In an open letter to IKEA’s CEO, the woman’s husband, Nitin Sethi, accused the firm of ‘racist treatment’ & ‘bullying’. IKEA said it ‘deeply regrets’ the ‘unpleasant experience’.
New Delhi: Nitin Sethi, a journalist, has accused the Swedish furniture and home accessories giant IKEA of singling out him and his wife, Akoijam Sunita – who is from Manipur – by frisking them at a Hyderabad store and alleged that it exhibited racist behavior. The company, however, said that it doesn’t “frisk customers in the store at any point” and apologised for the incident.
Two days after posting about the incident on Twitter, Sethi Tuesday shot a six-page long open letter to the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) dissatisfied with IKEA’s initial response. In a fresh complaint, he has alleged the international firm of “racist treatment”, “bullying” and “influencing the police to harass them”.
Responding to the allegations, an IKEA representative, in an email to ThePrint, said it “deeply regrets” the “unpleasant experience called out by the customer”. However, the company said that it doesn’t “ frisk customers in the store at any point of the shopping journey”
“A thorough investigation has been conducted and without exception, we have followed the same process of checking the bill against articles for all customers who choose to self-scan and pay. This is to ensure there are no billing errors. Also, as part of safety and security protocol, we do not frisk customers in the store at any point of the shopping journey,” said IKEA’s lead – Consumer PR, Abhishek Jotwani.
Sunita, too, said that has left the couple even more “stressed”, when she had reacted to IKEA’s earlier response to the incident on Tuesday.
“We thought IKEAIndia will resolve the issue by doing the simple and civil thing, apologise sincerely for the mistake. But it was not to be. Their response to the incident has left us more stressed. We will move on but we will not be intimidated and gaslighted,” she said in a Twitter post.
What transpired at the IKEA store
On Sunday, the journalist, along with his wife and brother, was shopping at the store. At the check-out, according to Nitin, the staff on duty singled out his wife, who he claims is “easily identifiable by her features as a racial minority”.
“She was asked to stand aside with the goods she had purchased. The staff began to check each and every item pretentiously while we saw others before and around us going past with light or no checks,” Nitin wrote in his letter.
After the checking was done, he claimed the staff sarcastically said, “Oh, so you purchased all the items.”
When they protested against the “selective treatment”, he narrated that five men from the security “surrounded” them and “threateningly and menacingly” told them not to raise their voices.
Although the incident was recorded on CCTV cameras, Nitin believes that the staff was aware of the presence of cameras and pretended to be polite, meanwhile “hovering threateningly close” to them. They also told the trio “nothing wrong had been done” and that they “should leave”.
Nitin has also alleged that there was “no woman staff at any time” responding from Ikea during the entire incident.