SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Several Walmart locations in the Sacramento area are locking up hair care products marketed to African-American Shoppers.
Tracy Green, a grandmother, alerted us after a recent trip with her granddaughter to the Walmart in the Florin area.
She sent 16-year-old Avonna Stewart to grab rubber bands for braiding, leave-in conditioner, and tea tree oil.
Avonna returned empty-handed finding all three items were locked up.
“They’re in the case. I can’t get it myself,” said Avonna.
Grandma Tracy had to see it for herself and snapped a picture.
Avonna was in disbelief. “I felt kind of confused. ‘Cause like who wants to steal 99-cent rubber bands,” she said.
Other viewers also alerted us to black hair care products that were locked up at other Sacramento Walmart locations, so our producer went undercover in three different stores: Florin Road in South Sacramento, West Sacramento, and Natomas.
Walking down the aisles, we shot cell phone video of all the hair care products out in the open. But when it comes to these specialized products, some with black models on the labels, we found they were locked behind glass.
Customers are required to press a button for help. Our producer at the Florin store did this three times; no one came, and she had to hunt down a clerk to unlock the case.
Producer: “Excuse me, sir. Is there someone that can help me?”
The clerk unlocked the products for us.
Producer: “Why is this locked up anyway?”
Clerk: “High-theft items. It’s coming from the people above us. They tell us to lock things up.”
She pushes back, after finding the 94-cent braiding bands, and the leave-in conditioner, Avonna bought.
Producer: “This is only three bucks. Why is it being locked up?”
Clerk: “We’re told what to put in here, so.”
Tracy doesn’t feel this is right.
“How would you explain this to your grandchild?”
During our investigation, we ran into Deanna Ridgway, at the West Sacramento store. She pointed out to us all the black hair products that were behind glass.
“This is all us. All this is us.”
Deanna says it’s the second Walmart where the items she needs are locked up.
“It made me feel like I was being isolated and that it was a little insensitive,” she said.
The Sacramento Chapter of the ACLU called the practice blatant discrimination that’s degrading, demoralizing and illegal.
“It’s utterly ridiculous and they should be ashamed of themselves,” said Abre’ Conner, ACLU Staff Attorney.
Kurtis Ming: “If Walmart was able to provide hard evidence that showed these particular products are stolen more often than others, some may say they should lock them up.
Attorney Abre’ Conner: “I say there’s no way that every single product behind that glass door can be a risk of being stolen more often than any other product.”
We reached out to Walmart Corporate, which sent this statement;
“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. Like other retailers, Walmart uses enhanced security on some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics, and other personal care products. Those determinations are made on a store-by-store basis using data supporting the need for the heightened measures. Our goal is to ensure that we offer a wide variety of products to our diverse array of customers at the low prices they have come to expect.”
Tracy said she heard a different message.
“It says that they consider us to be thieves. [That] we’re less customers to them maybe; I don’t know what to think,” she said.
CBS stations in Los Angeles and Philadelphia randomly checked some Walmart locations and did not find the same products locked up.