A Charlotte-area store has apologized for suggesting a woman was stuffing items under her shirt, when she was actually 34-weeks pregnant with twins, according to Fox-WJZY.
Sherrell Bates says she was at the register nearly finished shopping for school supplies on Friday at the Staples in Pineville when a police officer asked what was under her blouse.
“Initially, I thought he was joking, so my response was: ‘Twins,’” Bates told WSOC. “To avoid him asking me again, I actually lifted my shirt just a little bit, just to expose my belly, so he could see that I’m just a regular pregnant person.”
Staples sent the Charlotte Observer a statement that says the manager involved in the incident has been fired. The customer was also given a full refund and a apology, the statement says.
“On Friday at our Pineville location a Staples’ manager mistakenly assumed a customer was shoplifting and reported this assumption to a police officer visiting the store. The police officer questioned the customer and quickly confirmed there was no theft,” says the statement. “Staples has since conducted a full investigation into the matter, and determined that the manager in question did not follow correct protocol and also failed to adhere to our existing policy on how to interact with our customers.”
The idea that Bates had to prove she was pregnant has sparked anger on social media, with many noting pregnant women have faced that challenge for years.
Similar cases have been documented across the country, including some that have resulted in lawsuits. The Washington Post reports an Arlington, Virginia, woman is among those who have filed a lawsuit, after she said staff at a sporting goods store asked to “shake out her maternity dress to show that nothing would fall out.”
Employees suspected her of shoplifting a basketball when she was, in fact, nine months pregnant, the Post reported.
Bates told WSOC she is considering legal action. Social media seemed to support the idea.
“How humiliating to this mother!” posted Jill Turner on Facebook.
“She shouldn’t have lifted her shirt to prove anything. They would’ve just had to arrest me,” posted Akoo Watson.
“I would like to know how a pregnant belly actually looks like items stuffed to be concealed?” posted Mandi Anthony.
“I see this issue from both sides. I worked retail and women did stuff items under their shirts to appear pregnant. We were always instructed to look at the surveillance cameras before approaching a shoplifter,” posted Caffie Goodrum. “On the other hand I see her point: Don’t falsely accused me when I am legally pregnant.”
“So, now, every woman, with big stomachs....are stealing?” wrote Carmelita Brown. “Also, hold on, let me stand in line, buy all these school supplies, while having stolen merchandise under my shirt?”