Tuesdays with Torrey: ‘Less than a person’

Why do businesses feel that it is OK to make minorities feel lesser than? Why is it socially acceptable to make minorities feel unwanted? Why don’t more people step up and say this is wrong? Why does the fact that I am a six-foot four inch, 300-plus pound black male make it OK to automatically treat me as if I am a threat? 

Before I go any further, I would like to preface this article by saying that I am a former assistant manager in one of the big box stores, so I have experience with the topic that I will be covering. 

I recently walked into the electronics section of Walmart looking for an audio splitter. I walk to the section that the item should be in but they are currently out, so I linger in the section for about half an hour trying to find something similar that I can use. This entire time there is a white male never more than 15 feet away from me but never approaches me. 

After I choose something that I can make work but will have to pay three times the price for, I walk up and down the other aisle to see if they have the correct item in another section. I notice a Caucasian female has walked into the department, and the employee immediately greets her and asks if there is anything that he can help her find. I continue to look throughout the department to no avail, and decide to head back over to the first section to see if I had missed something. 

At that moment I notice the gentleman temporarily left the female to go over to that section, and have a different worker inventory every item that I touched. This action infuriated me. It made me feel less than a person. I felt like I did something wrong. Why did this man feel like it was OK to make me feel like a criminal? When you work in customer service you are taught to approach all customers, greet them, and ask if you can assist them. He demonstrated that he is capable of doing this when he approached the female.

The reason for this is twofold; if the person is trying to steal it’s a deterrent because they know you are aware they are there. If this person is a shopper, it makes them feel their needs are going to get met in a timely fashion. With that being said, if the gentleman would have approached me, I would not have wasted a half hour looking for an item that they didn’t have, and I would have left feeling helped even if I did not get what I was looking for. 

But because of the approach that the gentleman took, I am left with a negative feeling about my shopping experience. I found another employee and informed them as to what occurred so hopefully this doesn’t happen to another person. If you are judgmental of people before you speak with them, then you should not be in customer service.

Torrey Brown is a loving husband, father, and son, and an outspoken champion for the black cause and all social injustices. Brown also represents the people of Three Rivers as at-large city commissioner.

Any views or opinions expressed in “Tuesdays with Torrey” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors.