LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University faculty member who last week took to her social media accounts, saying she was a victim of racial profiling at Lafayette's Best Buy, has since received an apology from the company.
Roxane Gay, an African-American author and essayist who this year joined Purdue's creative writing program as an associate professor, said on Friday that an employee at the store stopped her after she presented her receipt for several items she had purchased.
When Gay showed the employee her receipt, she said, the employee appeared to not believe she had purchased the items. The employee called over the salesperson who had sold Gay the items to confirm the purchase.
"I have never in my life experienced something like this," Gay wrote on her Tumblr blog. "My receipt was right there. My purchases were plainly identified. For whatever reason, that was not proof enough?"
The incident occurred on Gay's second day in Lafayette. She declined to discuss the incident with the Journal & Courier.
"I'm going to decline, only because I wasn't trying to make a news story," Gay told the J&C. "I was just venting about a really frustrating, unnecessary experience."
Gay made details of the incident public on her Twitter account both during and after the incident. She has about 21,000 followers on Twitter.
On Sunday she posted a detailed description of the incident onto her blog. Her account of the interaction with the store employee has since been recirculated by several websites and blogs.
A manager at the Lafayette store directed all questions to the Best Buy corporate public relations department. About 6:20 p.m. Monday, spokeswoman Shandra Tollefson issued this statement:
"Our staff clearly made mistakes while interacting with this customer, although we don't believe profiling was one of them. Our biggest mistake was not communicating to the customer what was happening — that a new employee at the exit was unsure why the security case was mistakenly left on the video game. We want all of our customers to have a great experience in our stores and we certainly came up short in this case and for that we apologize."
Gay said she purchased a phone, a PlayStation 4 and a video game and paid for the items in the video game area rather than at the front of the store. When she reached the front, she showed the employee her receipt so that the employee would remove the security case on the game. Instead, after viewing the receipt, the employee called the salesperson to confirm the purchase.
"I asked him what the problem was and he ignored me," Gay wrote on her blog. "I asked to speak to a manager and he ignored me. He literally acted like I was not there."
While they waited for the salesperson, Gay wrote, the employee allowed a white couple that set off the security alarm to leave the store.
Gay took to Twitter to vent her frustrations during the encounter, catching the eye of Best Buy's customer service Twitter account, @BestBuySupport.
"He is calling for the guy who sold me what I bought because he doesn't believe I bought it," Gay tweeted Friday. "@BestBuy this is insane. And racist."
Gay and the Best Buy support account had a brief exchange. The Best Buy account apologized, noting the incident as "rather poor service to put it lightly."
"Please send an email with the details..." @BestBuySupport responded. "We do not accept that kind of service in our stores."
On Saturday, Gay confirmed in a tweet that she had emailed Best Buy with details of the incident. She tweeted Sunday that she had received an apology from a social media specialist with the company.
Gay is a fiction and nonfiction author whose work has appeared in various publications and short story collections. This year, she released an essay collection, "Bad Feminist," and her first novel, "An Untamed State."
In her blog, Gay noted she refused an interview request by CNN about the incident.
"I was venting on Twitter, not trying to be part of a news story," Gay wrote. "I was venting on Twitter because the situation was infuriating but I was still mindful of how privileged I am. I was mindful that racial profiling happens every single day, in far more distressing ways."