In an interview with Bloomberg News regarding the Gates situation, Duke University Professor Kerry Haynie, who is black, said he consciously changes out of old clothes before shopping to minimize suspicion that he may be shoplifting.
When Rocky shops on Rodeo Drive (remember Miss Vivian in Pretty Woman), he doesn’t care whether store detectives falsely accuse him of shoplifting. (“Officer, that’s not a laptop under my sweater, I just need to lose a few pounds.”)
In fact, when shopping at a store where prices are negotiable (such as auto dealers and matress retailers), he consciously puts on OLD clothes to look less wealthy. He’s discovered firsthand that wearing a Casio watch, jeans and worn-out sneakers often results in a better price than when he dons a Rolex watch and Gucci loafers. He understands that the salesman may treat him with less respect, but Rocky is more interested in paying less than getting respect.
People (and the police) certainly respond to verbal and non-verbal cues. A challenge for the intelligent consumer is to use these sterotypes to one’s advantage. (By the way, Rocky loves his new car, which he bought well below dealer invoice.)