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Long Island Walmart Accused Of Racial Profiling After Locking African-American Hair Products In Glass Case

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- African-American hair products locked in a case at Walmart has stirred outrage on Long Island.

One shopper who chose to fight the policy may have succeeded in bringing about change, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday.

The Walmart in Riverhead has reversed its decision to lock the products in a glass case, opened only with a key by management.

"That's discrimination," shopper Patricia Fulford said.

A shopper took issue with a Long Island Walmart locking African-American hair products in a glass case, requiring employees open it. (Photo: CBS2)

Racial profiling complaints were lodged by Fulford, who had to wait 10 minutes for the case to be unlocked.

"So I went and found the manager and said, 'I'm waiting for the key for shampoo and conditioner.' I said, 'But let me ask you, why are the black hair products locked up and not the white hair products?' He said, 'Um, um,' and another associate said, 'Well, people have been stealing,'" Fulford said.

Fulford said she understands Walmart policy of locking expensive items -- men's razors, electronics, cosmetics, baby formula -- but the black hair care products under lock and key ranged in price from $1 to $25.

"It's just not right that I have to wait for a key to get shampoo and conditioner and my fellow shopper does not," Fulford said.

Some customers CBS2's McLogan spoke with hoped Walmart would find another way to secure the multi-cultural hair products.

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A Walmart corporate leader told McLogan, "discrimination of any kind is not tolerated. Decisions for enhanced security are made on a store-by-store basis."

Riverhead Town Council member Catherine Kent, who is with the Anti-Bias Task Force, was dissatisfied after meeting with management.

"They said this was based on data of theft in the store and we asked to see the data, and at that point she referred us to call 1-800-Walmart," Kent said.

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Corrine Graham of the Long Island African-American Chamber of Commerce said the message is hurtful.

"As the number one retailer, they have a social responsibility to do the right thing and that means become more inclusive and pay attention to the needs of the community they are serving," Graham said.

"I would just like everyone to be able to go into Walmart and have the same shopping experience," Fulford said.

And Walmart said its mission is sensitivity and fairness.

A lawsuit against Walmart over a similar policy was recently filed in California.

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