by Dezmond Remington and Jasmin Shirazian
Allegations of assault, worker mistreatment, and profiling have been leveled at Wildberries Marketplace in Arcata in response to a video showing an altercation between a customer and store manager Aaron Gottschalk.
The video, posted on the r/Humboldt subreddit by an anonymous user, was originally shot on Sept. 30. It shows Gottschalk grabbing a young girl’s wrists and pulling her into shopping carts and eventually onto the ground by her backpack straps.
A protest on Jan. 21 at Wildberries was attended by several dozen people, and former and current Wildberries employees spoke out against perceived mistreatment and profiling by Gottshalk (who declined a request for an interview).
Tatum Keller, a former Wildberries employee, said managers including Gottschalk profiled customers they considered to be a high theft risk, asking employees to pay special attention to certain customers.
“It was always usually motherfuckers who were in hoodies or looked homeless… or just not white,” Keller said. “It was never a fucking white man. Anyone under the visible age of 30… any person of color they’d be like, ‘hey, watch out for this person.’”
In a statement from Phil Ricord, the owner and president of Wildberries, Ricord said shoplifting was a serious problem at Wildberries and other stores in the area. Ricord said that Wildberries decided not to press charges, but was still placing the blame on the girl.
“Unfortunately, shoplifting and its prevention at times leads to unintended consequences,” Ricord said. “Had the individual involved responded to numerous verbal demands to stop no further action would have been necessary. Instead, they decided to ignore those demands and continue their exit from the store and were forcibly restrained until law enforcement arrived.”
Ricord also said that due to the incident, store shoplifting policies have been revised to eliminate physical confrontations between the accused and the staff.
However, Keller was not optimistic.
“It was probably every single day, if not every other day, someone was chased out whether they had something or not,” said Keller. “Definitely not surprising. It happened before I worked there, it happened during the time I worked there and it’s going to continue to happen still.”
Despite the purported changes in store policy, Ricord was also not too optimistic about how shoplifting would be handled in the future at Wildberries.
“Shoplifting has unpredictable and unfortunate consequences,” Ricord said in an email. “The incident, taken in its entirety is proof of that.”