(July 26th update: Dollar General says its investigation is complete, and the manager in the viral video has been fired. “Based upon our investigation, we believe that certain aspects of this matter, including the involvement of law enforcement, were not handled in accordance with our policies and expectations. For this reason, we have made the decision to sever our employment relationship with the employee involved,” the company said in a statement. In the aftermath of the incident, Dollar General says it plans to “help identify opportunities to augment education and training for all employees.”

Meanwhile, the former manager is telling his side of the story to Buffalo’s WIVB-TV. In an interview, Ken Dudek tells the station that Dollar General is partly at fault for the whole situation. “If they would have investigated fully, they would have seen that the problem is in the way that they address their security and the way their coupon system works,” he said. He said he tried for a half hour to get Wilburn’s coupons to work. He tried to override the system, since “she had all the coupons correctly,” but he couldn’t. “Their coupon system is strange. We always have issues with the digital coupons,” he said. And now he’s out of a job. “My life is destroyed over coupons and because we both got frustrated,” he concluded. “I don’t fault Ms. Wilburn… It’s unfortunate that this incident happened, but I think it’s a product of the environment that Dollar General sets for us.”)

Original story below:

There are some fed-up cashiers who think couponers are their worst nightmare. But their real nightmare may be couponers with cell phone cameras, a determination to stand their ground, and a social media following that’s willing and eager to spread their story.

For the second time in a week, a coupon dispute with racial overtones has gone viral, prompting another national retail chain to promise an investigation.

Couponer Madonna Wilburn of Buffalo, New York shared her Dollar General shopping experience on Facebook this past Wednesday. And before long, her post had generated thousands of shares and comments, and got the attention of the corporate office.


“The manager at Dollar General on Genessee Street in Buffalo, New York felt he needed to call the police on a ‘black women’ ME who was taking advantage of the coupon system,” Wilburn wrote. “I had no coupons in my hand and they are all digital coupons on their app… He could not figure it out. Told me he hate people like me, told me to shut up, and more. I eventually pulled out my phone and started recording to protect myself against his nasty attitude in case anything happened.”

On Wilburn’s recording, the manager is heard telling her “trying to take advantage of the system is what you’re doing. And I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to… You’ve already gotten $15 off of these products, and you’re trying to play games with the digital coupons and it’s not going to work.” He gives her his boss’ phone number, saying “she can fix it from here. Because I’m really done with you. I’m tired of the attitude and I’m tired of the nonsense.” Wilburn denies giving the manager any attitude, and is heard telling him she’s “actually been extremely nice to you”.

The situation escalates when the manager realizes she’s recording him. He tries to tell her she can’t do that without his permission, then he calls his boss and asks her to call police.

So what was this dispute all about, how did the police get involved and was any of it racially motivated as Wilburn claims?

In her post, Wilburn offered a detailed explanation of the deal she was trying to do. And it appeared to be legit. She was attempting to use a digital store coupon for $5 off a purchase of $30 or more in “Gain scented items”, stacking it with digital manufacturer’s coupons for Gain-scented products – detergent, dish soap, fabric softener, laundry scent booster, dryer sheets, Febreze air freshener, Mr. Clean multipurpose cleaner and Swiffer wet pads.

Dollar General’s coupon policy allows shoppers to stack digital manufacturer’s coupons with digital store coupons, as Wilburn was attempting to do. But not all of Wilburn’s coupons were coming off as they should have.

“Everything came off except for the $5 (store coupon), $3 off of 2 Febreze and .50 off of the detergent,” Wilburn explained to Coupons in the News. “So I was showing him where I had clipped them – well, I tried to. But he would not even look at my phone to see where I had clipped them. He tried to tell me several things – I couldn’t stack coupons, I explained what stacking was. He just honestly had no clue of their coupon policy… He also tried to tell me that the items I bought were not Gain products so I could not use them for the $5/30. The coupon says ‘Gain scented items’, and I had all of them, as in the picture.”

The manager said Wilburn was being “difficult”, but it was his complaint that she was recording him without his permission that led him to call for the police. New York is a “one-party consent” state, though, meaning conversations can be recorded as long as one party to the conversation – in this case, Wilburn – consents to it.

“The police were kind of annoyed for being called over something that was nothing, seeing how I did nothing wrong to him for him to call the police on me,” Wilburn said. The responding officer “suggested I call corporate and just not to shop at a place where employees treat people like that.”

So what about the element that may have prompted this particular story to go viral – did the manager call police because he was racist?

In the video, Wilburn is heard telling the manager “you said you ‘don’t like people like me’.” He denies saying that, but she insists that he did. If he did, did he mean that he doesn’t like couponers like her – or he doesn’t like people of her race?

“I don’t know what he was referring to, whether it was me being a female, black, yellow, green or a couponer,” Wilburn explained. But “when someone refers to a minority with phrases like ‘you’ or ‘they’, it is racist,” she insisted. “So I believe that he did not like me because I was, in his eyes, black – and a couponer, which made it worse.”

Wilburn’s couponing trip gone wrong came just days after the similar case of Camilla Hudson, the Chicago shopper whose account of her CVS shopping trip also went viral. She, too, recorded a store manager calling police on her after refusing her coupon, and she also accused the manager of having racist intent in doing so – though her video, like Wilburn’s, offers no definitive proof of his motivation.

Both Hudson’s and Wilburn’s stories have attracted plenty of critics who see nothing racist about what happened in either case. And they question how calm and polite the couponers actually were before the cameras started rolling. But in each case, the coupons that the shoppers were trying to use were completely legitimate. So most commenters believe, whether the managers were racist or not, they certainly could have handled their respective situations better.

“I’ve done this deal multiple times. It works and if it doesn’t come off, the managers find a way to fix it,” one commenter wrote of the Gain deal that Wilburn was trying to do. So this commenter saw no excuse for the Dollar General manager’s refusal to manually apply the missing coupons. “He didn’t want to because he ‘hates people like her’, whatever context he meant it in.”

Other commenters shared similar stories of unreliable digital coupons and uncooperative employees at Dollar General. “I hate it when the workers act like that. The manager at mine said she couldn’t take my coupons cause ‘I was saving way too much money’,” one said. “I will no longer be shopping at Dollar General because every time I do the coupons just don’t come off,” another added. “The cashier was sooo rude when I asked why it didn’t come off, and she was like, ‘Well, you already saved like half your order’,” a third commenter wrote.

Dollar General is pledging to get to the bottom of what happened in Buffalo last week. “We take matters like this very seriously and are fully investigating the incident,” Dollar General spokesperson Crystal Ghassemi said in a statement to Coupons in the News. “Dollar General is committed to helping American families stretch their budgets. As part of that commitment, we encourage customers to utilize both digital and manufacturer coupons to help them save money off our everyday low prices. We always strive to deliver the best possible customer service and we are disappointed when this does not occur.”

Wilburn said she’s already been contacted by both a district and regional manager. “They offered me a $50 coupon for my troubles, which is actually a smack in the face,” she said. “I told her no thank you.”

Couponers and cashiers get into disagreements about coupons all the time. Some customers have even had police called on them. And some shoppers undoubtedly have experienced racism in stores. Until lately, though, it seems you’d rarely hear about cases like these. But with cell phone cameras and social media as prevalent as they are now, chances are these two recent incidents that have attracted widespread attention won’t be the last of their kind.

One Comment

  1. But in her original post she doesn’t show some of these coupons.

    The story of the other coupons only was stated after several people noticed she didn’t have or had posted the wrong coupons.

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