Metro Morning

Aritzia apologizes to customer who had 'shockingly racist experience'

Samantha Grant went to buy a winter coat at a downtown Toronto store last week, only to return empty-handed and "stung" by a racist remark she says an employee directed at her.

Woman wants to ensure similar experience doesn't happen again

Samantha Grant says she was shocked by a racist remark she says an employee directed at her. (Samantha Grant)

Samantha Grant went to buy a winter coat at a downtown store last week, only to return empty-handed and "stung" by a racist remark she says an employee directed at her.

The Toronto woman went to the Queen West location of Vancouver-based Aritzia last Thursday and asked an employee for assistance after she could not find her size on the rack.

"While she was looking, I overheard her speaking to another employee, that she didn't know why she was helping me; I probably wouldn't be able to afford the coat because I was black" Grant told Metro Morning.

I kind of got a rush of emotions that I never felt before.- Samantha Grant

Grant says she was stunned by the remark and immediately left the store.

"Mostly, because I knew I would become emotional if I did" acknowledge the remark, she said.

"It really stung," Grant said.

"I kind of got a rush of emotions that I never felt before and knew I had to leave and be more rational about this."

'Radio silence'

Grant says upon arriving at home, she immediately wrote a letter to Aritzia but "got radio silence for several days."

So on Monday, she and several friends and colleagues tweeted at the store, requesting a response.

Grant says she received a "form letter response that really didn't tell me anything" after airing the encounter on Twitter.

However, on Tuesday, Grant says a customer service representative reached out to her, offering to send the coat as an apology.

"I wanted to know what they were going to do to rectify the situation to make sure it didn't happen to anyone else," she said.

In a statement to CBC News, Aritzia said Grant's experience was "unacceptable," and acknowledged and apologized for the delayed response.

Aritzia said it is conducting "one-on-one meetings" with staff at its Queen West store and "a comprehensive review of our policies, including the time it takes to reply to customer concerns."

Grant says "sensitivity training or workshops would be beneficial so staff really know how to appropriately interact with customers."

She is expected to meet with Aritzia's vice-president of retail on Friday.

Though she describes her interactions with Aritzia in the aftermath of last week's experience as "really positive," she says she wants to "keep the pressure on them and hold them to account to make sure that they're going to move forward with this in an appropriate way." 

"I knew I had to use my story as a way to make sure that no one else had to feel that pain that I felt that day."

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