Scandal on Sneaker Row

Yellow Rat Bastard, the skate-punky streetwear retailer based in Soho, shelled out $1.4 million last week to settle a suit by more than 1,000 current and former employees charging that the company had cheated them, paying below minimum wage (currently $7.15) and cutting back hours to punish complainers. Does such sneakiness go on at all the area’s outfitters? And do customers care?

Photographs by Tim Murphy

Jennifer Domanski
26, Greenpoint, pastry chef at Zoë restaurants, walking out of YRB
Does this news surprise you? No. It’s New York City. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Why were you in there? I wanted to get something for my boyfriend for Valentine’s Day, but they’re not very friendly. Do you think they’re unfriendly in order to be cool? Yeah, they’re too cool. Who thinks they’re cooler, YRB people or the Urban Outfitters staff? They’re about the same with their customer relations, like, “Do what you want, we don’t care, we look cool.”

Patsy Anderson
From Texas, visiting with grown son, T.R.; retired nurse; shopping in Pulse
Does this surprise you? Not at all. I had a personal experience like that once working for a potato-chip company. If you knew any store on this strip was doing what YRB allegedly did, would you boycott it? It depends on how good their sales are. No, truthfully, if I knew, I probably would not go in there. So you were just at YRB. How would you describe their look? That’s for the younger generation. It’s not really my style.

Christopher Yeboah
22, Bronx, works at Soho Lab; hourly wage: $8.75, plus commission
Does this surprise you? Not really. Not all retail pays you what you’re supposed to be paid. Do you get a discount? Yeah, 20 to 50 percent. Is this your dream job? I don’t know what I want to do with my life. Some people say I should be a comedian, but I’m good with kids, too. In New York, you have to make a living. I’m not going to be on the streets selling drugs. What’s the best seller in the store right now? The 310s [pictured], which are made out of car parts.

Damion Nicholson
27, Canarsie, works at David Z; hourly wage: $7, plus commission
Is this unique to YRB? No, I think it happens at a lot of stores. Here? I don’t think so, but then again, we haven’t been investigated. Are you due for a raise? I haven’t gotten one. Will you ask for one? That’s another story. Is this your dream job? No, that would be dental hygiene, which I’m studying for in school, and writing R&B music. Michael Jackson is my idol. Who shops here? A lot of tourists. The ones from England are my favorites. They buy a lot of Uggs.

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Scandal on Sneaker Row