Fairway, a New York area grocery store, is one of several chains around the country that lets customers check out items by scanning them with their phones. In some cases, they’re also subject to random human receipt spot checks before they can leave, Gothamist reports.
When one customer complained about delays from the spot checks in an online survey, he reportedly got an unexpected reply from an employee of FutureProof Retail, which provides the technology, blaming the city’s “diversity” for the practice:
It occurs randomly so there isn’t any discrimination or implicit bias expressed toward shoppers, it is an unfortunate consequence of the amazing diversity here in NYC. With all the different backgrounds, and socioeconomic classes shopping at Fairway we can’t operate it on the honor system like kiosks in homogeneous population centers in Norway and Finland, since people can’t be expected to all have the same class structure, values and respect for laws. This aspect of building the app has been very educational. Lot’s of applied psychology and learning about other cultures.
Gothamist reports that FutureProof CEO William Hogben has said the employee who sent the message was fired, saying it does not “reflect any internal thinking of the company.”
And while the missive quite likely was the work of a wayward customer service rep, it does reinforce many people’s concerns about inequities in shopping, including food deserts in poor communities and communities of color, and racial bias in shoplifting enforcement.