A Netflix comedy writer recently recorded a video that accuses a national drug store chain of using a motion sensor system to follow Black customers in at least one of its stores.
Dewayne Perkins, who writes for “The Break With Michelle Wolf,” was at a Duane Reade pharmacy, which is owned by Walgreens, in Queens, New York City, on Saturday night when he said he noticed something peculiar happening every time he stepped into an aisle—an automated voice alerted employees that customer service was needed in that section. He said he became suspicious because the alert was triggered selectively.
He demonstrated in this video that went viral.
While confronting a Duane Reade manager about his belief that he was a victim of facial profiling, another Black customer shared her similar experience as the manager denied the allegations. Perkins pointed out that if the system was indeed automated it would go off every time anyone entered an aisle—not just when Black people walked into a section.
The writer was angry but calm in demanding answers from the manger and company officials. Perkins tweeted that he feared police involvement from the confrontation.
Perkins said the most painful part of the situation was realizing that being a “good Black” doesn’t prevent discrimination.
Walgreens admitted to using automatic motion sensors at certain Duane Reade locations, mainly to improve customers’ shopping experience but also for security, a company spokesperson told Yahoo Lifestyle, adding that it reached out to Perkins after seeing his video.
“While sensors can also help as an enhanced security measure, they are prompted by motion only, and have no manual function to generate a customer service message over the intercom. Each sensor resets after a period of time, thus they are not triggered every time a customer walks down the aisle,” the company stated.