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Barneys Denies Allegation Of Racism As Backlash Grows

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BARNEYS NEW YORK STORE
UNITED STATES - MARCH 16: A Barneys New York logo is pictured as a woman enters the Madison Avenue store in New York, Tuesday, March 21, 2006. | Getty
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After a lawsuit was filed against Barneys New York this week accusing it of racial discrimination, the upscale retailer said Wednesday that it has "zero tolerance" for such behavior.

Trayon Christian, 19, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court claiming he was targeted by workers at Barneys' flagship store on Madison Avenue. According to the lawsuit, police approached and detained Christian after he had purchased a $349 Ferragamo belt because they didn't believe a young black male could afford it. Cops eventually confirmed that the debit card used for the purchase belonged to Christian, and he was released.

The 90-year-old retailer said that it normally does not comment on pending litigation, but released a statement on the incident regardless.

“In this instance, we feel compelled to note that after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale," the company posted on its Facebook page Wednesday. "Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights.”

Christian's lawsuit claims that Barneys staff had called police and said that the belt purchase was fraudulent.

The retailer did not offer any additional details on Facebook about how it handled the situation internally, or its policies for checking fraudulent payments. It declined to comment further Wednesday.

New York-based Barneys, a longtime staple of Manhattan's luxury shopping scene, is a privately-held company owned by hedge fund Perry Capital, which took control when the chain restructured its debt in 2012. Barneys has more than 40 stores around the country.

Facebook commenters who said they were Barneys customers did not respond well to the company's statement.

"I don't believe this for a second," one commenter wrote. "I will not be purchasing anything from Barneys in the future. You have lost my business. I refuse to give my money to a company that supports racial profiling."

"You disappoint me Barneys," wrote another. "It's quite revolting. I've been given the side eye and the raised eyebrow before while in your store so I do not doubt for a second that your clerk didn't discriminate. You should be ashamed!"

"Nice try," a third commenter quipped. "Guess who won't be stepping foot in your store ever again?"

This story has been updated to reflect that Barneys declined to comment.

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