Women profiled at Portsmouth beauty supply store

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Beauty supply stores are big business, but the last time Candice Colley and Tonya Williams decided to get some hair for a new style in Portsmouth things went downhill fast.

It all started as they were looking around the store and Tonya’s daughter picked up a bottle of cream. When they left to price check at other stores they asked the clerk to hold on to a bundle of hair until they returned, leaving the cream behind as well.  When they got back, they say they were accused of committing a crime.

“As soon as we went to open the door, the owner and the lady that helped us was like, ‘come in, come in, right on time,’” Williams said. “So we were looking at each other like, wait a minute what’s going on? After she showed us in, she locked the door and was like, ‘alright you stole, y’all stole.’”

“That was embarrassing,” Colley said. “It was discrimination. It was just too much. You basically caged me in somewhere so I can’t get out and you have no proof I took anything.”

After viewing surveillance video that proved they never did anything wrong and finding the merchandise in question, they say the store employee apologized. But does that cover the humiliation they say they endured?

Houston couple Deadra Pattum and John Marsden would say “no.” They submitted to a strip search in a beauty supply store after being accused of stealing a pair of $3 earrings. They say they were threatened and forced to remain in the store, too.

“The worst thing is to be accused of something you did not do,” Williams said. “That’s the worst feeling in the world. It’s embarrassing. Everyone’s standing there looking like what’s going on in there.”

WAVY.com spoke to the owner of the Portsmouth store off camera and he disputed whether the door was ever locked. He also said the word “stealing” was never used, he said his employee just inquired where their merchandise had been placed.

Tonya and Candice say police told them nothing criminal actually happened, but that doesn’t mean you have no recourse if you feel you’ve been profiled. Portsmouth Police told WAVY.com if you believe you have been wrongfully stopped for theft, ask for police to be called and know that you don’t have to stay put. If you feel your integrity’s been challenged by a public accusation, you may want to consider a civil suit.

The Better Business Bureau told WAVY.com you could also contact the Council of Human Rights in Richmond and make a Public Accommodation Complaint.

As for stores, each one has a different policy, but many will instruct employees to ask for merchandise, but if a customer is resistant to let them go.

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