A clothing store in downtown Savannah, Georgia, raised some eyebrows recently when it waived a $20 appointment fee for black customers and other people of color while keeping the fee intact for white customers, WJCL-TV reported.
What are the details?
Civvies on Broughton adopted the appointment system after reopening since the COVID-19 shutdown, the station said, adding that it then waived the fee for everyone but white customers in order to try to help disenfranchised communities.
"This promotional waiver serves the substantial business purpose of centering and prioritizing people who might not be able to access vintage clothing," store manager Raine Blunk told WJCL.
"Most of the feedback has been that our decision to waive this refundable deposit is racist because it favors people of color, black people, and indigenous people," Blunk added the station.
However, the store said that white customers who don't have $20 for an appointment can select the "don't agree" on the booking form so the booking manager can reach out and come up with other options, WTOC-TV reported.
But Civvies did say it wouldn't accept appointments with white customers who simply refuse to pay because of the policy, WTOC added.
Once the news was posted on the store's social media sites, backlash against the move was fierce. WJCL said some of the comments threatened lawsuits and boycotts against the 15-year-old business — but Blunk told the station that the fee waiver doesn't discriminate against anyone.
"Obviously it is unfortunate to have thousands of people commenting and messaging us saying that they are going to sue us and have contacted the Department of Labor because this is a violation of their rights," Blunk noted to WJCL, adding that "we believe that what we are doing is within the confines of the law."
Blunk also told the station that non-whites "are at this time the most likely to be affected by the poverty line, so this is not based on a racial favoritism toward black people, people of color, and indigenous people. It is simply a fact that that group of people are the most likely to be affected by a loss of historical equity, and we are taking a small step to restore that as a business to choose to wave this fee temporarily."
Civvies on Broughton youtu.be
Amid the backlash last week, a statement from the store's owners read, "It was not our intention to act in any way that might be perceived as discriminatory and for that we apologize."
In addition, the store manager added a lengthy apology post on Facebook acknowledging that the policy as written was "insulting to some black people, people of color and indigenous people" because it "felt like white saviorism."
The manager also said the policy was "alienating and overly aggressive to some white people, especially those who responded very negatively, for whom a different conversation or platform about racial inequities could have been more educational or informative."