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#ShoppingWhileBlack: A woman was accused of smuggling school supplies under her shirt when in real sense she was carrying twins


By Susan Johnes

Shopping while Black and pregnant is now an issue to be avoided by Black folks to prevent being flagged down for nothing.

Well, that was the case of a pregnant Black woman who left a Staples in North Carolina baffled after she was accused of stealing.

According to the woman, the store’s manager assumed Sherell Bates was hiding items under her shirt and therefore, asked a police officer to question her. Bates is expecting twins.

The incident occurred Aug. 10 when Sherell Bates left home Friday to do some back-to-school shopping. What she didn’t know was that simply shopping would result in an embarrassing moment.

After she arrived at the Staples, she picked up a few items and prepared to check out when a Pineville police officer approached her while she was in line.

The officer reportedly was

alerted to Bates by a manager, who claimed the mother-to-be was a possible shoplifter. To prove her innocence to the officer, Bates lifted her shirt a bit and exposed her pregnant belly, containing her twins.

“Being pregnant is already high-risk, and having to deal with that, just additional stress that I don’t need,” Bates said.

Bates then spoke with the manager.

“When I confronted her about what happened, she admitted that, ‘In the past, we’ve had a lot of people putting school supplies or merchandise in their clothes and hiding, so I asked the officer to reach out to you,’” Bates said.

“Initially, I thought he was joking, so my response was, ‘Twins,’” Bates told TV station WSOC. “I’m 34 weeks with twins. I’m having a boy and a girl.”

So far, Staples has issued an apology that reads:

“Saturday at our Pineville location while a customer was shopping, a manager mistakenly thought they were possibly shoplifting and asked a police officer that happened to be in the store to talk with the customer. After a quick conversation, the issue was resolved, the manager apologized to the customer and refunded their transaction due to the inconvenience.”

“At Staples, we want all customers to feel welcome in our store and work with our store associates to try and foster an inclusive culture. As an organization, we would like to apologize to the customer if that was not the case in this in-stance.”

While Staples has apologized, Bates is seeking legal action. She is rightfully upset because she was made to feel as if her safety and privacy didn’t matter during the incident and went ahead exposing her growing belly.

“You pretty much jumped the gun without any type of evidence, except my stomach is large,” Bates said. “That’s not fair. No mom should have to go through that.”


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