A Black woman in Virginia has been a regular customer at a Fairfax Dunkin' Donuts for the last two years. Last week, she visited the store, took out her laptop and began working when a white employee she never met called the police and asked her to leave.
Tirza Wilbon White told NBC4 that she was at the coffee shop on Nov. 7 and began using the free Wi-Fi when the white woman, who identified herself as the owner, told her if she wanted to stay, she needed to make a purchase.
"I was dressed in a hoodie, yoga pants, no makeup," White told the news station. "I felt racially profiled."
White then pulled out her phone and recorded the encounter, which she eventually uploaded to Facebook. In the video, the manager told White that she has had problems in the past with other customers.
"I need to ensure safety to my customers and I'm not saying that you're a problem, but I've had problems in the past," the owner said.
White told NBC4, "I hadn't committed a crime. I wasn't yelling. I wasn't disruptive. I wasn't rude," and she felt she was being singled out because of her race. However, the owner, who has been identified by White as Christina Cabral, said her family is of mixed race.
"Don't get into racial profiling. You can leave my location. I find that offensive," Cabral told White in the video.
Cabral then called the police on White, who waited for them to arrive before she made a move.
“I didn't leave because I didn't want to give the impression I had done anything wrong. I also didn't want someone writing down my license plate and having police officers come to my door where I would then be forced to explain, completely out of context and without witnesses. So I stayed at DD until they arrived,” she responded when asked why she didn’t leave on Facebook.
“A franchise owner attempted to bully me. She lied about corporate policy, attempted to force me to make a purchase to be in the store because she has a loitering problem. She called the police to force me to leave when I told her she was profiling the gentleman and me,” White wrote. “In her mind I was the ‘people’ who loiter. In reality, I was a customer in her store, until yesterday, and I have been for more than two years.”
Eventually, police arrived and escorted White out of the store.
When White asked the officer why she had to leave he said, "because she wants you to."
After the video went viral, a spokesperson from the company said it has apologized to White.
“We and our franchisees want every customer who walks into a Dunkin’ restaurant to be treated with dignity and respect. This did not happen in a situation at a restaurant in Fairfax, Virginia. We have apologized to the customer, on behalf of both the brand and the franchisee who owns and operates this restaurant, but we know that is not enough,” the statement read.
The statement also said that although franchisees can set their own policies, the company is determined to "doing better" for their customers.
“Our franchisees are independent businesspeople, who so long as they comply with the law, may set their own policies in regards to certain things like Wi-Fi usage and whether to limit its use to only those who make a purchase," the statement read. "However, we are focused on helping our franchisees best serve our diverse customer base and are currently exploring how we can improve every aspect of our restaurant operations from store signage, recommended policies, and training for franchisees and their crew members. We are committed to doing better.”
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