A three-part series of TikTok videos documenting three Black women being suspected of shoplifting at a T.J. Maxx in Gilette, New Jersey, has gone viral and sparked accusations of racial profiling.
“He gonna stop us outside and say somebody called on us that we were suspicious,” one of the women says, referring to a security guard at the store and looking directly at the camera. “So I came back in with my receipts and everything on it that I bought my shit. Why would I steal from T.J. Maxx?”
The other woman standing beside her also looks straight into the camera. “What is T.J. Maxx? Not a goddamn thing to me?” she says, rolling her eyes.
The first video featuring the incident garnered more than 1 million views, with people weighing in on the apparent inconsistencies in the security officer’s story and his accusatory questions. The officer initially tells the three women he received a call from a Black man for possible shoplifting. Later in the videos, the officer says he talked to the man in person.
According to a study on the experience of Black shoppers in retail stores, 80% of Black shoppers reported experiencing racial stigma and stereotypes while shopping, and 59% reported being perceived as a shoplifter. The 55 middle-class Black shoppers interviewed in the study reported being followed around the store, ignored, and informed of the sale section without asking.
“I walked out of a store after paying my money I worked hard for, and you stopped me,” one woman says in the video. The three women tell the officer that he doesn’t understand how embarrassing it is to be accused of shoplifting after spending almost $300 at the store.
“You know what? Return it all,” one woman says. “We don’t want shit.”
The officer later questions why there are five receipts for the three women. A Black man standing next to the three women lists simple reasons why there could be more receipts than customers, such as buying gifts or using different payment methods.
“Dude’s never been to CVS,” one user commented. “You get 17 receipts.” Others online said the officer was trying to find anything because “he knows he’s in the wrong” and that the women should file a lawsuit.
“We Black. We suspicious,” one of the women says in the video while leaving the store.
When the Black man outside presses the officer for what basis the women were called in for shoplifting, the officer suggests the shoppers are just trying to get a story for the video, evading the man’s questions. The man replies that he doesn’t even like cameras. “I just don’t like these activities that have been going on,” he says.
“Gillette got no Black people going to jail today that got my last name on it,” one woman says. “Racial profiling—this is what this is, and we returned every fucking thing. They’ll never see me again.”
People in the comments praised the man for standing up for the three women and for questioning the officer’s story. Others demanded the officer receive better training.
“Get a lawyer,” one user commented. “Salute too the brother for protecting our sisters.”
Update 7:35am CT, July 7: When reached for comment, a T.J. Maxx spokesperson told the Daily Dot that the law enforcement personnel seen in the video are not employed by T.J. Maxx. “We can confirm that the plain clothes detective and police officers seen on this video do not work for our company, and that the Associates working in our store did not initiate these actions. Involvement from our Associates was at the direct request of law enforcement,” they said in the statement.
They added that the company has “attempted to get in touch directly with the customers involved” and is taking the matter “very seriously.”
“At T.J. Maxx, we value all of our customers and aim to treat everyone with dignity and respect,” they continued. “We are extremely disappointed and saddened that this occurred in our store.”
The three women could not be reached for comment.
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