Claim: In some CVS stores, of all the hair care items vended there, only those marketed to African-Americans were tagged with anti-theft devices.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]
Origins: In early May 2006, the above-quoted denunciation of racial profiling by nationwide chain of CVS drug stores began circulating on the Internet. According to news segments we found, the charge appeared to have a basis of truth to it: in some CVS stores television news reporters visited, only hair care products meant for African-American consumers were security-tagged; the other kinds of similar products available on those stores' shelves bore no such
As reported by News Channel 7 in Spartanburg, South Carolina: "We bought hair care products from the CVS/pharmacy store in Boiling Springs. The hair relaxers for African American women have security tags. Similar, more expensive hair straighteners for Caucasian women did not" and "We bought these boxes of 'Just Five' hair color from the same shelf at the CVS store on Chesnee Highway in Spartanburg. The two for African American women have security tags. The one for Caucasian women, no tag."
However, the same segment pointed out this practice had not been the case in every CVS store reporters visited: "That's two out of three CVS stores in Spartanburg and one out of eleven CVS stores in Greenville. The other CVS stores tagged hair products for both whites and blacks, or none of them."
A similar piece aired on
When called upon by the reporters from each of these news agencies to answer to their findings, CVS explained they place security tags on products that are shoplifted the most often. However, a
The South Carolina NAACP stated that they planned to ask CVS to change the way it tags its hair products.
In recent years several large chain retailers have been the targets of lawsuits charging them with unfairly treating minority customers as thieves, with plaintiffs claiming that the stores engaged in racial profiling and accused minority customers of shoplifting despite a lack of evidence that any thefts had occurred.
In a 2005 lawsuit, Dillard's department store was charged with wrongly detaining black customers for shoplifting in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Florida. The eight plaintiffs said they were interrogated and accused by Dillard's employees or security personnel of stealing
Also in 2005, ten shoppers filed suit against
A lawsuit filed in 2003 claimed that of the approximately 1,600 individuals apprehended on suspicion of shoplifting at a Macy's department store in
Theft of retail goods is a problem of almost unimaginable proportions. In 2001, the National Retail Federation estimated shoplifting cost retailers
Drug stores are particularly prone to "shrinkage" (the retail industry's term for merchandise theft) because the goods sold in such establishments are generally small and easily pocketed. Some retailers, such as CVS, combat the lightfingered with Electronic Article Surveillance technology, an anti-shoplifting system that involves attaching electronically-detectable tags to merchandise. It is these tags that are the subject of the current rumor about hair care products intended for African-Americans.
While I would have liked to have included statements from CVS about its product-tagging practices in general and this rumor in particular, trying to obtain a response from them proved fruitless. I
Barbara "unanswered" Mikkelson
Last updated: 22 June 2014
Barrett, Steve. "Channel 9 News." 9 WFTV [Orlando, FL] 30 April 2006. Chandler, Michele. "Black Teen Files Suit Against Safeway Over Shoplifting Accusations." San Jose Mercury News. 10 March 2005. Daugherty, Scott. "Shoplifters Use Aluminum to Foil Security." The [Annapolis] Capital. 14 May 2005   (p. A1). Hornaday, Bill. "Dillard's Accused of Picking on Blacks." Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. 21 October 2005. Kong, Deborah. "Retailers Fight Wave of Racial Profiling Cases." [Dubuque] Telegraph Herald. 9 June 2003 (p. D5). Lewis, Diane. "Customers Sue Wal-Mart Over Alleged Bias." The Boston Globe. 13 July 2005 (p. D4). Milton, Pat. "Macy's Agrees to Enforce Policy Against Racial Profiling in Shoplifting." The Associated Press. 14 January 2005. Quraishi, Ash-Har. "5 at Ten." 5 KCTV [Kansas City, MO] 1 March 2006. Sullivan, Heather. "News Channel 7: CVS Security Tags." 7 WSPA [Spartanburg, SC] 27 April 2006. Sullivan, Heather. "News Channel 7: CVS Security Tags." 7 WSPA [Spartanburg, SC] 28 April 2006. Tucker, Neely. "Two Allege Bias at Store in Georgetown." The Washington Post. 12 December 2002 (p. B3). The Birmingham Times. "Racial Discrimination at Macy's Nationwide." 25 June 2003 (p. A7). Progressive Grocer. "CVS/Pharmacy Teams with Checkpoint for Chainwide EAS Installation." 12 July 2004.