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Here's What Happened After A Viral Video Captured A Dollar General Manager Calling The Police On A Woman Trying To Use Coupons

Madonna Wilburn's attorney told BuzzFeed News he wants the company to mandate a Starbucks-style "racial sensitivity training." The fired employee claimed it had nothing to do with race.

Posted on July 27, 2018, at 2:09 p.m. ET

Dollar General fired the manager of a Buffalo, New York, store after a customer recorded a video of him calling the police on her for trying to use digital coupons on detergent products. The footage has since gone viral.

Madonna Wilburn

Last week, Buffalo resident and special education teacher Madonna Wilburn, 40, stopped into a local Dollar General to pick up some detergent products. She'd downloaded some digital coupons to apply to the purchases.

"It was supposed to be a really quick transaction," she told BuzzFeed News.

But Wilburn said after her coupons didn't process correctly, Ken Dudek, the store manager who was ringing her up, became increasingly "irritated" and "frustrated."

Wilburn asked to speak to a higher manager about her transaction, but a series of phone numbers did not go through. She claimed the back-and-forth caused Dudek to become short with her. At one point, she said, he told her to "shut up."

"He started saying, ‘You people always want discounts.’ ... 'I hate people like you,'" Wilburn said, adding that she began recording on her phone because she "didn't know how it was going to end."

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In the video, Dudek is heard accusing Wilburn of "just trying to take advantage of the system." He eventually asks another employee to "dispatch the police," saying Wilburn was "being difficult" and recording him without permission.

Wilburn said she felt like she had to document the encounter to protect herself.

"It was embarrassing. I felt humiliated," she said. "The way he was talking to me, it was belittling. I’m a black female, a couponer. What do you mean ['you people']?"

According to Wilburn, police arrived on the scene and said the incident was a nonissue. The Buffalo Police Department and Dudek didn't return requests for comment.

When Wilburn got home, she shared the video and incident on Facebook. Within an hour, she said she received a message from an account with the name Ken Dudek asking her to remove her post and threatening legal action otherwise.

Madonna Wilburn / Facebook

Then, she said she heard from multiple other family members of his.

A "family member I'm assuming, Josiah, took to social media referring to me as a 'bitch.'"

A user with the name Josiah Dudek defended Dudek on the Facebook post and claimed that Wilburn was "just seeking all the attention she could get" and was the one harassing Dudek. BuzzFeed News has reached out to Josiah.

"Those are very offensive phrases coming from his family — it’s a horrible feeling," said Wilburn.

Then, a woman who claimed to be Dudek's sister commented on the viral post, apologizing on his behalf. And said his behavior was a result of being stressed on the job, and that "he's not racist."

Facebook

After the series of social media interactions, Wilburn hired a lawyer.

The attorney, William Wagstaff, told BuzzFeed News, "When someone says to a black person 'you people,' they're being racist, referring to black people pejoratively."

He said Dollar General's corporate team should compensate Wilburn. And "take a page out of Starbucks" and mandate "racial sensitivity training" for all stores nationwide.

Wagstaff claims Dollar General initially offered his client a $50 gift card as compensation. Since the altercation has gone viral, Dollar General terminated Dudek's employment, the company said Thursday.

Madonna Wilburn

"Based upon our investigation, we believe that certain aspects of this matter, including the involvement of law enforcement, were not handled in accordance with our policies and expectations," a provided statement read. "For this reason, we made the decision to sever our employment relationship with the employee involved."

"We provide training to all employees focused on our core values and we regret we fell short of our goals in this unfortunate incident."

The company stated that it's looking to use the incident to "further enhance education" for their employees.

On Thursday, Dudek spoke to News 4 and said his "life is destroyed over coupons and because we both got frustrated."

Dudek claims he followed company procedure, and that Dollar General is to blame for his actions that day."It's unfortunate that this incident happened, but I think it's a product of the environment that Dollar General sets for us," he said, adding that his personal safety concerns while working at that location were largely ignored by the company. Dudek denied the confrontation was racially motivated. He claimed Wilburn refused to leave the store. Wilburn told BuzzFeed News that she was never asked to leave the store.
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Dudek claims he followed company procedure, and that Dollar General is to blame for his actions that day.

"It's unfortunate that this incident happened, but I think it's a product of the environment that Dollar General sets for us," he said, adding that his personal safety concerns while working at that location were largely ignored by the company.

Dudek denied the confrontation was racially motivated. He claimed Wilburn refused to leave the store.

Wilburn told BuzzFeed News that she was never asked to leave the store.

Wilburn's attorney said they're in the process of collecting all data and recordings of the transaction so it does not become a "he-said-she-said" case.

"Too much is happening, something needs to be done," Wagstaff said. He pointed to the recent incident in which police were called to a gym because a man claimed he was fouled too hard during a game of basketball.

"His actions were based on race," Wagstaff said of Dudek.

"[Wilburn] was rightfully fearful something was going to happen — she should not have been in the position in distress."

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