Myer accused of 'racial profiling' at Perth store

16-year-old Jaylen Garlett and his father Shem Garlett. Source: Facebook - Shem Garlett

Shem Garlett said his 16-year-old son, Jaylen Garlett, was unfairly targeted at Myer.

Department store Myer has been accused of "racial profiling" after security guards were called to check on an Indigenous teenager shopping at one of their Perth stores. 

In a letter of complaint publically shared on social media, Shem Garlett said his 16-year-old son, Jaylen was unfairly targeted by store staff.

The letter said the pair were shopping for Jaylen's school ball at Myer Forrest Chase on March 8.

Left: Mr Garlett's complaint letter that he sent to Myer and susequently posted on Facebook, and right, his son, Jaylen.
Left: Part of the complaint letter Mr Garlett's sent to Myer and susequently posted on Facebook, and right, his son, Jaylen.
Facebook/Shem Garlett

Jaylen was trying on shirts with the assistance of a staff member, when his father needed to make a phone call.

"(Then) I heard a call over the intercom calling for security to attend the men's formal wear fitting room. Since my son was in the fitting room I made my way there to see if he was ok," Mr Garlett said. 

"I asked the lady at the service desk if everything was ok. She told me that there was a boy unaccompanied in the change rooms that didn't have anything to try on so she called security."

"I advised the lady that she had called a security alert for my son and explained he was alone in the change room because was waiting for (a different staff member) to get another shirt for him to try on."

A stolen purse

The letter continues: "She seemed stunned so I asked her why she called security for my son. She told me that last week a purse was taken from the service area, expecting me to understand."

"I suggested that she was racially profiling as the only thing she would have noticed was a young Aboriginal man, in her mind, appearing to be in the wrong place."

Mr Garlett said this was "not grounds to make a panicked call for security over the intercom" as "she did not witness any crime being committed."

He claimed there were at least 10 staff including security in the area within 30 seconds, looking "confused and embarrassed."

The father and son were "tempted to walk away" but made the purchase as the first staff member was particularly helpful. 

'A misunderstanding'

A spokesperson for Myer told SBS News that the company had "met with the family and apologised." 

"Myer looked into this matter, which came about due to a misunderstanding between team members when the customer entered the change rooms without any clothing items. There were no other factors involved," the spokesperson said.

"Myer is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion across our stores and workplaces and we want our customers to feel welcome and safe shopping with us irrespective of gender, background or sexuality.

Not an isolated experience

But in his letter, Mr Garlett said the Myer incident was far from an isolated experience.

"Many of my Aboriginal friends and family have shared similar experiences of being racially profiled and harassed by security when shopping."

He said that Myer staff would benefit from Aboriginal Cultural Competency training "to improve their ability to serve Aboriginal customers."

"Alternatively you might consider employing more Aboriginal people to allow your staff more opportunities to interact positively with Aboriginal people."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch