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Monday Motivation: Dollars And (No Common) Sense.. Our Experience With Carolina Girls

 

Monday Motivation:
Dollars And (No Common) Sense..

Our Experience With Carolina Girls 

 

 

Hey all Happy Monday!

It has been a busy, crazy, eventful weekend for Good Enough Mother. Or more appropriately, my daughter, Casey.

This is a long and very involved story and I am going to try to break it down so it’s easier to digest. Many of you who follow me on Facebook,  already know much of this but have asked for a concise version. So here goes.

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Casey, the Atlantic and me
(Photo credit: Sabrina Polkowski)

My family owns a home on Kiawah Island, South Carolina where we vacation several times a year. It’s always fun, restful and relaxing.

Near the home is a shopping center called Freshfields Village a quaint area with upscale shops and dining.

One of those shops is Carolina Girls.

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Carolina Girls in Freshfields Village 

Casey and her friend Sabrina went in look at wallets for the upcoming school year. The store has two sections, one with clothing and tchotchkes, the other side is a like a mid-range jewelry store.

As soon as Casey walked in, the 40-something, white saleswoman turned to her younger colleague and said, “Shoplifter” at which point they both giggled.

It was not a whisper. It was loud enough for Casey to hear and meant to be demeaning.

Casey, who, unlike me is non-confrontational, put the wallet back, turned and walked out.

But that shit hurt. I heard it in her voice. I could see it in her face.

I posted about it on my personal Facebook page where it was shared more than 1,000 times and garnered nearly 400 comments/interactions.

People also left comments on Freshfields Facebook page as well as that of Carolina girls, which now looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 7.54.57 AM

Yeah.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 1.16.00 AM

Oh. Look there.. 

 

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. In response to my post and the comments about it on their page, Carolina Girls posted a statement on their Facebook page. Here see for yourself.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 9.18.42 AM

 

Oh.. never mind. But here was the first “apology”.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 9.42.59 PM

 

Wait.

“Sad to see these comments on our social media.” ? Not sorry that an event may have happened; sorry that they’re being called out.

They did send me an email AFTER their posted statement. You will note, it is not signed by a person so I really have no idea who wrote it.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 9.37.40 AM

 

My face after reading Carolina Girls first statement
 M’kay then.

Their conditional apology, left much to be desired. Why?

Because there are a million different ways you can say, sorry without putting yourself in legal jeopardy (if that’s what they were concerned with) and  it starts with being heartfelt, which this statement was not.

Their self-centered “apology” pissed off a lot of folks who continued to let them know via their (now defunct) Facebook page.

The social shares continued and I began tweeting to them and their brands.

Why?

Because people pay attention when money or reputation is at stake.

Well most people, anyway.

Most people would want to get to the bottom of this.

Most companies, especially those in customer service would WANT to at least TRY to make it right.

Most.

Carolina Girls continued their woeful display of ineptitude when, a few hours later, they released the following statement:

 

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Hold UP!
Right. So a closer look at this statement:
1.We have conducted an extensive investigation into what actually transpired at our store yesterday. After an in-depth inquiry conducted with every employee at the store, not one of them witnessed any such incident as has been alleged. 
1a: They conducted an in-depth investigation without contacting/talking to the person the aggrieved person, Casey Parham.

2. We are as shocked as the rest of you that this type of slur would be uttered anywhere near, much less in our store. We can only conclude that the comment may have come from young shoppers in the store at the same time as Ms. Parham.
2a: As I mentioned before the store has two sections. Case and her friend Sabrina Polkowski were in the section of the store alone.

3. Since none of our employees saw Ms. Parham either, it would be difficult to verify, 
3a: Blatant lie: Several young employees Casey and Sabrina’s age interacted with them in the other portion of the store, specifically telling them about sales on Tom’s shoes.

4. If this had occurred at our store, the employee would no longer be in our hire.
4a: So you’re saying this didn’t happen?

5. This is not behavior we’re accustomed to seeing, and we’re very sorry that anyone patronizing our store would offer such an inappropriate accusation as this, simply to be hurtful. 
5a:  Are they saying what I think they are saying? Are they saying Casey Parham is accusing them of something that did NOT happen?

6. That is not our culture and it’s not our style. We’re sorry for the consternation this alleged incident created. 
6a: “Alleged incident” Damn.

7. We are relieved to report the result of our inquiry but are sorry if it did in fact happen in our store. 
7a: If it did happen in their store. Oh man.

8. We’ll reach out to Ms. Syler privately as well and hope we can get her into the store for the positive experience we are devoted to delivering to every customer who walks in the door.
8a: This is where they should have started.

 

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OMG. 

Perhaps the most stunning (and truly it was all stunning and not in a good way), was the inference that Casey lied.  —> we’re very sorry that anyone patronizing our store would offer such an inappropriate accusation as this, simply to be hurtful.

Really?

Wow. At this point I’m really starting to wonder if Carolina Girls is actually TRYING to make themselves look worse.

The tweets, Facebook mentions to their page, my page Freshfields page, all continued.

Until Carolina Girls social media strategist (whoever that is) decided to start deleting all the comments that were not favorable to Carolina Girls. Of course people noticed because. Well. Internet.

Because they have control over their own page, I urged people who had been following this fiasco, to go over to Yelp and leave a review. Yelp reviews cannot be removed by the business owner.

But you know what they can do?

Establish fake profiles and create fraudulent reviews. Which. Well. Yeah.

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And this one.

You will note, the African American woman’s name is Shanequia B. Only it’s not really. Her name is Tiffany Hines and she’s a well known actress. How do we figure that out?

Well. You know. Internet.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 9.45.58 AM

I reported the fake profiled to Yelp and they have since been dropped below the fold and not figured into the store’s overall ranking, which is currently one star.

Because. Well. Customer service.

By this time their brands are now figuring out something is going on because a few of them reached out to me directly as well as some other people just wanting to do the right thing. One of those was Vera Bradley, whose director of communications is sending Casey a note from the company.

There are others which I am going to save for a separate post because they really don’t deserve to be buried in this Carolina Girls shit storm.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get much worse, I found this public post on my Rene Syler, aka Good Enough Mother Page:

Jenny harrington

Oh Jenny. Jenny. Jenny. Jenny. That is your real name isn’t it?

Jenny Harrington, whose Facebook page has one photo on it, no cover picture and not been posted on since May 2015. Oh and is no longer there.

And I’m starting to sound fishy?

 
 

So where does this leave us? Well Casey and I have several interviews today and several of the brands carried by Carolina Girls have  reached out  with the general message that this is NOT on brand for them. So for those (very few) who didn’t understand why I was tweeting their brands, THIS is why.

Brands need to know where their merchandise is sold. We as consumers need to know that where we choose to spend our money appreciates our business at most; at the very least doesn’t treat us like criminals as soon as we cross the threshold.

#ShoppingWhileBlack

For Carolina Girls: Good GOD people.. I don’t even know where to start. Perhaps here: Don’t racially profile shoppers and then insult them. There is a part of me that wonders if they would have treated me that way? They may have felt some sort of way but I doubt they would have said anything because I’m a grown ass woman. They said that nonsense to a college student. A child. That makes them bullies of the worst order.

Instead of trying to make it better, they insulted and undermined Casey at every turn. Don’t do that. Learn the art of apology and make sure it has some heart in it.

For those of you who questioned why I continued on with this: one word.

Her.

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Casey… (Photo Cred: Sabrina Polkowski)

I have spent 19 years telling this child she can do anything she wants. And that’s true; except change the color of her skin.  A bit of her innocence died that day. I am thankful that it took this long but still…

That shit hurt.

It hurt me.

It hurt her.

To my darling daughter please know this: You have power. You have a voice. You matter. You did the right thing that day, holding your head high and choosing to spend your dollars elsewhere.

You are, in a word, amazing.

Never let anyone dim your shine.

As the curtain comes up on your life, show us your #BlackGirlMagic.

The world is waiting.

I love you.

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CASEY!
Photo cred: Sabrina Polkowski

 

27 Comments

  1. amy sturma

    August 1, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    As a white woman, this just makes me sad….and white privilege does exist…here is a BAM SMACK IN THE FACE example of this….and how do to they know in their “investigation” what she looks like or whom she talked to, OR if they talked to “all” of the staff, the whole two of them on that side…really…the two culprits….wow yeah because they are going to say yeah “I am a racist and made these racial slurs, I’m sorry..” No they are going to backtrack so fast…..
    Sad. sad. sad.

  2. charles powell

    August 1, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    @renesyler…..#props

  3. Karla Trotman

    August 1, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Rene, you know I am right in the foxhole with you. Someone says something to my child that attacks their innocence, I’m in Mama Bear mode, on my hind legs, ready to slap box with my sharp claws.

    It is unfortunate that only the overt (and uneducated) racists get to experience a public beatdown such as this. I do hope that they continue to feel the sting of their actions through a deep economic impact. Perhaps they should invest in both diversity training and crisis management. Both are obviously needed.

    No person, regardless of color, should feel like Casey was made to feel. I’m so sorry that this impacted your vacation. On the plus side, I love how it made Casey into a warrior.

  4. Gayle Mahoney

    August 1, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    GRRRR!!!! This makes me so angry at so many levels – and it hurts me, too. I feel so sad for Casey for having to endure this! It feels very personal to me because I have literally watched her grow up through your posts, videos and photos. It makes me think of the amazing video she made for you a few years ago (for your birthday or Mother’s day, I can’t remember) but it was so thoughtful, fun and loving! Knowing a bit about her makes me hurt even more for her. But what happens to Casey gives me even more insight to what Black kids (and adults) have to deal with every day – something I will never be able to relate to completely, my being White. If anything good can come out of this experience, maybe it is this – that the next time I hear about this kind of think happening to someone else, I will think of Casey, and feel the same empathy, anger and compulsion to do something about it as I felt when I learned this happened to her.

  5. amy

    August 1, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    I had a problem with a business, posted about it on their page and numerous mom groups (that got back to them and actually did effect their biz negatively, they lost a lot of customers and potential customers $$). So they removed their FB page because of me, and just started another, of course they blocked me so I could not comment on their new page. I would love to discuss it with you. Mine was eventually resolved but I cannot post about that part publicly

  6. Marla Pruitte

    August 1, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    From one blogger mom to another, I am proud of you for getting your story out. It must be told. OAN our writing styles are so similar. 😊

    LOVE for you to swing by and check it out.

  7. It happens to almost everyone at least once

    August 2, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Perhaps it was not because of her “race” but because she is a teenager? When fly friends and I were younger and would go shopping, certain stores would “profile” us as shoplifters because we were young and assumed if we were in their stores it was to steal because they didn’t think teenagers could afford to shop in said stores. BTW we are white. Please don’t make it a racial issue as it seems it is more of a store issue being burned by teen shoplifters. Does it make it right, h*ll no, but it also doesn’t make it a racial issue. It’s a stores bias to teen clientele.

  8. Mike Woolfolk

    August 2, 2016 at 9:01 am

    In the words of Mrs. Barrett in “Lean On Me,”…. They “are messing with the wrong female!”
    It hurt me to read about this. So glad you are NOT letting it slide.

  9. Rene Syler

    August 2, 2016 at 9:23 am

    So why why her white friend of the same age, not called a shoplifter? If it was an age thing that would be the case no?

  10. Susan Cusack

    August 2, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    I know you are a person of amazing talent and integrity and I see that you have done so much for so many. There is no question in my mind that your daughter would just walk out, as she remained composed and non confrontational. I wish there was one of those cameras for the show What Would You Do! I am disgusted by this. I’ve worked in retail and yes, people do have to look out for theft, but don’t profile or say anything out loud to express any prejudice. Shame on this person that made this comment and shame on the store for dismissing and lying about the situation. I’m sorry this happened and I’m sorry there are so many ignorant people that don’t embrace cultural diversity. I also commend you for speaking out. If I were there I would arrange a boycott.

  11. TomRauji (@TomRauji)

    August 2, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    I’m a little concerned people can lose a business over a dispute made public on social media. This is not a court, no one is cross examined, yet we are all willing to take sides.

    I find public lynching of an individual or a business, based on a social media posts, distressing.

  12. Rene Syler

    August 2, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    How about “conducting a full investigation” without asking our side? How about setting up fake profiles to cover their tracks? Those are legitimate questions, not rhetorical. I would love to hear your response THX

  13. Vicki

    August 3, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I have shopped in this Carolina Girls store many times, and as a middle aged white woman, I have felt judged. Usually I have stopped in to shop after a day at the beach, so I am in a beach cover up, hair a mess, flip flops, and just in that post beach mode and not dressed in regular clothes. Several times I have felt the eyes of those women who sit behind the desk ( and never seem to move) looking me up and down like I don’t belong. It is usually on the side where the jewelry and purses are located and not so much on the side where the clothing is. It’s interesting because this is a beach community, so you would think they would be used to people not exactly dressed in Lily Pulitzer after a day at the beach…. but honestly I have commented to friends while in the store that I feel they are snobs. I am not surprised at all that they would profile your sweet daughter the way they did. Ironically I was just at Freshfields with a friend this morning who told me about the controversy. This was the first I had heard about it, and we walked right past the store and I vowed never to go in again! As a resident of Johns Island and a frequent patron of all things Kiawah and Seabrook, I will never again spend a penny in that store. Shame on them…. let them live in their little bubble and keep defending such poor behavior…. they have to live with themselves and the fact that they have now affected a young girl’s life forever. I hope that Casey can use this experience to educate others and to know that she is so much better than those women. All the best to both you and your absolutely beautiful ( inside and out) daughter Casey.

  14. John Evans

    August 3, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Rene, I sincerely hate this happened to your daughter. As the father of six biracial kids, I know exactly what you mean about seeing some of their innocence taken away by incidents like this. Can you ask the store to allow you to come in and view their security video from the day/time of the incident? Or maybe allow a local TV news crew to do this? I’m SURE they’d agree since they want to do a, ya know, thorough investigation… If not, their refusal would be another admittance of guilt. Just a thought.

  15. Rene Syler

    August 4, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Hi John: Well we don’t live there full-time and are already back in NY. The reason we didn’t go in and meet with them was because Casey was deeply embarrassed and humiliated. TV news already did reports and needless to say they weren’t especially impartial. I have had no contact with Carolina Girls owner Stephanie Davis because based on her public statements, she does not seem inclined to accept any responsibility for this. I just drew attention to it and her. I don’t think they will change the way they do business, sadly.

  16. Carolina Girls

    August 7, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Our business does not tolerate inappropriate treatment of ANY customer. Therefore, we reached out to Ms. Syler both privately and publicly to apologize, to tell her we were investigating and invited her to address her concerns face-to-face.

    Instead of meeting with our owner, Ms. Syler responded by writing, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to be doing: I am going to contact [your landlord], Yelp, TripAdvisor, my media contact in South Carolina as well as nationally to share Casey’s experience in Carolina Girls. I will also share with my social channels and all of your vendors.”

    Since then, Ms. Syler has tweeted nearly 150 times, written nearly 4,000 words of blog posts, and posted links on social media encouraging bad reviews of our business. In her tweets, she has reached out to magazines, news organizations, talk shows, and celebrities. She has continued to tweet to us daily and sometimes hourly, such as today when she tweeted, “@CarolinaGirlsSC TWC & CNN are also aware of your statements.”

    Although we made a second attempt to speak with Ms. Syler personally, she refuses to speak with our owner or to assist her in determining who may have made an inappropriate comment regarding her daughter. Further, Ms. Syler has accused us of creating fake Yelp profiles to leave ourselves glowing reviews. It is worth noting that these two profiles, that are not controlled by us, have been active and reviewing other local businesses for over a year before her daughter came to our store.

    Ms. Syler makes her living as an online personality, an author, and a TV talk show host. As Ms. Syler recently tweeted, these circumstances will make “GREAT FODDER FOR MY UPCOMING SPEECH AND BOOK. #PERFECT.” Perhaps one Ms. Syler will take some time away from social media, her blogs, and her TV interviews to have a personal dialogue with our owner.

  17. Rene Syler

    August 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    “Therefore, we reached out to Ms. Syler both privately and publically to apologize” Public first, private only after, with an “apology” that began with how dismayed you were that these comments were on your social media.” Not that you’re mortified that this happened in your store. You were/are more concerned with your reputation. “… to assist her in determining who may have made an inappropriate comment regarding her daughter.” What is there left to say? You made a “full investigation (without talking to my daughter) and blamed the comment on your young customers. In that same statement you also inferred my daughter, who just wanted to buy a 12-dollar wallet from your store, lied. Now, why on earth would we want to meet with someone who felt that way? My daughter was horrified by the actions of your staff not just in the initial indecent but the aftermath. Stephanie Davis, the owner (who is close friends with the anchor of WCBD) had a chance to tell her story unopposed, which happened AFTER we left Kiawah Island, and though available not one contacted us for a statement. And now she now worried that the same is happening for us? Come on now.

    Adding to the irony, Carolina Girls, the website, is registered to John Davis, the husband of owner Stephanie Davis. He is a family doctor affiliated with Roper St. Francis medical group which has a strong commitment to diversity. You can read more on their commitment here—> http://www.rsfh.com/diversity/ . I am almost certain they would be interested in these developments.

    Now, I am a blogger and digital strategist. I give speeches around the country to groups on how NOT to get in a situation like this. Of course, I am going to use this, because at every turn, it is a shining of how companies should NOT do business. And yes, I am going to continue to write about this; not doing so is a dereliction of my duty.

    Perhaps one day you will take time to learn how to properly handle a social media/pr crisis.

  18. John

    August 7, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    I am outraged that Carolina Girls is still aggravating the situation rather than trying to do damage control by doing what is right. This reminds me of a racism incident Oprah Winfrey went through in Paris about 2 years ago. People its the 21st century – wake up!

  19. Jacki Marie

    August 7, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    When I started training for the my current customer service job, we were told a story of a costly PR mistake made by United Airlines. We saw the video made by the former customer which went viral and now has millions of views… equivalent to millions of bad reviews. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo
    The PR disaster/nightmare that followed is documented in the the story below and an example of how much damage to the company’s reputation was done by not doing the right thing in the first place.

    http://sentium.com/a-public-relations-disaster-how-saving-1200-cost-united-airlines-10772839-negative-views-on-youtube/

    What should have been a simple apology and some training (or coaching) for that employee had now turned into a lesson to learn for any business who cares about it’s reputation.
    Carolina Girls wants to be right (and yet had done everything wrong).

  20. Angie

    August 8, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Carolina Girls you do realize that every time you post this redundant reply on EVERY story I see when I read about this you are digging a hole that goes deeper and deeper? You posted this same response on the Fort Worth Star Telegram story and to be honest, because it is a copy and paste it is that much more insincere. You can blame everyone in the world yet you take no responsibility for the actions of your employees. This leads me to believe that your store regularly conducts business in this manner so with that being said you will continue to receive the backlash you are getting. That $12 potential sale has become and will become a loss that I can only hope prompts you to not only train your employees but NOT BLAME the customer. I hope Rene continues to blog about her daughter’s and her experience. It is unfortunate that her daughter and her had to go through this and it’s fortunate that she has a platform with readers who are in open minded and can have a discussion about this incident. You’re angry because she has this platform so you blame her for using the very platform that you used to get your side of the story out that didn’t have a rebuttal from the accused. Word of mouth is VERY powerful and I intend to help them spread the word as well! I would say shame on you but you are not shame because you continue to cut and paste this sad comment. PR IS EVERYTHING and you are definitely not educated in PR. Creating fake emails to create comments in your favor? I’m sure a quick ip search will do the trick when finding out you are behind this as well! SMH!! Consumers are not as dumb as you think we are! Rene I support you and Casey!! #CarolinaGirls picked the right one unfortunately for them. #IStandWithCasey #SWB

  21. Clarissa

    August 8, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Infuriating. And it hurts your friends! I have followed all along and it still leaves me insenced. I am so glad you haven’t let it fade away. I love that you are fighting for her. It’s is also fighting for all and that is when real change happens & God only knows it NEEDS TO. Huge change. We love you guys and definitely #IStandWithCasey XOXOXO

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  24. RGS

    August 11, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    I’m not understanding why this episode is racist – as sad as it is, my white teenage sons have been tracked equally when entering a retail store – clearly thinking they might lift something – it’s the age group, not the race.

  25. Rene Syler

    August 11, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    @RGS her white friend (same age) was on her heels yet she was not called shoplifter, only Casey was. As I have said publicly in many, many interviews, this issue and our description of it, has fallen right down racial lines. As I said in the piece, this is not something that is foreign to people of color.

  26. Jeannie Henry-Hjaltalin

    August 21, 2016 at 1:02 am

    OH. MY. GOD. This is the first I have read about what happened to your daughter. My mouth has hit the floor. I cannot understand the ignorance of people and how they think. Not only for what the racist white girls said in front of your beautiful daughter but for how the company handled it. Insinuating that they did an “extensive” investigation and found no merit to your daughter’s claim. WTH? If those white trash girls had the audacity to even say what they did, do the ones doing the investigating really think they would confess to saying such an ignorant and slandering statement? This makes me so ashamed to be “white” (even though I am often mistaken as hispanic). And yes, to all your nay sayers, this certainly does fall right down the racial lines and this has to STOP! The only race we are is a HUMAN race. The color of our skin, they way one looks, disabled, short, tall, fat or skinny, we are human with the same feelings. WORDS hurt people. WORDS hurt! Please hug your daughter for me. She should NEVER have to endure such a situation. NEVER!

  27. Cathy Wellington

    September 11, 2016 at 2:14 am

    Well,

    Carolina Girls, I am very much in touch with
    many “privileged” families here in the Greater
    New York region. Many of whom swoon over
    Kiawah Island.

    To put this bluntly, they and those with whom
    they relegate, will NOT even notice your establishment
    exists.

    For future reference, you never know who is whom
    in our wonderful modern and ever more civilized society.
    And is it really worth it?

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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