Sales associate identified solely as “Jeanie” at The Children’s Place at the Capital City Mall in Camp Hill, Pa. on November 1, 2018,
Screenshot: Miriam Alejandro

A shopping trip to children’s clothing store The Children Place at the Capital City Mall in Camp Hill, Pa., turned ugly for Miriam Alejandro and her sister Carlita Alejandro last Thursday, when a simple request purportedly resulted in a standoff with an insulting sales associate. Miriam, who documented a portion of the exchange on Facebook, alleges that while inquiring about the possibility of a price match with one sales associate, who pushed back on the request, another associate of indeterminate ethnicity, identified on camera solely as “Jeanie,” commented that the two customers, who are of Puerto Rican descent, were “mad because they were on welfare.”

As Miriam wrote in a caption accompanying a video of the exchange:

So, about a half hour ago I’m out shopping at Capital City Mall in Camp Hill, PA. My sister, Carlita Alejandro, and I went to check out at The Children’s Place. We asked about price matching with their online sale. The lady checking us out, Ms. Rhonda, who we were speaking to informed us that if the store was busy they wouldn’t be able to do the price match. I then said, “Lancaster never gives us any issues or said such a thing, but okay.” Then Price Match Patty aka Genie who was never in our conversation started getting smart saying that we (my sister & I) “were mad because we were on welfare”. After I stopped recording, Genie then spoke rudely about my sisters medical condition. I don’t know about yall, but I will definitely price match to save my HARD EARNED money. Call was placed to corporate, waiting to hear back. The other cashier on duty, Ms. Rhonda said, “I don’t know what to say, I’m about to cry.” All I was doing was getting a boy who lost everything in a house fire some clothes and a new winter coat and my sister doing some holiday shopping.

Discrimination is REAL and on MANY levels. I never thought that I would have had to face it while shopping in a CHILDREN’S STORE!

As of press time, The Children’s Place had yet to respond to a request for comment. This isn’t the first time the retailer has faced charges of discrimination or racial profiling. In December of 2000, the Children’s Place reached a settlement with the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, following charges leveled by a former employee “who said she was told by superiors to follow black customers as they browsed in an effort to prevent theft. ... [State attorney general Thomas F. Reilly’s] staff sent black and white undercover ‘testers’ to the company’s stores and became convinced that discriminatory practices were taking place,” sources told the Boston Business Journal at the time.

“What we found was deeply offensive and very troubling,” Reilly told the New York Times. “We found a pattern of conduct of targeting people based on the color of their skin.”

In a statement in 2000, The Children’s Place “vigorously” denied the allegations, citing their longstanding policy against discrimination. As part of the settlement, they were required to provide anti-discrimination training in its Massachusetts stores, along with spending up to $100,000 to hire an independent consultant to examine the company’s policies with a specific focus on discrimination. They also had to donate $50,000 to a Boston group aiding children.

No major allegations have been leveled at the retailer in the nearly 18 years since. But it’s worth noting that in response to a post on her Facebook page on Saturday noting that security had since been posted outside the Capitol City store, Miriam noted that neither the insulting associate, whom she has dubbed #PriceMatchPatty, nor the other employee, identified as “Rhonda,” were on site.

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Of course, bad employees do not automatically reflect a company’s core values or commitment to diversity. And in the event The Children’s Place responds to our request for comment, we will update this post. Notably, Miriam also reported that the company’s corporate offices informed Carlita that the matter was under full investigation. In the interim, both sisters had been offered gift cards and “Place Cash,” but were not accepting any concessions at this time.

Updated: 11/5/18, 3:15 p.m., EDT: The Children’s Place contacted The Root with the following statement regarding the incident at the Capital City Mall:

This inappropriate and reprehensible behavior does not reflect the values of The Children’s Place, where we work hard to make sure that our employees welcome each and every customer. This employee is no longer with the Company and we believe this is an isolated incident. We have been in contact with the customer in order to address the situation.