By Tori Mason

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.”

Tori Mason

Comments (9)
  1. Billy Cosmos says:

    “Multicultural” hair products? Since when does culture determine what shampoo works best for your hair? Do French immigrants need different conditioner because France has it’s own culture? Do Korean and Japanese people have different haircare needs?

    Also, all the people shown in the piece are clearly culturally American. Obviously so. Why then should they care about the accessibility of products clearly not intended for people of their cultural background?

    Why does the sign mention culture at all?

  2. My son works as an Asset Protection Officer at Walmart. The reason is 100% due to theft. It is cheaper to pay someone to unlock these glass display cases than the cost of loss due to theft. Walmart decided it was better to have a minority employed to open the cases than to just allow the loss and pass it along to cost to the person buying the product. Now it is possible a minority will lose their job and good people will pay more for the products. Walmart tries to help minorities and is called racist for doing so.

  3. JB says:

    I plan on having CBS 4 accompany me to my local CVS the next time I decide to buy a new razor & blades. Because, they are both under lock & key. The clerk unlocks the case, and takes the products up to the front counter & you do not handle the product until it is bought & paid for. I have no problem with this, because as a reasonable person I understand these are high theft Items. Plus, I do shop in a much nicer neighborhood than Montbello.

  4. Dolly says:

    This story is one sided!! There is only one reason a store would take the time to lock up products and that is because of theft. In Las Vegas a convenience store locked up laundry detergent and when we asked them why it was because it is shoplifted continuously. Terrible reporting when you don’t get both sides.

  5. The Media is VERY guilty of bias. Every time you buy spray paint you have to give your date of birth because they profile you as a tagger. Every time you by cold medicine you have to buy it from the pharmacist and show ID and date of birth because they profile you as a meth head. I’m very saddened by the fact that you have chosen to be race biased when its everyone being discriminated against. Color. age, sex, fat, short, tall skinny, old or young.
    Stop the race hate!

  6. Tom says:

    The media here is guilty of bias. Why didn’t they ask the store for a store loss report? The numbers should tell the story. Give the public ALL of the facts not just one side.

  7. Joe Bloe says:

    Here we go again…. don’t you “people of color” think that the afrosheen is locked up because those “products” are stolen more than others? Get a grip and change the 100 year old stereotypes…..

  8. Matthew Cacophony says:

    Walmart isn’t racist, they’re inhuman. They do not care about you or I. What they care about is facts, reality, and economics. If both products were stolen at a comparable rate than both would be behind locked glass.

  9. If those are the ones that get stolen unless they’re locked up the store needs to lock them up. That’s not discrimination, it’s economics 101

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