A California woman is suing Walmart, claiming that the store’s policy to lock certain products subject to a higher rate of shoplifting inside glass cases is racist.
Essie Grundy is taking a Walmart in Perris, California, to court, saying she felt like a second-class citizen because items popular with black customers were locked behind glass doors, CBS Los Angeles reported.
Grundy explained that she originally bought a small comb in another Walmart outside her neighborhood and wanted to get more as gifts, but when she went to the location near her, she found the 50-cent items inside locked glass cases.
“I noticed all of the African American products was locked up under lock and key,” Grundy said at a press conference spearheaded by activist lawyer Gloria Allred.
Grundy claimed she confronted the local Walmart manager and asked to have the lock-and-key policy changed, but the manager refused the request.
The mother of five children said she feels African Americans are being treated like thieves and criminals by having their most sought-after products locked up.
Grundy wants an apology and wants the courts to force Walmart to stop its secure stocking practice.
Walmart said it would review the woman’s complaint but also noted that the shelving policy is in place for a legitimate reason.
“We’re sensitive to this situation and also understand, like other retailers, that some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics, and other personal care products are subject to additional security,” Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson said.
“Those determinations are made on a store-by-store basis using data supporting the need for heightened measures.”
In a further public comment, Walmart said:
We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind at Walmart. We serve more than 140 million customers weekly, crossing all demographics, and are focused on meeting their needs while providing the best shopping experience at each store. We’re sensitive to this situation and also understand, like other retailers, that some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics, and other personal care products are subject to additional security. Those determinations are made on a store-by-store basis using data supporting the need for the heightened measures. While we’ve yet to review a complaint, we take this situation seriously and look forward to addressing it with the court.
The lawsuit inspired a string of posts on social media by blacks outraged by the shelving policy:
If Walmart is gonna lock up hair products they need to do it for all of them not only the ethnic hair products pic.twitter.com/XcnajuNNsV
— Khadijah (@Kadia2_) January 22, 2018
Why do people go to Walmart. It’s like if your racist uncle became a store
— Nicole Thiel (@not_thiel) January 27, 2018
— Ms. Pinky Stanseski (@undergradwoman) January 27, 2018
When did walmart start locking up black haircare products? Talk about racist. https://t.co/AlgVfnHk5g
— Ronnie Sidney II (@ronniesidneyii) January 26, 2018