14 Jul 2014

Countdown caught out 'racial profiling'

3:44 pm on 14 July 2014

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says Countdown needs to make sure its customers aren't racially profiled ever again.

The supermarket chain is investigating staff said to have racially profiled a Hamilton shopper because she is Maori.

Rikki Cooper told the company she was embarrassed after being 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 on Monday he was shocked and had personally said apologised to Ms Cooper.

Although Mr Ashley said he was not sure of what specifically was said and by whom, he understood there was an element of racial profiling. "We're waiting to interview and make sure we have all the facts available before we're in a position to make any judgement."

He said it would be another two days before an investigation was finished and it was not yet clear if workers would be disciplined.

Dame Susan 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."

Dame Susan said it's a shame the incident happened just before Maori Language Week, which Countdown supports.