When Essie Grundy walked into the Walmart in the Riverside County, California, town of Perris, she had to get assistance to get a 49-cent comb out of a locked case. Now, she’s filing a lawsuit.
Why, you may ask? Well, according to KCBS-TV, the comb is a product predominantly used by African-Americans — and the chain was engaging in racial discrimination by putting the comb behind a locked case.
“I originally got the product from the Walmart in Riverside … and it was such a good product, I wanted to introduce it to my older children,” Grundy said at a news conference Friday.
“They didn’t have any more at the original Walmart that I got it from, so I went to my neighborhood one, and that’s when I noticed all of the African-American products was locked up under lock and key.”
“We have different textured hair than other people,” she added. “I just feel that we should be treated equally,” noting that blacks shouldn’t be treated differently “just because of a complexion.”
She filed a complaint with the store to have the products removed from the case, which was denied. She then filed a lawsuit. Her attorney, Gloria Allred (because of course it is), says Grundy wants not only an apology but also an end to the practice of locking items up at Walmart, period.
Other groups have complained about this in the past, including Making Change at Walmart, which calls it a “discriminatory practice.”
“Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson said while the company does not discriminate, it will review Grundy’s complaint,” KCBS reported. “He noted that some products are locked or kept under tighter security, suggesting they are more at risk of theft.”
This is more true than most people would know. A long, long time ago, your humble author was an even more humble retail employee. I won’t mention the store aside from the fact that it’s a lot like Walmart and its color scheme is a lot like this website’s. You do the math.
From this experience, I can tell those who don’t pay attention to these sorts of things would be surprised the strange items that get locked up. Skullcandy headphones got locked up even though they were cheap, thanks to the fact that they seemed to appeal inordinately to shoplifters at that time.
The same thing went with laxatives and enemas, which were often shoplifted by opioid addicts who were suffering from the constipation that often comes with usage.
If you’ve ever noticed extra security hanging around the socks or deodorant in a store, that’s because they’re some of the most disproportionately shoplifted items. At my store, so were baby formula, cough syrup, razors, and — I kid you not — albums and movies with Christian themes. As a Christian, that one always amazed me, considering the celestial prohibition against stealing isn’t exactly buried in the Bible, but is what modern journalists like to call “foregrounded” in the form of the Ten Commandments.
Stores don’t aim to offend. However, they also have to make money. All of these items I mentioned have one thing in common: They’re shoplifted with unusual frequency when compared to other items. There are sometimes obvious reasons for this: cough syrup, for instance, will get you high if it’s misused. Some have explanations one can only take wild guesses at, such as socks and Francesca Battistelli albums. When stock numbers tell store managers that certain products are being shoplifted more frequently than others, they take steps to stop the theft.
It’s unfortunate that a group of products associated with a particular race are being shoplifted at an unusual clip, but this lawsuit won’t solve anything if the thefts don’t stop. There are two other solutions to this problem that don’t involve subjecting the area in which they’re sold to extra security.
First, you could raise the price of the item so that a profit could be made in spite of the fact that it’s so frequently shoplifted. Or, you could remove the product from stores entirely, since it’s unprofitable to carry.
This is essentially the choices Ms. Grundy is trying to force Walmart into with her lawsuit. I doubt that’s what she believes will happen. Reality, alas, is a cruel beast, and facts aren’t discriminatory.
What she is asking for, in effect, is to be treated differently “just because of a complexion.”
Ironic, isn’t it?
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