In a viral TikTok video, an Asian American customer accused discount department store Saks Off 5th of racism for refusing to process her refund as the item “smelled like soy sauce.”
In the video posted on Sunday, Tiffany Chen, 26, recalls the incident that took place at the Saks Off 5th Avenue store at the Beverly Connection in Los Angeles.
She notes receiving her purchased item in the mail on Feb. 24. However, the item — a black dress — did not fit Chen so she decided to return it to the store the next day.
I brought it in and immediately the woman scanned my receipt and then she picked it up to smell it and walked over to her manager and basically was like, “I can’t accept this return.” The kicker was she smelled the dress and said the dress smelled like soy sauce. She looked at me and said, “Yes, it smells like soy sauce. You can’t return this. This is a damaged item.”
Chen says she felt that the response was racially charged, adding that her boyfriend Kevin defended her in the situation. When Kevin confronted the employee, the employee allegedly said that “she could say whatever she wants.”
In an interview with NextShark, Chen says she wanted to share her experience and record her reaction so similar incidents can be prevented in the future.
The 26-year-old, who is of Taiwanese descent, shares that she used to be bullied in school for the way her food smelled.
“I used to wish to ‘fit in’ and not have ‘weird-smelling food,’” Chen says, adding that she would ask her parents to pack her Lunchables instead.
I wanted to film my reaction because this is definitely something that hits home for me, as I am sure other Asian American kids can relate to it. I just felt so shocked that someone would feel so empowered to speak to another person like that, and this video was for the younger version of me that, yes, I am able to make my voice heard and make an actual impact so that future things like this can be prevented.
After the TikTok video went viral, Chen uploaded an update video on Tuesday, noting that her dress was ultimately returned after she spoke to a store manager.
Chen thanked everyone who rallied around her and amplified her voice to call out Saks Off 5th.
Chen says she called the store and spoke with the manager shortly after the racist encounter with the employee.
She [the store manager] did apologize profusely and she asked us to come back to the store, and she did process my return. However, the comment just didn’t sit right with me, and I just felt like this had to reach the proper channels within corporate so that actual change could be done.
Chen tells NextShark that she has spoken with the company’s vice president regional manager, who also apologized for the incident.
While I did not get her name, the company is very well aware of who this individual is, and a full-scale investigation has been launched regarding this incident. Furthermore the VP has stated that they will be doing further diversity and inclusion training to fill the gap so that another incident like this wouldn’t happen again at the stores.
As of this writing, Chen says she has not received any updates regarding the employment status of the worker who made the comment, but noted that she will be updated after the company concludes its investigation.