Should stores bar shoppers based on what they are wearing?

Discussion
Nov 20, 2015

Following last Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks on multiple restaurants, a concert venue and a sports stadium in Paris, it is understandable that security personnel at other so-called soft targets in the country are on high alert. But personnel at a Zara store in Plaisir, west of Paris, were accused of taking their caution too far when they barred a French woman from entering because she wore a Muslim headscarf, or hijab.

After a video of the incident made its way to YouTube, in which a security guard explains that no one wearing a head covering can enter, Zara fired the guard and the store manager. While a 2010 French law prohibits anyone from wearing garments that completely cover their face, such as a burka, it does not extend to headscarves.

"This type of mentality is unheard of at Zara and there have never been instructions given out to act this way," Jean-Jacques Salaun, Zara’s head of French stores, told Agence France-Presse.

[Image: Zara]

Concerns about shopper dress are nothing new for retailers. In a 2012 discussion on RetailWire, many expressed support for an independent pharmacy in New York State after it posted signs advising people wearing sunglasses and hats or hoodies to remove them before entering its locations. The stores, Cornerstone Drug and Gifts and Keesville Pharmacy in Rouses Point, NY, took the step after a person wearing sunglasses and a head covering carried out armed robberies in the area.

The owner of the businesses, Dan Bosley, said he decided to post the signs to protect his employees. "(They) become like family, and a threat against them is a threat to your family," he told the Press-Republican at the time. "It’s really scary. I worry about it every day."

Do you think retailers should be able to create a dress code for customers that determines who may or may not enter a store? Do retailers need to change their security practices in light of the ever increasing danger posed to employee and customer safety by terrorists, the mentally ill carrying firearms, etc.?

Braintrust
"Retailers need to balance personal liberty with safety. Sometimes they are going to get things right, other times they will be wrong. And when they get it wrong, like the Zara employee did, it can blow up into a PR nightmare."

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12 Comments on "Should stores bar shoppers based on what they are wearing?"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

This is a touchy topic, one that will produce dissent no matter what position a commenter takes. Retailers need to balance personal liberty with safety. Sometimes they are going to get things right, other times they will be wrong. And when they get it wrong, like the Zara employee did, it can blow up into a PR nightmare.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

Many restaurants have required dress codes for customers based on issues far less serious than potential robberies or terrorism and they are able to enforce them. Retailers should be allowed to set dress codes BUT they will have to accept the consequences of these actions.
Many of the freedoms that America has been known for are coming under scrutiny based on the situations in our country and the world. I believe a business owner has the right to decide who he serves or does not! Many of our freedoms are coming under fire, mostly from those think that freedom allows them to also be free of the law.

David Livingston
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

We need to flush political correctness down the toilet and allow stores to decide who can come in and who can’t. Retailers that take this too far will lose business and get bad press. Customers in your store are like guests in your home. Businesses should have the say on who comes in. When people have the living daylights scared out of them they don’t always make the best decisions but they have to go with their gut. Zara should just accept the bad press but go with their instincts if they feel that is what is best going forward. I would never fire someone for protecting customers. However I might retrain and educate them.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

I’m not sure a dress code is appropriate, but requiring an uncovered and recognizable face, might be legitimate. After all, sometimes photo ID is required as a condition for some forms of payment. It’s a sticky issue for sure, intertwined with privacy issues.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

This is hard to decide what is right. How do you straddle the fence without offending someone? Upscale restaurants and sporting venues in some cases have instituted some form of a dress code over the years. In some cases it is easy to agree. Yet in others, one questions the motive behind it. After last Friday everyone’s nerves are a bit frazzled and understandably. The perpetrators made it clear no place is safe. We witnessed casual restaurants, sporting events and concerts disrupted by senseless violence followed by threats to many other peace-loving countries including us. I am not sure there is a way to communicate with these groups except with the “eye for an eye” mentality. All that I have said leaves me sad.

Brian Kelly
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

I ran the Eddie Bauer store on Boylston in Boston. Shoplifting was chronic. There was a guy we called Poncho Man. He wore a poncho he lifted from us. I took him to court for shoplifting. He walked.

In Chicago, I chased a junkie who came in rail thin and left preggers. She threatened to stab me on a sunny, busy lunch time Wabash. I let her walk.

When security was in position, we banned some unsavory folks from entering the store. But security was not always in place and the threat of racial profiling is great. The crooks cased the storefront from Marshall Field’s across the street. Unfortunately security was not always in position.

Terrorism is on a completely different level. A prominent and busy shopping district is now termed a “soft target.” If you doubt, visit the memorial outside of Harrod’s. Now a days, chamber of commerce affiliation and a close relationship with the “beat cop” is the minimum. You need friends. Detailed training for all staff is a must.

Yep, “retail ain’t for sissies!”

Gordon Arnold
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

The question might have been more palatable simply by changing the word who to what. It is no secret that there many types of clothing and/or accessories that are offensive to the large majority of clientele. There are other types of clothing and/or accessories that are standard uniform for pilfering and should be considered high-risk to the establishment.

The problem with this is the ability to place interpretation into the rules. This opens enough possibilities for many ramifications that interfere with things like employment, litigation and, of course, public reaction and response. This is why we might consider taking this problem on with our efforts responding to specific articles and phrases instead of people. Then we will no doubt be confronted with the targeted materials and phrases becoming religious artifacts and prayer. Isn’t it nice to have so many anti-establishment laws and lawsuits? This is what we get when words, opinion and money govern in place of the people.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
2 years 5 months ago

As a customer I do not want to shop or be in a bank with someone in a ski mask, or wearing full cover such as a burka. Duh! Unfortunately, dress issues appear to have become yet one more thing for struggling retailers to worry about having to balance. (And another reason online commence is flourishing.)

As a customer I have absolutely no problem with a business asking me to lower my hoodie or parka hood, or to remove my sunglasses when going inside if it contributes to the perceived safety of their employees and all customers.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

People have a right to shop where they want to shop and stores should have a right to serve who they want to serve. In today’s open market and with social media any policy a store has will quickly determine if the public will support the policy or boycott the store.

Caveat: The decisions of who to allow in the store for whatever the reason is not up to a single employee it is up to company policy.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

The QOD prejudices itself when it includes the phrase “ever increasing danger.” Crime rates have been plunging for decades, and since (being shot during) an armed robbery is far and away and biggest danger an employee is likely to face, there is little rational basis for radical changes in “security” (things like the SuperBowl being notable exceptions).

And reasonable people don’t object to reasonable restrictions — hence the word “reasonable” — that you can’t come into a bank, or any other business with a stocking over your head, a full face mask, or anything else primarily designed to facilitate crime. So let’s not be coy — this has little to do with “dress codes.” It has everything to do with a business not wanting “them” in “their” store. If you want to follow in the footsteps of Lester Maddox, you’ll be in favor of this; if you see businesses as quasi-public places more than private clubs, you will not.

David Schulz
Guest
David Schulz
2 years 5 months ago

If you start with a “bomb” vest as a no-no, I think you would be on the right track.

Turning away potential customers because of how they are dressed does not benefit any retailer, so I am pretty sure that discretion would be used.

But if the government can tell you that you can’t ask former convicts applying for a job if they’re former convicts, that same government can tell you that shoplifters, credit card fraudsters and terrorists are legitimate potential customers who must be given access.

Then everybody will shop online.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

Very tough topic. There are certain basic dress codes you can/should enforce like no shirts and no shoes, but when you target an ethnic group, that creates a problem. The store will have to suffer the consequences of backlash, but in some regions there is none. Racism and phobia is accepted in some cultures/countries and only through actions of those willing to point it out does social change occur. It is very easy to go from dress code to racial profiling and you can’t go back to segregation for security reasons.

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Braintrust
"Retailers need to balance personal liberty with safety. Sometimes they are going to get things right, other times they will be wrong. And when they get it wrong, like the Zara employee did, it can blow up into a PR nightmare."

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