EXCLUSIVE: Black man alleges discrimination at a Westmount jewellery store

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    Courtesy for Rey Mena

      A black Lachine man is alleging he was a victim of racism at a Westmount jeweller.

      Herby Whyne went to Platine Design on Greene Avenue a week ago to buy a piece of jewellery for his goddaughter's baptism. The owner of a St. Henri boxing gym had just left work, dressed in his work clothes: a track suit plus a windbreaker and a tuque because of the brisk weather.

      Whyne told CJAD 800 News the manager wouldn't buzz him in until after asking several questions about what he wanted, then told Whyne that what he wanted to buy was around $300 and too expensive.

      "He said to me, 'What are you looking for?'  'Well, I'm looking for either a bracelet or chain.' He then said to me, 'Well, it's expensive.'  I said, 'Excuse me, are you telling me it's too expensive for me to come into your store?' " Whyne said.

      Whyne said he was finally let into the store but was fed up with the manager's attitude and left to buy a $200 bracelet at another nearby jewellery store, Lou Goldberg Jeweller, which he says buzzed him in and dealt with him without any problems.

      Whyne said he had to speak out.

      "It's 2014 for crying out loud. I have no patience or tolerance for stuff like that in our society now in today's age. Regardless of how he portrays me, it cannot be, I cannot let something like this go by, I cannot. It would be wrong of me not doing something," Whyne said.

      "In today's age, I've come too far, we've come too far as a society, to let people like this, things like this go on in our society, it doesn't belong."

      Store manager Joseph Ben told CJAD 800 News he was just being careful since he was working alone with so many valuables and was held up in the past by a young black man, though insisting racism is not an issue. Ben said he has a right to ask a potential client questions before letting them in, saying he has to protect himself. Ben insisted that after decades in the business, he knows his clentele and contends that Whyne wasn't going to buy anything.

      "Of course he didn't have any money, he came just to mess around with me. He didn't have 300 dollars. If he was interested, he would have bought something right away," Ben said, adding that "there have been some black customers in the store in the past but they never bought anything."

      Whyne said he's considering filing a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

      "I want to set an example for my son and for his kids, that they should not be declined to go into a store based on his colour or what he looks like or what he dresses like," Whyne said.


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      • 19
      1. RacistAnd/OrClassist posted on 04/10/2014 04:57 PM
        To be fair to this poor prejudiced shop owner, it doesn't sound like he's just a racist, he also sounds like some kind of snob who thinks his jewelry is so very fine that anyone with discerning taste and enough money would purchase his items posthaste without a thought to the price. Clearly, he is delusional if he thinks only the blatantly well heeled can afford a $300 bracelet. Granted maybe only someone with more money than sense would pay that price when a similar item can be purchased nearby for $100 less.
      2. Thomas posted on 04/10/2014 08:42 PM
        This store owner just contradicted himself completely by saying it is not a race issue and then saying that he has had many Black clients come in and never buy anything and immediately thinking that this guy did not have $300 and would not be buying anything. What a total racist idiot.
        1. J posted on 04/11/2014 02:54 AM
          @Thomas I completely agree. His response was valid til that point. Basically hes assuming that all non black customer come and buy. Is it really farfetched that a customer could be looking for something in your store and you not have it available?
      3. Eric Goldberg posted on 04/10/2014 08:59 PM
        Herby came in last Thursday and it was our pleasure to help him find the gift he needed for his special occasion. We had no idea about the deplorable treatment he had received elsewhere.
      4. Eric Aronoff posted on 04/10/2014 10:33 PM
        Herby is a personal friend and and an upstanding citizen who has participated generously to many charitable causes benefiting all denominations. It is appalling that he was subjected to this kind of treatment in this day and age. I will never step foot in that store.
      5. Andre Cassis posted on 04/10/2014 11:09 PM
        What you experienced Sir I'd the Perfect Storm. You have all the elements at hand to file a case with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. To not do so would be a missed opportunity. I recall Oprah was treated in a like manner in regard to an expensive hand bag in Switzerland. In closing kudos to Mr Goldberg. All the best to you Mr. Whyne.
      6. George Bennett posted on 04/11/2014 03:33 AM
        WOW!! Can't believe that happened to one of the nicest guy on the island of Montreal. I was surprised to see the post on FB of someone who I know to be an upstanding gentleman, a kickboxing champion and a great couch. The sad thing is, the other gentleman doesn't even know what he did. Only those of clean heart shall enter my kingdom. The universe is watching! BLESS!
      7. Faride posted on 04/11/2014 06:10 AM
        Way to go Herby for standing up for the stereotype racist profiling you had to experience. In this day and age it should no longer happen. Of course consumers are going to look for the right item. And if the shop owner considers $ 300 to be a large sum of cash then he should also realize that a client will shop for the best price/product and not purchase the first item they are shown.

        If the shop owner is concerned for his safety then he/she needs to invest in security cameras, etc..., to protect himself.

        Aside from the fact that Herby Whyne is probably one of the friendliest person (kick boxer ) you will probably ever run into. He is a gifted photographer too.
      8. Kosta Papoulias posted on 04/11/2014 10:05 AM
        Wow! Of all people. I know both Herby and his brother Robert. Herby is not only a gym owner, but one of Montreal's foremost boxing photographers.

        Platine Design and Mr. Ben should be ashamed of themselves. Despite their trepidations, painting everyone with the same brush because of past experiences is both racist and small-minded.

        So what if Herby showed up in a track suit? Would Mr. Ben like his employer to install X-Ray scanners or frisk potential customers?

        Despite the past, I think Mr. Ben should simply man up and grow a pair.
      9. SarcasmFont posted on 04/11/2014 01:42 PM
        "I'm not racist, but..."
      10. Brit posted on 04/11/2014 02:00 PM
        I am white and have the same issue if I'm dressed shabbily at a high end store downtown. I sometimes like to explore St. Catherine's on my way to or from a hike in the park, and I dress to be comfortable in the weather. I'm generally ignored by the sales staff even if I want to make a purchase. I usually just leave and go someplace with better service. Maybe this shop owner was also racist, but this kind of snobby behavior isn't uncommon.
      11. Alex Weldon posted on 04/11/2014 03:35 PM
        What I don't understand is why the headline is "Black man alleges discrimination at Westmount jeweller" and not "Westmount jeweller confesses to discrimination." When you interviewed him, the guy flat out said that he made assumptions about and treated Herby differently based solely on his previous experiences with people of the same skin colour. THAT IS WHAT DISCRIMINATION IS, YOU FOOL!

        Show a little spine, CJAD.
      12. Shanelle Whyne posted on 04/13/2014 11:50 AM
        That's right uncle herby❤️ I can't believe today this still happens. Racism still exists. But no one is born racist...they are raised that way. To believe that all bblack people are broke and ghetto and have no up bringing. It's really sad to see this...especially the fact that I'm dating someone who isn't black. I hope people don't look at me this way, and if they do...so be it. I know who I am. Happy you went to the news with this uncle herby.
      13. chuck posted on 04/13/2014 07:53 PM
        Well Herby did the right thing and took his business to another store. As always the consumers has the choice.
      14. Steve Roumeliotis posted on 04/14/2014 03:59 PM
        I've known Herby for many years, and he's such a great guy. Very inspirational too. Glad that you exposed this place, there's no excuse for attitudes like that in this day.
      15. James posted on 04/14/2014 05:18 PM
        How can someone be so disgustingly racist? To make matters worse, the store owner thinks there is absolutely nothing wrong with his racist views and has the nerve to defend himself by using a stereotype ... apparently he was once robbed by a black man. Give me a break!

        In 1994, I was once robbed by a white man. I'm intelligent enough not to assume that people of European decent are not wired to rob people and this guy, and this guy alone, was a criminal.

        I am praying that the case is brought to the Human Rights Commission.

        What a JERK!
      16. jimi posted on 04/18/2014 07:54 AM
        glad he took the time and courage to stand up for himself. Its not just a black and white thing, its too many of us see eachoter as different regardless of race or religion. there is only one race. something this man has the courage to remind us.
      17. Ann Kearns posted on 05/16/2014 01:11 PM
        Completely unacceptable. I hope he shuts down the store and teaches that SNOB a good lesson about people and about racism.
      18. Rhona posted on 05/17/2014 05:07 AM
        I've been to platine design and I must say I will never go in again. Mr Ben is very arrogant and decided on his own that I couldn't afford the item I was enquiring about. I must say the woman working there seemed apologetic for his behaviour. I told her I was leaving due to his arrogance but to let him know that I could have been a customer. Well done Mr Whyne for going to Lou Goldberg as they are always a pleasure to deal with.
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