CVS apologizes after racial incident in Chicago store

The pharmacy chain has joined the cohort of U.S. companies defending their stance on diversity after viral videos on social media revealed racially insensitive behavior by an employee.

Camilla Hudson, after trying to use a coupon at a CVS in Chicago, was told by a manager that the coupon was invalid, and then the manager called the police. Hudson captured the call to the police on video, which went viral on Facebook.

Buzzfeed reported:

Hudson [said] she wasn’t having success using her coupon at the
self-checkout, and [Morry] Matson, the store’s manager, began to assist

Then he called for another manager, she said. Hudson said that this person,
whom she did not identify, told her the store could not take the voucher
and suggested she forged it.

“The manager on duty said that he’d never seen a coupon like the one I had
and said that he thought it was fraudulent,” she
on Facebook.

CVS apologized to Hudson and shared its discrimination policy with news outlets.

Buzzfeed continued:

In a statement provided to News on Sunday, CVS apologized to
Hudson. “We sincerely apologize to Ms. Hudson for her experience in one of
our stores,” the company said.

The statement said that the company is “actively investigating” the

“The employees who were involved in the incident will not be working in the
store pending the findings of our investigation,” CVS said in the

CVS also said that it has strict rules against discrimination.

“We have firm non-discrimination policies in place to help ensure that all
customers are treated with respect and dignity,” the company said.
“Profiling or any other type of discriminatory behavior is strictly

The incident is another reminder for brand managers and employees alike of the importance of civility.

NBC wrote:

The customer, Camilla Hudson, told “Today” in an interview that aired
Monday that she was more upset by the way the manager handled the

“I don’t take issue — not then, not now — with him not accepting the
coupon,” she said. “It’s how he didn’t accept the coupon.”

On social media, the manager was given the moniker Coupon Carl, in the same style as others who have appeared in viral videos while calling the police on black people. The name helped link the incident to other instances of racial profiling, as well as providing a catchy hashtag.

For some on Twitter, the apology from CVS wasn’t enough:

Many called on the chain to take decisive action:

Others promised not to shop at the chain:

CVS has stopped short of efforts by other chains accused of racial bias, such as Starbucks’
efforts to train employees in racial sensitivity.

CVS has enjoyed a good reputation when it comes to diversity. In 2017, it was recognized by DiversityInc as a Top 50 organization for an inclusive workplace, yet the company has
not tapped into that history in its crisis communications efforts.

By talking about diversity ahead of time, however, the company has saturated the internet with positive examples of its inclusion efforts. A simple Google search of the terms “diversity” and “CVS” returns several results about CVS accolades for promoting a diverse workplace.

Communicators should take note: Crisis communications is a year-round task, and the most effective tools are preemptive measures. Make sure you establish your organization online and in the public view, so that if your brand comes under fire, you have documented credibility to lean on.

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