The Barnes & Noble bookstore at the Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles.… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)
Omar Amin was browsing for books, but instead he got the boot.
The 73-year-old was looking for gifts for his two grandsons in an Arizona Barnes & Noble store when he got a rude tap on the shoulder: It seems a female customer told store officials she was “uncomfortable” that a man was in the children’s section unaccompanied by any minor.
A store employee told the 73-year-old Amin, the director of a Scottsdale medical clinic, to leave and escorted him out of the business. A bewildered and outraged Amin called his lawyer after the early May incident.
Now a top Barnes & Noble executive has publicly apologized. Vice President Mark Bottini said in a statement this week that it is not the company's policy to ask customers to leave any section without justification.
"We want to apologize to Dr. Amin for a situation in which Dr. Amin was asked to leave the children's section of our Scottsdale, Ariz., store. We should not have done so. It is not our policy to ask customers to leave any section of our stores without justification.,” the statement read.
But Amin – director of the Parasitology Center Inc. in Scottsdale and an expert in infectious diseases – told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that the affair has left him scratching his head.
“I have been deluged by reporters for the past two days,” he said. “I have lost my peace and privacy thanks to this bookstore.”
On May 4, Amin was looking for books for his two grandsons, 5 and 7, when the trouble started. “The boys live in Wisconsin and are both mechanically inclined, so I was looking for books on planes or dinosaurs,” he said. “I always bought them books at that store.”
Moments after entering the business, Amin said he received a call from his girlfriend and sat down to take the call. That’s when the employee approached.
“He said that men alone are not supposed to be in the children's reading area by themselves,” Amin said. “I told him there were no signs, and then he said a woman complained.”
When Amin asked if he could question the complaining shopper, the store declined.
"The employee asked whether I’d heard about kids being molested in bookstores and I said I didn’t. Maybe I should have picked some strange kid to go to the store with me so they would leave me alone," Amin said. "I don’t know how that works.”
Bottini called Amin on Monday to offer him a personal apology. But the shopper said he wanted an apology from the Scottsdale store and a copy of the reprimand letter issued to the clerk. Management declined, Amin said.
Amin said he has been contacted by numerous law firms to file a lawsuit but has since thought better of the idea. When Bottini called him again on Tuesday morning, Amin said he accepted the bookseller’s apology.
"I’ve had enough," he said. “My goal in life is to help people, not file lawsuits. I want this behind me, so I can get back to work.”