It’s a holiday weekend, so there won’t be any coupons in your Sunday newspaper. But there will be plenty of coupons on TV.

One night before “Pink Collar Crimes” recounts one of the most notorious counterfeit coupon cases in recent years, another ripped-from-the-headlines couponing incident will be featured in another TV show.

This Friday night at 9pm ET/PT on ABC, the series “What Would You Do?” features a segment inspired by an instantly-infamous coupon confrontation that occurred just last month.

The long-running reality series features actors staging uncomfortable situations, while bystanders’ reactions are viewed via hidden cameras. Many scenarios feature actors engaging in racist, sexist or otherwise boorish behavior, in something of a psychological experiment to see whether bystanders will intervene or slink away minding their own business.

And this week’s episode tackles a real-life incident that seemed tailor-made for the show.

“An African American woman attempts to use a coupon but the cashier refuses to accept or scan it, thinking it’s fake,” the episode description reads. “After the cashier calls the manager, the manager suggests that the customer leaves before he calls the police. What will other shoppers do?”

Sound familiar?

The scenario is “based on the national news story in which two Chicago CVS Health employees called the police on a black woman whom they believed was trying to use a fraudulent coupon,” the show producers explain.


As you may remember, Chicago shopper Camilla Hudson stopped into a 24-hour CVS late one Friday night in July to buy a few things and redeem a free-item coupon that she had. The coupon was legit, but sketchy-looking, through no fault of her own.

“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,” Hudson wrote in a Facebook post shortly after the incident. “When I asked for his name and his title/role within the store, he became agitated and rude.”

She pulled out her phone and began recording to document the situation, and her video of the manager calling police on her went viral. She didn’t outright accuse the manager of being racist, or assuming that she was a scammer because of the color of her skin, but the implication was clear.

Plenty of people weighed in with their opinions, or to say how they would have reacted. But it was after midnight on a Friday in an otherwise empty store. How would people really have reacted if the incident took place in a crowded store, in the middle of the day, in full view of other shoppers?

That’s what the producers of “What Would You Do?” wanted to find out.

ABC did not make a full episode available for preview. But a promotional clip (click above to view) gives you an idea of how it all went down.

The actor portraying a store manager tells an actor portraying a customer that her coupon “doesn’t look real” and refuses to scan it. Then, with a hint of ambiguity about whether he’s referring to couponers or African Americans, he adds “I know how you people are”.

One bystander takes offense to his use of the phrase “you people”, and things escalate from there. Upping the ante and eliminating any ambiguity, the “manager” then says that “African Americans are always trying to get things for free and it’s not going to work here.” Several shoppers object, and some walk out, determined to take their business elsewhere.

It’s not known whether the unsuspecting shoppers were at all suspicious that the incident seemed very reminiscent of one that made national news last month. CVS ended up issuing a public apology to Hudson, and firing two employees involved in the confrontation. And just over a week later, a similar coupon confrontation at Dollar General resulted in another public apology, another employee being fired and another round of internet debate over who was really at fault for the whole situation.

“What Would You Do?” may not answer all the questions about what really happened and who was to blame for those two incidents last month. Instead, it tries to present a thought-provoking look at how real-life shoppers react to a racist retailer. But what of the nuances? What if the couponer was white, and an obvious fraudster – would other shoppers still stick up for her? What if the manager was firm, but not racist – would shoppers still object to his behavior? What if the shopper stuck a phone in the manager’s face – would bystanders feel sympathy for her, or for him?

We’ll all have to tune in to find out. And the next time you witness a confrontation over coupons – smile. You might be on camera.

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