Friday, December 02, 2005

Racial Profiling at Walmart?

TAMPA - GAF Materials Corp. is handing out gift cards from Target as a reward to select employees this holiday season. That's because Wal-Mart, the discount store that held the business for years, last week called sheriff's deputies to apprehend a GAF manager on a bogus bad check rap while he was trying to buy this year's gift card supply.

"I keep going over and over the incident in my mind," said Reginald Pitts, the 34-year-old human resources manager for the roof material manufacturer's Tampa distribution center. "I cannot come up with any possible reason why I was treated like this except that I am black."

GAF has been spending about $50,000 a year on gift cards at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 11110 Causeway Blvd. in Brandon.

For years GAF sent a white, female administrator to buy them without incident. This time, when she was on vacation the day before Thanksgiving, Pitts did the job himself. He phoned in the order for 520 cards, got the accounting department to issue Wal-Mart a $13,600 check and then encountered a royal hassle trying to exchange it for gift cards at the store.

"For a while there I thought I was going to prison," he said. "It was a totally humiliating experience."For about two hours, store managers stalled on accepting the check for the already-printed gift cards, while Pitts stood waiting by the customer service desk. He had handed over his GAF business card, his driver's license and the toll-free numbers to GAF's bank. His accounting supervisor assured them over the phone that GAF, the nation's biggest roofing systems maker with revenues of $1.6-billion in 2004, was good for the check.

Dressed in khaki pants and a blue button-down-collar dress shirt, Pitts finally got upset over the lengthy wait. He asked for the check back so he could go to another store. But store managers, who had kept huddled in a nearby office during most of his two-hour ordeal, refused to return it. The only explanation he got was that the store was having trouble "verifying" the check or who Pitts was.

Later, two Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies appeared. "We need to talk with you about this forged check that you brought in here," Pitts recalled deputy Bryan Wells saying.

Within 19 minutes deputies reviewed the evidence, determined there was no grounds for a criminal charge and learned Wal-Mart would not press the issue further.

Wells handed the check to Pitts."Our deputies didn't even see enough (of a case) to write a report," said Lt. Carmen Rivas, the shift commander. "We responded only because Wal-Mart called in a bad check report."

So far, four Wal-Mart officials, including a regional vice president of operations at corporate headquarters in Bentonville, have called Pitts and apologized for the incident. But no one from the store did. And nobody from the company has offered an explanation of what happened."They have it all on tape someplace. I have been trying to find some reasonable explanation why they did this to me other than something racial," Pitts said. "So far they have not provided one."


sttropezbutler said...

Yet another reason to stay away from this hideous store. Between abusing employees and profiling customers...well..I can only say it has been quite a while since I shopped at Walmart or Sam's.

I'm a Costco Queen.


BostonPobble said...

And you can find me at Target or BJs (no comments from the peanut gallery, please!) The one and only thing I hate about going to Jersey to visit with the Grill Master is watching him have to take precautions against profiling (e.g., driving 2 miles under the speed limit, keeping his laugh lower than usual if we're at a bar...) And, he tells me he does it less with me because being with someone white gives him a little more wiggle room. *sigh* But racism doesn't exist anymore, right? Riiiiight...

cats said...

i think the sign of the devil is not 666 but anything ending in the letters "mart."

btw, thanks for the prayers.

Evenflo said...

Wow, can you say "L.A.W. S.U.I.T."?Not only against the Walmart Corp. But the local police department as well. They are professionals and clearly did not handle this situation properly. If a man comes into a store and provides you with everything you need to do a transaction, why do you then need to get 20 other people involved. The cashier cant be making that much money, that now he/she is on the loss provention team as well. It stated that the person that bought the gift cards in the past was a white lady and she never had any problem!!!! A man of color comes into the store to attempt to make the same purchase, and this is how he is treated. All I can say is that Walmart would be in court, and there is now way that they could ever justify this and to boot I would never shop in one of their stores, walmart/Sams again in life. If I were Mr. Pitts (the customer that had the problem) I would now be know as Mr. Pitts-Walton, the newest member of the Walton/Walmart family.