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UK Store Accused of Racially Profiling Man Attempting to Buy Spray Paint

A Welsh man has accused arts and craft retail chain Hobbycraft of racial profiling him after staff at the store’s Cardiff location refused to sell him spray paint. The incident took place on Saturday, February 24, when 32 year-old Louis Gray went to the craft store with his four-year-old son to purchase art supplies to revamp his child’s bicycle helmet. But when Gray attempted to buy the aerosol paint — an age-restricted item — he claimed that he was “refused service” on account of discriminatory accusations that it would be used for vandalism.

Gray, who works as a consultant on race equity, diversity, and inclusion, according to his LinkedIn, recounted the ordeal in a since-deleted X thread, alleging that he was prohibited from buying the spray paint due to staff suspicions that it would be used “to undertake an ‘incidence of graffiti’.”

“In today’s episode of wearing your Black skin in public I was racially profiled and refused service at @Hobbycraft – trying to buy paint for an arts and craft project with my four-year-old,” Gray wrote in the thread. 

Founded in 1995, Hobbycraft is an arts and crafts retail chain with more than 100 stores across the United Kingdom. A spokesperson for the retail store told Hyperallergic that the company has a “zero-tolerance for racism” and is committed to cultivating an inclusive space for customers and workers.

The representative also affirmed the chain’s strict compliance with its Challenge 25 policy, which states that any customers who look under 25 years old may be asked to show identification proving their age in order to complete the sale. In the UK, it is a criminal offense to sell aerosol paint to anyone under 16 years old, according to Section 54 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act. The law was passed by parliament in 2003 as a way to deter vandalism. 

“Following our investigation, we can confirm [this] was a ‘Challenge 25’ conversation, in which unfortunately the customer was unable to provide the ID required,” the representative said.

But Gray questioned the enforcement of this age-restriction, telling the Guardian that he was only able to complete the purchase after calling a White family member to come to the store to buy the supplies for him. The relative apparently even made the purchase using Gray’s Apple Pay.

“Funny how, a White man came and purchased the paint, and did not get IDed,” Gray wrote in the since-deleted post, adding that his family member simply had to promise Hobbycraft staff that he was over 16 and that the paint was for him.

“A White promise is held with higher regard than a Black promise? Is the Black pound not worth anything at @Hobbycraft??” Gray wrote. Gray has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s requests for comment.

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