An expecting mother said she feels humiliated after she was asked if she was trying to shoplift from a Staples store in North Carolina.
Shirell Bates said she now regrets leaving her home on Friday for back-to-school shopping.
"Being pregnant is already high-risk, and having to deal with that, just additional stress that I don't need,” Bates said.
Bates said a police officer asked her if she was shoplifting while she was checking out of the Pineville store.
"Mid-transaction, a police officer approached me and insisted he wanted to speak with me,” Bates said. “He asked what was under my shirt.”
Bates is pregnant with twins.
"Initially, I thought he was joking, so my response was, 'Twins,’” Bates said. “I'm 34 weeks with twins. I'm having a boy and a girl."
Bates said the officer didn’t believe her the first time, and he asked her again.
"At that point, 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 buying school supplies,” Bates said.
Pineville police said a Staples manager approached the officer and asked him to speak with Bates because the manager believed Bates may have been “concealing merchandise.”
"When I confronted her about what happened, she admitted that, 'In the past, we've had a lot of people putting school supplies or merchandise in their clothes and hiding, so I asked the officer to reach out to you,’” Bates said.
Staples issued the following statement:
"Yesterday at our Pineville location, while a customer was shopping, a manager mistakenly thought they were possibly shoplifting and asked a police officer that happened to be in the store to talk with the customer.
"After a quick conversation, the issue was resolved, the manager apologized to the customer and refunded their transaction due to the inconvenience. At Staples, we want all customers to feel welcome in our store, and work with our store associates to try and foster an inclusive culture. As an organization, we would like to apologize to the customer if that was not the case in this instance."
Bates said she plans on contacting Staples' corporate office on Monday and possibly seeking legal action.
"You pretty much jumped the gun without any type of evidence, except my stomach is large,” Bates said. “That’s not fair. No mom should have to go through that."
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.