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Accused Mom Wasn't Shoplifting, She Was Pregnant With Twins

Photograph by Twenty20

Sherell Bates was already in a stressful situation—34 weeks pregnant with twins while diving into the craze of back-to-school shopping—when she got accused of shoplifting.

The mom was at a Staples in Pineville, North Carolina, on Friday, checking school supplies out of the store when a police officer approached her mid-transaction.

"He asked what was under my shirt," Bates told WSOC TV. "Initially, I thought he was joking, so my response was, 'Twins.' I'm 34 weeks with twins. I'm having a boy and a girl."

The mom said the officer didn't believe her, so she lifted her shirt a bit to expose her pregnant belly.

Photograph by Twitter

Pineville Police Department confirmed to Newsweek that a uniformed, off-duty police officer working at the McMullen Creek Market Shopping Center, where the Staples is located, responded to a call from a store manager who believed Bates was "concealing merchandise" under her shirt.

After her conversation with the officer, the mom then confronted the manager and said she was told, "In the past, we've had a lot of people putting school supplies or merchandise in their clothes and hiding, so I asked the officer to reach out to you."

Bates told FOX 46 that neither the store officer nor the manager apologized to her.

But in statements emailed to Newsweek and WSOC TV, Staples said the manager did apologize.

Bates told FOX 46 that neither the store officer nor the manager apologized to her.

"A manager mistakenly thought (the customer was) possibly shoplifting and asked a police officer that happened to be in the store to talk with the customer. After a quick conversation, the issue was resolved, the manager apologized to the customer and refunded their transaction due to the inconvenience," the statement read. "At Staples, we want all customers to feel welcome in our store, and work with our store associates to try and foster an inclusive culture. As an organization, we would like to apologize to the customer if that was not the case in this instance."

The mom, who was embarrassed after being confronted without any evidence, told WSOC TV she plans on contacting the company's corporate office this week and possibly seeking legal action. She hopes no mom would have to go through what she did.

In 1985, a woman in Arlington, Virginia, was nine months pregnant when employees thought she was shoplifting a basketball. Betsy J. Nelson was asked to prove she was pregnant by shaking out her maternity dress to show nothing would fall out. Months later, Nelson sought $100,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages from the store, though there has been no coverage on how this lawsuit was decided.

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, as many as 1 in 11 Americans shoplift in the U.S. today, resulting in more than $13 billion worth of goods being stolen from retailers each year (or $35 million per day).

Yeah, shoplifting is a pretty common thing, so it's understandable when employees get antsy. But let's get something straight: The only "evidence" of shoplifting shouldn't be the circumference of someone's waist.

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