DENVER (CBS4)– Walmart announced a policy change 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 is discriminatory 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. “I’m not going to be shamed into thinking I’m a criminal for just wanting to get a scarf.”
After Epps waited for an employee to unlock the glass, the employee reached for a portable locked case to put the hair scarf Epps selected inside. Epps refused and left the store without purchasing a thing.
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.”
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 Monday, 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.”
On Wednesday, a Walmart representative reached out to Mason and said their stores made the decision to discontinue placing multicultural hair products in cases.
Walmart issued the following statement: “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.”
Epps returned to the Montbello Walmart to see for herself.
“The locked cases were gone. I actually bumped into another black woman who said she was thrilled everything was out of the case. She told me she complained a month ago, saying that they needed to take them out of the cases,” said Epps.
Epps says she was shocked to see Walmart followed through, especially knowing how much this issue has been raised in the past. She believes the company moved quickly, because of the nationwide protests outside its doors.
“It’s all about timing. People have gone to court over this, people have tried to fight. This has been ongoing,” said Epps.
Epps hopes other retailers follow suit, and provides employees with diversity training. She says she’s excited that Walmart finally listened, because removing that glass was long overdue.
“I’m happy for the people in communities like this who shop these stores frequently,” said Epps. “They won’t have to experience that because of this story.”