Last week, Gabourey Sidibe published an essay in Lenny, Lena Dunham’s email newsletter, in which she described being discriminated against at a Chanel boutique, where she came to buy glasses frames and some sandals which Taraji P. Henson had asked for. The saleslady initially told her to buy glasses at another shop across the street and then, when Gabby was recognized by additional staff, she was told that the glasses would work as frames not just as sunglasses, and given decent service. She knew she was being turned away for her appearance, she was dressed very well and she wrote that she was uncertain if it was because she was black or because she was a larger person. She also described how she’s come to expect this type of discrimination in stores as it’s happened her whole life, and she wondered whether to complain because she’s used to it. Many of you wrote about your experiences shopping while black and how you’ve been followed and had items snatched from you and it was eye opening to me. Thank you for sharing that and I’m sorry that happens to you so regularly, it’s outrageous and I can’t imagine how that would feel.
More than anything I came away from Gabby’s essay with a better understanding of what it’s like to try to get customer service as a person of color, and everything was so well written and thoughtful that I also got a glimpse of the guilt and shame that falls on someone who is subjected to it. It’s not over for people when they step out of that sh-tty store. After that they have to decide whether to say anything.
Well Chanel has issued an apology to Gabby and while they say the right words there’s a little something missing here for me.
Chanel expresses our sincerest regret for the boutique customer service experience that Ms. Sidibe mentioned in this essay. We are sorry that she felt unwelcome and offended. We took her words very seriously and immediately investigated to understand what happened, knowing that this is absolutely not in line with the high standards that Chanel wishes to provide to our customers. We are strongly committed to provide anyone who comes in our boutiques with the best customer service. We do hope that in the future Ms. Sidibe will choose to come back to a Chanel boutique and experience the real Chanel customer experience.
I like how they gave their “sincerest regret,” wrote that they took it seriously, investigated immediately and clarified that this isn’t “in line” with their standards. I would have liked to have read an additional line condemning discrimination and stating that Chanel does not tolerate customer profiling or discrimination of any kind. They did say it was unacceptable, in a roundabout way, and as far as corporate apologies go this was decent, especially compared to Pepsi, Delta, Fyre festival, etc. That bar is set extremely low though.
Photos credit: Getty