Beauty retailer Sephora in Hong Kong is facing a boycott from customers for racially profiling customers. An account on Instagram called @bansephorahk was created recently and the owner of the account posted her experience at a Sephora Store at the K11 Art Mall in Tsim Sha Tsui. Meanwhile, it is reported that Sephora Hong Kong will train its staff about unconscious bias and inclusivity.
According to the posts, upon leaving the Sephora store, the customer who is of Pakistani descent, her sister and brother were followed by a male staff member. The staff member then went through the customer's bag without explaining the reason for doing so, or explaining clearly what the issue was.
While the customer's sister offered to go through the metal detectors again and showed the receipts of the purchases to prove they had purchased the items, the staff member carried on checking the bags. Ultimately, with no stolen item found, the staff member asked them to leave and said, "Please shut up and get out of here."
Not only that, while in the store, the customer also said she saw the male staff member "rolling his eyes" at her, when she asked him the location of a brand.
After the incident, the customer and her family returned to the store to point out the inappropriateness of the incident, which led to a quarrel and ultimately resulted in the police making their way down to the store. According to her post, the police agreed that the staff members were in the wrong and rude,. The reason then given to her for the incident, she explained, was "You guys (meaning Pakistani) steal a lot so we thought you guys did the same."
The owner further explained that the incident was heartbreaking and embarrassing as everyone was looking at them as their bags were being searched.
The account is also asking for other Instagram users to share their negative experiences at Sephora, and speak out against racism or discrimination in Sephora stores across the city.
Although MARKETING-INTERACTIVE is unable to verify whether the allegations were true or not at the time of writing, Sephora Hong Kong has published a post on its Instagram on 16 August, saying that they were aware of the latest service comments on Instagram and is looking into the matter seriously.
"Ensuring a positive and pleasant shopping experience is our utmost priority. We do not compromise on any inappropriate bias. We will continue to make Sephora a better place where everyone belongs to," the company said.
Unfortunately, Sephora Hong Kong's Instagram page is now flooded with comments demanding a "proper apology" from the brand. Many have said its statement does not acknowledge the wrongdoings or show a hint of apology. Some have called for the termination of the employee involved, and criticised the brand for treatment of its consumers based on skin colour. MARKETING INTERACTIVE has reached out to Sephora Hong Kong for more details. The brand told SCMP that it has put in place plans to train all staff members in Hong Kong about unconscious bias and inclusivity. It is reported that the training will be completed by 31 August.
In another report from the South China Morning Post, the owner of the Instagram account said she is a gold member of Sephora, meaning that she has spent more than HK$7,500 at the store within a year. She added that many of her friends also had similar experiences at Sephora in Hong Kong, and she decided to create an Instagram account to call for a boycott of the company.