at the Cambridge,Massachusetts, The Children's Place, a nationwidechildren's clothing chain based in Secaucus, ,she was surprised by one aspect of her training: instructions toshadow African American customers in hopes of preventing .Berube was also instructed not to give large shopping bags toAfrican American customers, not to tell them about and not toinvite them to apply for store credit cards. Berube, who is white,received similar instructions when she was promoted to thechain's Watertown, Massachusetts, location. When her complaintto the chain's district manager brought no response, she wentto the state.

The Massachusetts Commission Against sent AfricanAmerican and white "customers" to The Children'sPlace stores to test what treatment they received and sooncollected enough adverse evidence to prepare a lawsuit. In December2000, the chain agreed to a 22-step settlement. Corrective measureswould include hiring a consultant to examine company policies,conducting anti-discrimination training in its Massachusetts storesand donating $50,000 to charity.

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