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Shopper sues Macy's, says held in New York store jail cell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A shopper is suing Macy's for $1 million over being handcuffed and thrown into a jail cell at the retail chain's flagship store in Manhattan two days after last year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The plaintiff, Rachid Bakhari, said the incident started when he tried to return an ill-fitting belt he had bought for $27, according to a lawsuit filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Because the shopper had removed the price tags at home, he followed a sales clerk's instructions to get a belt with tags intact from the sales rack and bring it to the cash register to finalize the return, the lawsuit said.

Suddenly he was handcuffed by security personnel who tossed him into the store's jail cell, where he was held for three hours, the suit said.

Bakhari in his lawsuit noted that "within its Herald Square store, Macy's maintains a jail cell, not well advertised in the promotions for its Thanksgiving Day parade."

Macy's did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bakhari was never charged with a crime, according to the lawsuit.

The jail cell has been mentioned in other lawsuits against Macy's including one filed by actor Rob Brown, who stars in the HBO show "Treme" and was one of several black shoppers who accused Macy's of discrimination, saying they were detained by police after making luxury purchases.

The New York Times in 2003 described a private jail in the department store which contains "two chain-link holding cells. People some of them minors, are led to this room every day, where they are body-searched, photographed and then handcuffed to a long steel bench."

Bakhari is seeking $1 million from Macy's for the "wounded feelings, mental suffering, humiliation, degradation and disgrace" he experienced during the wrongful imprisonment, the lawsuit said.

"He never did get a belt that fit, even though he was charged for one that didn't fit, and that was confiscated from him," the lawsuit said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Diane Craft)

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