Countdown is investigating staff said to have racially profiled a pregnant shopper in Hamilton because she is Maori. Rikki Cooper told the company she was embarrassed after being publicly accused of shoplifting in its Dinsdale supermarket last week. She is said to have been targeted by staff through a supermarket intercom.
Countdown’s General Manager of operations, Brett Ashley said he was shocked and had personally apologised to Cooper. He said he was not sure of what specifically was said and by whom, but he understood there was an element of racial profiling. He was waiting to interview staff to make sure all the facts are available, before making any judgement.
In addition to the apology, Cooper has just been treated to a massive shopping spree by the Countdown chain. She filled three trolleys with $3345.56 worth of groceries at Hamilton central Countdown – food for her household of seven and supplies for her baby, due in November. Countdown Waikato area manager Karl Wareham said the shopping spree was a way of saying sorry. Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says Countdown needs to make sure its customers aren’t racially profiled ever again, reported Radio New Zealand.
Devoy said no one should ever be treated in such a humiliating way and the incident should never have occurred. “Sometimes people need to actually walk a mile in someone’s shoe and imagine that it happened to you. There are instances where people are accused of all sorts of things, often wrongly, and it’s inappropriate to single out people because of their race in any circumstances.”
Devoy said it’s a shame the incident happened just before Maori Language Week, which Countdown supports.