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Denver Walmart Customer Believes Retailer Discriminates Against People Of Color

DENVER (CBS4) - A Walmart customer says its location in Denver's Montbello neighborhood discriminates against people of color after noticing only multicultural hair products locked behind glass in her local store.

(credit: Lauren Epps)

"If I want Suave or Tresumme or Pantene, it's out. The multi-cultural hair care is all locked behind the glass. That's so ridiculous," said Lauren Epps, a black woman looking to purchase a scarf for her hair.

Multicultural products are made specifically for textured hair, designed for people of color. Epps says it's frustrating that women with finer hair get the luxury of browsing and reading product descriptions, while she feels pressured to make an immediate choice.

"I'm the kind of shopper who needs to look at things, read things. It's awkward because you're forced in the moment to grab it," explained Epps. "People don't realize what we have to go through on a daily basis."

(credit: Lauren Epps)

After Epps waited for an employee to unlock the glass, the employee began to reach for a portable locked case to put the item Epps selected inside.

Epps refused and left the store without purchasing the scarf.

"I'm not going to be shamed into thinking I'm a criminal for just wanting to get a scarf. This is very blatant because the heading above that aisle says 'Multicultural Hair Care.' They are saying that people, who are a different culture, need their stuff to be locked up," said Epps.

(credit: Lauren Epps)

Multicultural products locked behind glass have been found in Walmarts throughout Colorado and nationwide.

CBS4 asked Walmart why its entire multicultural hair section in its Montbello location is behind glass. In a statement, a Walmart spokesperson 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."

Epps pointed out that there are more expensive items that could also be tempting to shoplifters across the aisle.

"They could say these are the most shoplifted items, but you can't convince me that every single item in there is on their radar," said Epps.

She says this is another form of implicit bias that people of color experience every day.

"This Walmart is in the heart of Montbello. There are black and brown people all over the place. The message is clear: We don't trust you," said Epps, "And it's for what? Shampoo? There are bigger things that are happening in the world than people wanting to wash and cleanse their hair."

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