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Have you ever been stopped while leaving a store after buying something and asked by an employee to produce a receipt?
It’s a way for retailers to make sure people are going home with items they’ve paid for, and it’s common at Ikea, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Costco, Target, and Lowe’s. At Lowe’s, though, the practice isn’t mandatory at all locations; instead, the company’s policy is to only check the receipts of customers inside stores with “high levels” of crime.
Now, Lowe’s is reevaluating its receipt-checking policy after a shopper called the company out for racial profiling.
“We have suspended our receipt checking practice nationwide until we can fully review our process,” Jaclyn Hartzell, the PR director at Lowe’s, confirmed to Racked. “It is always our intent to make everyone feel welcome while shopping at Lowe’s.”
Over Memorial Day Weekend, a Philadelphia school dean named Will Mega made two visits to Lowe’s and was asked both times to procure a receipt. Mega, who is black, was buying high-priced items and thought it was unjust to have to show a receipt for the things he had paid for at the nearby checkout counter, he told the public media site WHYY.
In an exchange that he recorded on his phone, he challenged a Lowe’s employee and a store manager about the policy.
“Don’t take it personal,” the store manager told him. “It’s nothing that you’re doing or anything on that. We have to make sure what you have in the cart, that you paid for. That’s all that is.”
In the recording, Mega asked if all Lowe’s stores check receipts, and the manager admitted it happens in “this store” and that “we have to do it.” When Mega pressed the manager further, a nearby employee piped in to say that it’s because the store is “inner city.” Mega clarified that they don’t check receipts in non-inner-city stores, and the employee shook her head to agree with him. The manager told Mega the store is “class 6,” meaning an area of high theft.
“So I’m being treated like a criminal because somebody else committed a crime?” Mega asked. “You’re treating me — a customer who paid for my goods — like a criminal, because somebody else committed a crime. Show me your policy.”
Mega also told WHYY that when he took a trip to a different Lowe’s the next day, which was located in a more suburban part of Philadelphia, a cashier told him that Lowe‘s location doesn‘t check receipts at the door, adding that “this is the white ’hood.”
Lowe’s killing its receipt-checking policy comes amid a larger national discussion about the treatment of black customers in retail settings. In May, Starbucks shut down 8,000 stores for an afternoon so employees could undergo racial bias training after two black men waiting to start a business meeting inside a Philadelphia Starbucks were arrested for “trespassing.” The coffee chain then came under fire when a barista refused to give the bathroom code to a black customer but granted access to a white customer.
In May, Nordstrom apologized to three black teens in St. Louis, Missouri, for wrongfully accusing them of shoplifting while they were shopping for prom. Saks Fifth Avenue, Old Navy, Walmart, Macy’s, Dillard’s, and Zara have all had incidents of racially profiling black shoppers too, and in 2014, Barneys agreed to pay $525,000 in settlements for racial profiling suits of its own.
Hartzell, of Lowe’s, tells Racked the company had a previous policy of checking receipts “in stores where we had our highest levels of inventory loss based on several years of our internal data.” As Mega pointed out, the policy isn’t fair because “it leaves open too many possibilities to discriminate against people.”
Lowe’s says it’s reached out to Mega “to understand more about his experience and continue the dialogue.”