DENVER (CBS4) - Walmart is making changes after CBS4's Tori Mason reported that only multicultural hair products were in a locked case at the store in Denver's Montbello neighborhood. Mason spoke to a customer who said locking up those products but not other, more expensive items discriminates against people of color.
"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.
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."
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.
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 anything.
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.
On Wednesday, a Walmart representative reached out to Mason and said their stores will discontinue placing multicultural hair products in cases.
"...while the practice was only in place in about a dozen of our 4,700 stores nationwide, we have made the decision to discontinue placing these items in cases," Lorenzo Lopez with Corporate Communications stated.
Walmart issued the following statement on Wednesday:
"As a retailer serving millions of customers every day from diverse backgrounds, Walmart does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Like other retailers, the cases were put in place to deter shoplifters from some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics and other personal care products.
"We're sensitive to the issue and understand the concerns raised by our customers and members of the community and have made the decision to discontinue placing multicultural hair care and beauty products – a practice in place in about a dozen of our 4,700 stores nationwide – in locked cases."
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