Sick College Student Couldn’t Buy Cold Medicine Because CVS Clerk Wouldn’t Accept His Puerto Rico ID

Lead Photo: A sign marks the location of a new CVS pharmacy May 5, 2004 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
A sign marks the location of a new CVS pharmacy May 5, 2004 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
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End-of-semester responsibilities and change of seasons brought about a case of severe sore throat and early cold symptoms for Purdue University student Jose Guzman Payano last week. Naturally, he went to the local pharmacy to purchase some over-the-counter medicine. What followed was a disturbing case of ignorance: a clerk at a CVS in West Lafayette, Ind. denied his Puerto Rico ID.

When the third-year engineering student attempted to buy Mucinex at a self-checkout, a clerk was summoned to verify his ID, as customers need to be 18 years or older to purchase cold meds. However, despite being 20 years old, the cashier at the West Lafayette, Ind. store still denied his identification, saying he needed a U.S.-issued ID. Although Guzman was well aware that his license did in fact constitute as such, he played along and offered his passport instead. That, too, was rejected. Guzman left the store in tears and without the medication he needed.

For the student, the encounter wasn’t just a reminder that many people in the country don’t know or refuse to accept that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but it was also a glimpse at the lack of access undocumented individuals have to basic and necessary over-the-counter medicine.

“How would any other students that’s not from the U.S., and is not a U.S. citizen, what do they have to do to get over-the-counter medicine, the student told a local ABC affiliate.

His mom was similarly outraged to hear the news. She expressed her shock and called for a boycott in a lengthy Facebook post that has more than 10 thousand shares.

“What happened to my son today is not unlike what many other families have had to face since Trump was sworn into office and it’s completely unacceptable,” she wrote. “Enough is enough.”

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico has U.S.-issued forms of identification, including driver’s licenses, passports and visas, to name a few.

CVS did not respond to Guzman’s complaint directly, but did issue a statement that read, in part, “We are fully investigating this matter… While our employees must adhere to laws and regulations requiring identification for the purchase of certain over-the-counter medication, we do consider Puerto Rican driver’s licenses to be valid identification.”

As Guzman himself noted, this is far from a one-time mishap. Ignorance around Puerto Ricans’ citizenship and place in the U.S. is what led Guzman to have to carry his passport with him in the first place.

“I always feel like we’re always being treated as second-class citizens,” he said.