July 19, 2018
A woman shopping at a Wawa in Williamstown, N.J. wants an apology from the convenience store chain after being mistaken for a shoplifter in a potentially racially charged incident, the Courier-Post reported.
Bernardine Rochelle's attorney said an employee mistook Rochelle for a shoplifting suspect who had recently been kicked out of a Wawa on Black Horse Pike.
“The associate told Rochelle that she remembered Rochelle’s big afro from a prior occasion when she was stealing,” said Lawnside attorney Karin Coger in a statement.
According to the statement, the associate took Rochelle's trail mix from her hand and attempted to grab her coffee as well. The worker allegedly screamed at Rochelle, "I put you out last week and you're back here again, stealing."
According to the Courier-Post, Rochelle received a $100 gift card from Wawa several days after the incident, which took place June 20. With the gift card came an note describing the card as "a token of our appreciation for your loyalty as a valued Wawa customer."
The note reportedly went on to say, "Remember, the Wawa App can make life a little easier, and more delicious, when you're on the go."
Though Rochelle reportedly recognizes the gesture, she said she did not receive any verbal or written apology from the company, nor was there any sign that management had investigated the incident. She received a call from the manager on June 21 saying they had not identified the employee that allegedly confronted her.
Rochelle's lawyer stressed the psychological effects the incident had on Rochelle, who is a disabled Army veteran and 17-year state employee.
"At this time, we want to draw attention to the situation," said Coger. "However, we have not ruled out a lawsuit."