Christchurch craft store accused of racial profiling

From Checkpoint, 5:17 pm on 17 July 2019

A Māori woman is accusing craft store Lincraft of racial profiling, after she was accused of stealing cross-stitch from one of its shops in Christchurch.

River Jayden was shopping with her partner for cross-stitch at the Lincraft Bush Inn on Sunday, when she said the incident happened.

"I went in, spoke to a lady there and asked where the cross-stitch section was to find my partner. She gave me an awful look and showed me.

"We were in the store for probably about three minutes, and then my partner got cross-stitch, [then] we went in the queue."

She told Checkpoint that her phone then rang and she left the store, and that was when her partner heard the staff member telling the manager she should be investigated.

"While I was at the front of the store my partner heard this lady on the phone to the manager saying that I'd stolen cross-stitch and that I needed to be investigated and check out the cameras on me, in front of my partner who was clearly buying cross-stitch which she was kind of implying I'd stolen."

Ms Jayden then went to the manager, who she said responded very well and was apologetic.

However, she said the employee wasn't and defended her actions, telling Ms Jayden theft was a common problem for the store.

Ms Jayden said she believed there was clearly a racial undertone.

"Well to me it looked like racial profiling, like it was absolutely nothing other than that.

"I barely touched anything, I didn't have a bag or what would typically look like someone who was stealing.

"To me, it was such a shock ... The reason why I felt so frustrated and angered about it is that I spoke to the lady about racial profiling and being prejudiced and judgmental, and no apology to me, no apology to my partner."

Ms Jayden said she just wanted an official apology, because she believes her message did not get through to the employee in question.

After leaving the store, she sent Lincraft a message on Facebook - which Checkpoint has seen. Lincraft responded saying they were sincerely sorry for Ms Jayden's experience at the store.

But speaking to Checkpoint from the company headquarters in Australia, their chief legal officer Brian Swersky denied any racial profiling.

But Mr Swersky said the situation could have been handled better.

"At the outset, we vehemently deny the allegation of racial prejudice or being racist, that is certainly not the values our company espouses nor the values we espouse to our staff," he said.

"Having said that, the staff member concerned probably could've handled her [Ms Jayden's] concerns in a far better and far more discreet way."

Mr Swersky said an investigation was underway and invited Ms Jayden, who he referred to as Jayden throughout the interview, to a sit down meeting with the management to discuss what happened.

"I haven't actually had a counselling session with the person concerned because I'm in Australia, but we will do that and if we believe appropriate disciplinary action is needed or [if] we believe appropriate counselling or further education and training is needed for the staff member, then we will act accordingly.

"But to suggest our organisation is racist is downright insulting. I'm personally Jewish so I'm very sensitive to these sorts of allegations and we just don't accept it.

"If you're speaking to Jayden then please make contact with the store.

"Please come in and sit down with us ... let's have a sensible discussion about her concerns, legitimate concerns, I'm not downplaying her concerns - we empathise with her and what she's said. But as I said, we vehemently deny from the point of view of an organisation any racist overtone or any suggestion that there's any policy to target any particular ethnic group."

Ms Jayden said she was more than happy to attend a sit down meeting.

"I would meet with them, I would like some sort of communication that would be great. They said they'd email me but they haven't."

She said Lincraft has her email address and know how to get hold of her.