BERNALILLO, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico man is calling out a local Family Dollar store for allegedly being racist toward white people. Now, he’s protesting outside the store, demanding answers. Phillip Watkins says he’s been a loyal customer for years at the Family Dollar in Bernalillo. But now, he says he has no intention of ever stepping foot back inside after what he says happened last week. “I was discriminated against,” said Watkins. “I feel that my rights were violated.”
Watkins says that’s the reason he’s spending many days out front of the store. He’s protesting almost daily outside the Family Dollar on Camino del Pueblo. “Last week, I went in in the afternoon to buy some things,” said Watkins. “I was in line and I waited my turn.” He says he overheard employees — including the manager — speaking in Spanish, saying that a white man had stolen from the store. Watkins says he didn’t think much of it and went to check out as normal.
“I waited my turn and she opened up the second register, the manager did, and I went and checked my things. I took my money out and went to go pay,” said Watkins. “As I was paying, the manager moved over and the other girl took over the register, and then she asked me to empty my pockets.”
Watkins says, in front of other customers, he was also asked to show them underneath his shirt and waistband to prove he hadn’t stolen anything. When he never received an apology and instead decided to return his items and business, he says the manager further humiliated him.
“I got to the corner of the building and I was like you know, I’m done. I’m going to return these things, so I did. I went inside and I waited in line and I went again to the second register, and the manager, I caught her eye and told her, ‘I don’t think I’m ever going to come in here again from the way you treated me,'” said Watkins. “With a sweeping hand motion, she said, ‘well everybody’ in front of all these people, there was like six or seven people at the register, ‘let’s make it official, this man is never coming to the store ever again.'”
Since starting his protest, he says many have honked or even stopped to talk. He says some have stopped him, saying this isn’t the first time they’ve heard of issues with the store.
“A lot of people have conveyed their story to me but the one that was shocking was for the entire COVID thing when we were all shut down, she wouldn’t let anyone in the store that was under 18 years of age,” said Watkins. “That was the most amazing thing I found walking up and down here. My problem seems insignificant compared to what else has been going on.”
Watkins says he has been in touch with Family Dollar’s corporate team and that action is being taken. He says he’s also pursuing legal action. “I was humiliated. I didn’t take anything and I told her I didn’t take anything and they insisted,” said Watkins. “Once again, I was wronged. That’s why I’m out here. I just want to make a difference.”
KRQE News 13 spoke with Family Dollar’s district manager who was unable to speak on camera but confirms Watkins has lodged a complaint following last week’s incident. News 13 also reached out to the corporate office for comment and they released the following statement:
“We are aware of, and are in the process of investigating, this report. We take situations like this very seriously and we are committed to treating all customers fairly and respectfully.”