Nation & World

Lowe's stops checking customer receipts after accusations of racial profiling

Environmental groups and the family of a man who died last year from exposure to fumes from an off-the-shelf paint stripper are petitioning Lowe's Home Improvement stores to stop selling products containing a chemical compound blamed for at least 56 deaths since 1980. (Jonathan Weiss/Dreamstime/TNS)
Environmental groups and the family of a man who died last year from exposure to fumes from an off-the-shelf paint stripper are petitioning Lowe's Home Improvement stores to stop selling products containing a chemical compound blamed for at least 56 deaths since 1980. (Jonathan Weiss/Dreamstime/TNS)

Memorial Day weekend was supposed to bring three productive days of home improvement for Will Mega, a dean at a North Philadelphia charter school.

He’d go to two Lowe’s locations near his home in Philadelphia’s Wynnefield neighborhood for a grill and other items for a contracting job.

But when Mega, who is black, found that only certain stores made customers show their receipts before leaving the store, he began to think that the company’s policy was a way of profiling and harassing some of its customers. He raised the issue with a store manager.

Lowe’s since has ended its receipt-checking policy in all stores.

Lowe’s re-evaluation of its receipt-checking policy comes as other businesses are being scrutinized for incidents of racial profiling in commercial spaces.

After the arrests of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks in April, the company changed its policies to allow customers to use the bathrooms and sit in cafes without making a purchase. Starbucks closed 8,000 stores for an afternoon last month to administer racial-bias training to 175,000 employees, and announced new guidelines for when workers should call 911.

Last month, Nordstrom Rack apologized after an employee in St. Louis called the police on three black teenagers who were accused of stealing while shopping for prom. In April, an LA Fitness in New Jersey called 911 after wrongly accused two black men of not paying to use the gym.

And a golf course in Pennsylvania called the police on a group of black women they accused of playing too slowly.

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