A FATHER in Western Australia has posted an open complaint letter to Myer on his Facebook page, detailing an "embarrassing" experience at the Perth store last week.
The letter written by Shem Garlett and addressed to the Myer Perth store manager, begins by explaining he often shops at the Forrest Chase store as it is close to his work.
"My son Jaylen, 16, will be attending his upper school formal this weekend and I am extremely proud of the young man he's become," he writes.
"On Thursday 8 March at 4.30pm Jaylen and I were looking for a shirt and accessories to go with his suit which we bought from another shop. The lady helping us was extremely helpful and provided us great customer service. She helped match his shirt and accessories to his suit all within 20 minutes."
"While my son was trying on shirts I needed to use my phone to contact my girlfriend who was meeting us afterwards. The phone reception was bad so I made my way to the escalator area and allowed Jaylen to continue trying on shirts in the fitting room with the assistance of [the original shop assistant].
"While I was texting I heard a call over the intercom calling for security to attend the men's formal wear fitting room. Since my son was in the fitting room I made my way there to see if he was OK. As I neared the fitting room the staff from the nearby service desk had gathered. I asked the lady at the service desk if everything was OK. She told me that there was a boy unaccompanied in the change rooms that didn't have anything to try on so she called security."
He went on to explain to the service desk staff that his son was waiting unattended in the change room as he was waiting for the original shop assistant to bring back another shirt for him to try on.
"She seemed stunned so I asked her why she called security for my son," he continues.
"She told me that last week a purse was taken from the service area, expecting me to understand. I asked what this had to do with my son, but no response ...
"I then explained to her that this is not the first time he's had security called on him and it is for this reason I don't allow him to shop in Myer or David Jones alone. I suggested that she was racially profiling as the only thing she would have noticed was a young Aboriginal man, in her mind, appearing to be in the wrong place. This is not grounds to make a panicked call for security over the intercom. She did not witness any crime being committed. There were at least 10 staff including security in the area within 30 seconds.
"Everyone looked confused and embarrassed when they saw [the original shop assistant] accompanying us to the other service desk to finalise our purchases. We spent more than $200 on a shirt and accessories but I was tempted to just walk away. I thanked the original shop assistant for her assistance and explained that she was the only reason why I didn't take our business elsewhere."
He goes on to state that this sort of occurrence is not an isolated incident and that many of his Aboriginal friends and family have had similar experiences of being "racially profiled" and "harassed" by security staff when shopping.
"I am not sure what your security protocols regarding customer surveillance are but I'd suggest that security calls be reserved for when there is real evidence of a theft being committed," he writes.
"This will avoid any future embarrassment for all parties. I would also suggest there are grounds for a complaint of Racial Discrimination to the Equal Opportunities Commission which I am prepared to proceed with if I am not satisfied with the response. Like many other retailers in Perth, your staff may benefit from Aboriginal Cultural Competency training to improve their ability to serve Aboriginal customers. Alternatively you might consider employing more Aboriginal people to allow your staff more opportunities to interact positively with Aboriginal people.
He closes by saying "this is a formal complaint and I look forward to a response from the store manager within 7 days."
Mr Garlett told ABC Radio in Perth that he became "quite upset and embarrassed" during the incident, "especially with the scene and the other customers looking at me."
He tells news.com.au that Jaylen remained calm as the situation was unfolding, as "he saw I had it under control".
Despite that, he says this isn't the first time something like this has happened to Jaylen, and security has been called on his young son "on several occasions in different stores".
People have posted on Mr Garlett's Facebook page offering their support after his experience. The post has had more than 2000 reactions and over 400 comments.
"This is a nightmare from another century," wrote one woman.
"I am so sorry you and your beautiful boy had to go through that," wrote another.
"My son is part Maori and always gets treated like a shop lifter," wrote Bianca Smith.
"On a positive note how handsome does he look?" wrote another woman.
"I do hope he enjoyed his formal. I'm sad this sort of thing still goes on."
Another commenter offered an alternative reason for security being called:
"It might not be that your son is Aboriginal but merely that he is a teenager," wrote Dael Harvey.
"They face all manner of discrimination from shop assistants and security when they're simply trying to purchase something. As a white man, as a teenager I was frequently accused of trying to shoplift for just browsing in stores looking to buy things. It's a poor response but I don't see shops changing it because most people won't stand up for age-based discrimination."
When contacted by news.com.au for comment, a spokesman for Myer said "Myer is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion across our stores and workplaces and we want our customers to feel welcome and safe shopping with us irrespective of gender, background or sexuality.
"Myer has looked into this matter, which came about due to a misunderstanding between team members when the customer entered the change rooms without any clothing items. There were no other factors involved.
"We have met with the family and apologised."
Mr Garlett tells news.com.au that while he accepts Myer's apology, he doesn't accept their explanation that it was a "misunderstanding".
"I don't blame the individual as they may not be aware of their racial bias. It was a security response acted on by all involved which was not necessary," he says.
On a brighter note, he says that his son Jaylen had a great night at his school formal.
"He's always made me proud".