White Sale

Disgusted with Dillard's: In March 2001, a friend and I were shopping at the Dillard's in Sugar Land's First Colony Mall ["A Closer Look at Dillard's," by Margaret Downing, January 8]. I found the Ralph Lauren shirt I wanted with an original price of $50 marked down on a pink price tag to $33, and then a handwritten reduced price of $17.

As the clerk began ringing up the shirt she became noticeably agitated, stating that customers routinely changed prices while in the dressing room and Dillard's did not write prices by hand. The clerk was white. I am black.

She was adamant that under no circumstances would she sell this shirt at such a discounted amount, because clearly a customer was responsible for the price reduction. I was actually caught off guard, then the light bulb finally came on. I was this ne'er-do-well customer. I asked to see a department manager (she was black, also), who initially supported the clerk's position. But when I noticed promotional racks of clothing discounted by 66 percent, I had the manager calculate the difference between $50 and $17 -- it was that same 66 percent. The manager apologized and had the sale made for $17.

My friend, a black, gray-haired, 60-plus-year-old retired school librarian, commented that the scene would not have occurred had I been blond and blue-eyed.

The next day, Dillard's white store operations manager told me I was overly sensitive and explained that Dillard's never utilized handwritten tags.

You can imagine my consternation the following week when I tried on an item that had a tag with a handwritten price of $32.25. That clerk explained that Dillard's routinely wrote in sales amounts by hand. She was black like me.

I quit shopping at Dillard's, spoke with the store manager and wrote a letter to the corporate headquarters. To date, I have gotten no response. After reading your article, I understand why.

Portia Rose
Missouri City

Everyone's issue: I wanted to compliment you on your article. With the heartless tactics that retail chain has used on African-American shoppers -- of which I was unaware before reading your article -- I would love to open the business pages to the front-page headline "Dillard's Closes Its Doors for Good."

I suppose it's going to be up to fair-minded shoppers of all races to make that happen by shopping elsewhere. I already avoid Dillard's; I regularly go to Target, a much friendlier retailer. Thanks for giving me a bunch of good reasons not to visit Dillard's.

Charles Tatum II

Dillard's defender: You have taken a topic and blown it up, giving only one side of the story. It was a sleazy article. There is no doubt that several people have gone into these stores and caused problems just so they can file a lawsuit.

I worked for Dillard's for more than six years and never once saw an instance of racism. You are promoting people going into these stores and causing more problems.

I had to deal with people who steal every day. I can't stand it when people steal and cry racism when they get into trouble. The company is full of wonderful, very hardworking employees, and you have put a label on all of them. Negative actions of employees should be dealt with on an individual level -- without labeling an entire company as a bunch of racists. Shame on you.

John Camper

Exit right: I am a regular white guy, average height, pear-shaped, not intimidating at all. About four years ago, I went into Dillard's (I had an active, up-to-date credit account with Dillard's, and Joske's before it) and had a disagreement with a clerk concerning a return.

When I asked to see a manager to express my displeasure, I got a uniformed, armed Pasadena police officer. He did not ask what the problem was; he only invited me to exit at the closest possible location. That was, I assume, the preferred method of dealing with paying customers. I have not purchased a single item from Dillard's since that day. I don't plan on goin' back, either.

The point is that while Dillard's may have a penchant for distrust of minority shoppers, it has the same customer service attitude toward anyone who disagrees with its sales force.

Thanks for the great piece.

Willie Vanderbrink
La Porte

Rail Splitters

Paris, Texas: Yes, we've achieved status previously held by only such venues of civility, energy and creativity as London and Paris ["Training Day," Hair Balls, January 8].

So, is Memorial Park now our Bois de Boulogne, rife with transvestite hookers? What exactly defines world class?

L. Lane

Millionaires' making: The piece about the inaugural run of the light rail system was hilarious. I don't see how this system is helping anybody. It runs from one millionaire's baseball stadium to another millionaire's football stadium. I've seen longer rides at Disneyland.

Aren't mass transit systems supposed to be for people who live in outlying areas, or people who can't afford cars? This rail line serves neither.

David Young

Suicide Squeeze

Leave politics out: Your reviewer of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Gregory Weinkauf ["Bow Down," December 18], had me in his pocket until he tried to inject his form of political commentary. Maybe Weinkauf (and others) can see the humor in his comment, but I find the idea of telling George W. Bush to follow the lead of Denethor (John Noble) and "follow his example to its conclusion" quite appalling.

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