Like most of us, Madonna Wilburn loves a good deal. That’s partly why she’s an avid couponer. As the social studies and special education teacher told Yahoo Lifestyle, using coupons is a “way of life” for her, and she enjoys the problem-solving and math skills it involves.
So it’s no surprise that when she tried to pay for a $30 purchase at a Dollar General in Buffalo, NY, using the store’s digital coupons, she knew more about how the transaction should go than the cashier who rang her up.
What she wasn’t ready for was #CouponKen (I’m not trying to be funny here, his name is actually Ken) having a fit over her attempt to use the coupons—and calling the cops on her.
The incident took place last Wednesday and went viral after Wilburn shared video of her interaction with Dollar General manager Ken Dudek, who was manning the register when she attempted to pay.
As Yahoo reports, Dollar General is still investigating the incident, during which Wilburn says Dudek told her he “didn’t like people like her.”
“That attacked so many different parts of me because I’m a female, I’m a black female, I’m a couponer,” Wilburn told the Buffalo News. “So, what do you hate?”
The escalating exchange, Wilburn says, made her start recording her interaction with Dudek because she “didn’t know where the situation was going to go.”
On camera, Dudek can be heard telling Wilburn, “Just trying to take advantage of the system is what you’re doing, and I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to.”
“But you just said you don’t like people like me?” Wilburn responds.
Dudek denies he ever said that.
“I’m trying to do the best I can, you already got $15 off of these products and you’re trying to play games,” he says. “We’re done—I’m giving you my boss’s number. She can fix it from here, OK? I’m really done with you. I’m tired of the attitude and tired of the nonsense.”
As she tapes him, Dudek insists that she’s not allowed to record him because he hasn’t given her consent to. As a one party-state, it is not illegal in New York to record conversations if the other party isn’t aware or hasn’t given consent to be recorded, though the matter is slightly different with video.
As the website Legal Beagle explains, a person can videotape someone in New York without their consent, unless there’s a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Given Dudek was serving the public as the store’s manager, his expectation of “privacy” seems shaky.
“You don’t have my permission to record me. You can’t record me,” Dudek tells Wilburn, before calling a coworker.
“I have a customer who is being difficult and taping us without permission, and I’d like you to dispatch the police if possible,” he says before giving a description of Wilburn.
“Black female, green shirt, blue shirt.”
As the Buffalo News reports, police who responded to Dudek’s call declared the episode a non-issue. In fact, Buffalo Police didn’t even keep a record of the incident.
The exchange marks the second high-profile incident in two weeks in which an employee of a major retailer has called the police on a black person attempting to use coupons at the store. CVS recently fired two employees who called the cops on a black woman in Chicago who was trying to use a coupon at one of their stores.
Wilburn’s video also joins a disturbing and ever-expanding collection of footage displaying all the pedestrian, non-criminal acts white people will call the police on black people for.
These include cooking out, napping, swimming, delivering newspapers, and selling bottles of water.
Wilburn told the Buffalo News the entire incident was “embarrassing.”
“People are looking at you as if you’re scheming like you’re some type of thief or something,” she said.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that it was illegal in New York for one party to record a phone conversation without the other party’s consent. New York state’s laws regarding phone and video recording have been corrected and clarified.