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Follow that Thang in the Mall

Often people ask us "What exactly is an Urban Shopper? How do you define an Urban Shopper". Truth is, that is a great question with about a million different answers depending on who you ask, Sure we can go with the traditional marketing dictionary definition of an Urban Community being a city or town where the community is often crowded with buildings, houses and people. People are often living very close to each other, streets are busy and the community landscape varies depending on state & city. Again, you ask many leaders in the marketing, social media world and many of them will have a different view of what is an "Urban Shopper". But for the sake of this article, our Urban shopper happens to be African American.

Many of you have heard that song - the CLEAN version of Trillville song where they lyrics go "I'll follow that thing in the mall"....For some, these lyrics are flattering, being followed in the mall by a good looking guy or gal who wants to take you out on a date. But what about the shopper who is being followed in the mall by security because of the color of their skin.

This story journey begins with a trip to Valley Fair Mall in San Jose, CA. An African-American female makes an unexpected stop at the mall to pick up a few things a some of her favorite stores. She was out picking up some cleaning supplies because it was cleaning day for her house. But she found her trip took less time than expected and would use this extra time to stop at the mall. Now, she wasn't dressed in her best attire. Simple leggings, solid color t shirt, hair slicked back in the ponytail, just some lip balm on her face. Nothing fancy.

After stopping in a store and quickly noticed, everywhere she went there was a young lady dressed in every day clothes next her. Every where she went in this store, there was the lady. It was very odd, very stalker. So she left. Stopped a few other stores and at two other shops ran into the same situation. Someone, male or female, dressed in everyday clothes showing up in the same isle she was in, no matter what. Suspecting that she was being Followed in the Mall by different store security because of the color of her skin, she decided to stand against the wall across the walkway from the first store and observe the woman who was "following that thang in the mall".

You can imagine what she discovered. That woman was hanging out behind the counter talking to the store clerks. It was, she expected, an "undercover" in house security or at least an employee expected to follow "high risk" customers.

Nothing about our Urban Shopper in the shopping venture required any kind of following. She was not dressed any worst or better than the average shopper in the mall that morning. She was simply like everyone else at the mall, but the big difference was her skin. But you want to know something really funny. While our friendly shopper was posted across the hall watching the lady who followed and watched her. She saw two high school students, seemingly from a wealthy family based on their designer bags and shoes, laughing and joking around in the store up util they slipped articles of clothing in their high priced designer bags.

The shopper, who teaches high school students, shared her experience with her students. Some of the girls laughed and explained to the teacher that they always steal from that store. When the teacher said "Aren't you worried about being caught" they explained "No, they never follow us. Look at us. They would never think we would steal from them" "Sorry Miss XXX, but they are so busy following black and mexicans, they never look at us".

WOW, yes that is what they said and sadly that is proven to be more true than words could have spoken in this situation.

This is just an experience that I wanted to share with you. A time when "following that thang in the mall" is not acceptable.

High end and department store managers. Start using some common sense, your security tactics are OLD and PLAYED. Start training your staff to watch for patterns, not color of skin. When high school students clearly know how to steal from you because they know your going to watch the any "minority" instead of them. Sometimes they even bring their "minority" friends shopping with them to serve as decoys, so you can follow them around while they are doing the stealing. Seriously, your tactics are so OLD. The kids have you beat and you don't even see it! So sad!

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-Beyond Urban Branding
beyondurban@gmail.com

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