National News

Schnucks fires employee in wake of video purportedly showing racial discrimination

Posted May 9, 2018 12:43 p.m. EDT

— Schnucks has fired an employee after a local man and his girlfriend alleged they were denied a money order at an area store because they were black.

Kellen Hill said he and his girlfriend were at the Schnucks location at Concord Center in south St. Louis when they tried to obtain a money order to pay rent.

He originally had gone earlier in the day to get the money order, but employees reportedly told him he could not use a debit card to get a money order and he had to return with cash in hand.

The concern was a rash of fraud cases where scammers used debit cards and out of state licenses to obtain money orders.

Hill returned later with the cash, totalling $1,100, and his girlfriend. She went into the store with the cash, planning to exchange it for a money order as instructed, but employee refused. Upon hearing they could not get the order, Hill took out his phone and began filming.

In the video, which was posted on Facebook and viewed more than half a million times, other customers began questioning the employee as to why Hill and his girlfriend couldn't get a money order.

The employee said he was following the company's anti-fraud policy, but Hill said he had been getting money orders from Schnucks since November and had never been denied.

Other customers asked if Hill could simply give them the cash and then they could get a money order, but the employee refused.

Hill said the employee called police and attempted to have them arrested, but ultimately they were given their money order and the employee apologized for the inconvenience.

Schnucks reviewed the incident and chose to fire the employee, saying his decision to withhold the money order when Hill and his girlfriend had cash in hand was not in line with Schnucks' stated policy.

Schnucks has apologized to the couple and have reached out to them to see if they can arrange an apology in person. Company CEO Todd Schnuck later released the following statement:

Creating an environment where customers receive exceptional service is one of Schnucks' core values. The exact opposite was on display yesterday when a customer attempted to use cash to purchase a money order at one of our stores and was refused. This should not have happened. We have spoken to the customer by phone to apologize. The teammate involved was terminated. I would also like to publicly apologize as well.

The customer visited our store to purchase a money order with a debit card and showed identification issued by the state of Florida. Due to multiple recent incidents of fraud where subjects were using stolen debit cards and showing out-of-state identification -- most frequently from the state of Florida -- to purchase high-dollar money orders, the customer was asked to use cash to make the purchase instead. Later in the day, the customer complied with the request, when his wife returned to the store with cash. The money order should have been sold to her at that point. It was not.

I deeply apologize to the customers and am incredibly disappointed in the poor judgment that was used in handling this incident. Although the teammate was focused on the recent increase in fraud, once the customer produced cash for the transaction, the money order should have been sold without further issue. I want our customers to feel welcomed and respected in our stores and I sincerely apologize for how our customers were treated in this instance. We have also extended an offer to the customers to meet with them in person to offer our apologies as well.