Malaysian photographer Stefen Chow says he was ‘racially abused’ at The Body Shop in Paris

Photographer Stefen Chow with his prize-winning portrait of Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei in 2013.
The Straits Times

Racial profiling and discrimination never feels right, and to see it still happen in the year 2017 can be very demoralising

Malaysian-born photographer and film maker Stefen Chow has accused the staff at a Paris outlet of The Body Shop of racial discrimination, after he was

Chow, 37, wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Nov 14, Malaysia time) morning that he would not be buying anything from the British cosmetics and skin care company in future, despite having been a regular customer for the past 20 years.

According to Chow, who grew up in Singapore but now lives in Beijing, he was at the 68 Rue de Rivoli outlet of The Body Shop on Nov 12 to purchase some items for his wife.

While the experience was pleasant and he described the staff as “courteous” at first, he was later overcharged by 5 euros due to a mistake on the staff’s part. At the time, the store was unable to provide a credit card refund as its manager was away at the time.

The staff then “apologised profusely and asked me to come back the next day”, Chow wrote.

“I was about to forget the 5 euros. It wouldn’t affect my day if I lost 5 euros. However, this was in principle the shop’s responsibility, so I went back the next day,” he added.

But when he showed up the next day, he was met with a rude assistant manager who he says spoke in a ” passive aggressive manner”.

Chow recalls in his post that the manager, identified as Dorothy, told him: “You got your bargain, what else do you want?”

He wrote: “I was taken aback because I wasn’t expecting an argument. I explained that yes, there was a discount over the items, but I am still over charged 5 euros – this was clear to me and the staff the day before, that’s why I was asked to come back.”

Little did he expect the staff member from the day before to blame him for the mistake and deny what happened the day before.

“The staff started surrounding me, and I must say that I have never felt threatened in a hair and body care shop – until today,” he wrote.

The store’s workers then threatened to call the police, and accused Chow of abusing them, he added.

“I knew at this moment it wasn’t about the 5 euros anymore. I felt very confused.

“The assistant manager then wanted to know my details, to know who I am. When I told her I live in Beijing, China (even though I am from Malaysia.), she rolled her eyes and gave an audible sigh,” he recalled.

Chow says he left the store feeling embarrassed, angry and confused by the incident.

“This is 2017. In a very connected social media world. Do you think that blatant racism and atrocious customer service will still go unnoticed?” he wrote.

His post has since been shared more than 135 times.

The Body Shop has yet to respond to the accusations.