Tuesday, October 12, 2010


A Consumerist article covers this:

Kmart Warns Spanish Speakers Not to Open Stuff Before They Buy.

It includes a photo of a little handwritten note on a Kmart shelf, written in Spanish, asking customers not to open packages.

Is your first reaction:

A - "I guess in some Spanish-speaking cultures it's normal to open packages and inspect the merchandise before you buy, and some recent immigrants shopping in that store don't yet know that it's a faux pas in the US. Interesting cultural difference."

- or -

B - "That's racist!"

I thought the first. The majority of Consumerist readers seem to think the second. Are they overreacting, or is my white male privilege blinding me to the daily oppression of the Latino shopper?


  1. I also pretty much went to the first reaction personally.

    But I think in reality it may be a little of both. "Racism" is such a trigger word, but stereotyping in the way that it means genuinely classifying people the way they actually act, is probably what's going on here. They clearly have a reason for posting up the sign - they've witnessed some of their Spanish-speaking customers opening packages.

    I'll say I probably would have gone more broadly than that and had a message written in English as well, but that's because I've seen plenty of born-and-raised Americans acting the same way. I can tell the same person a dozen times not to touch the pieces and they _defiantly_ go after touching pieces when I'm not looking. I've seen people in supermarkets opening packages to check food or in department stores opening packages to check a fabric. If this was a problem, I probably wouldn't assume that group I've seen do it is the only one that could, and address it to everybody.

    That said, I don't necessarily have a problem singling them out because, like you said, I could see it as a cultural difference, which I think is better than just assuming the community itself is just skanky.

  2. Yeah, everybody discussing the issue is making assumptions about the background. I have no idea whether opening packages without buying is a normal thing in Latin America, or whether the Kmart in question has actually had an issue with it. Some commenters in the Consumerist article have speculated that it may actually be a note left during an inventory check by one Spanish speaker to other Spanish speaking employees.