My own "Oprah at Hermes" moment

11/28/2016 08:43 pm ET Updated Nov 29, 2016

I am a long time resident of New York City. We live in Lower Manhattan with our two little children. Yesterday I had a rather appalling experience at one of the retail stores in the new Westfield shopping center - the Forever Flawless spa.

I decided to narrate the incident to a wider audience in an effort to keep such ugliness in check. Yesterday, on my way back home, I stopped at the “Forever Flawless” store to ask about the services they offer. The lady at the store refused to answer me and looked away. When I tried to engage her by asking more questions about the specific services, she made some hand gestures and once again looked away. Just as I was wondering if she had some speech difficulties, she sees a woman walking across the walkway, about 20 or more feet away, yells at her with a smile and offers her some samples saying “ma’am would you like to try our samples?”. The woman who was in a hurry, waved a “No” and briskly walked away while I was standing right in front of the store assistant getting ignored!

For a moment I was not sure how I should react. I wondered if I should simply forget the episode and walk away as if nothing happened or push back and challenge them to explain their behavior. My instincts propelled me to do the latter. I believed that if I questioned what they did, maybe they would think twice before repeating their actions.

So I very politely and calmly asked her why she did what she did. Her manager, a guy, quickly came along and much to my surprise both of them started defending their behavior saying perhaps I cannot afford their service!!! I am still in a bit of shock. The only visible difference between me and the woman walking across the hallway was my skin color. I am brown-skinned, Indian to be specific. They were certainly not interested in engaging or providing service to people who look like me. When I contacted the concierge to report this problem, I learnt that they have received a similar complaint about this exact store from another person in the past.

I have always taken a lot of pride in the diversity of our community. There is a reason why we choose to live and raise our kids in this part of the world.  It is a community that celebrates people from all over the world. In particular, we have a significant number of brown-skinned people living, working & thriving here. It is a shame that we have to house a retailer of this kind amidst ourselves. It just spoils the vibe of this diverse neighborhood.

Apparently this is not the first time they have done this. It has happened before. I decided to stick my neck out and write about this with the hope that they don’t do it again. My hope is that my virtual screaming and kicking will make them take a pause and fix their attitude.

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