Purdue student says his Puerto Rico ID rejected when he tried to buy cold medicine at CVS

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — An engineering student at Purdue University was feeling under the weather last month and went to a local CVS to buy some over-the-counter cold medicine.

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However, the student got no relief when he claimed employees at the West Lafayette, Indiana, store refused to honor his driver's license from Puerto Rico and told him he needed a valid U.S. identification card or a visa to buy the medicine, the Journal & Courier of Lafayette reported.

Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898.

CVS officials said they are now investigating after Purdue junior Jose Guzman Payano was denied the opportunity to buy the medicine Oct. 25, the newspaper reported.\

Guzman Payano said he had no problem showing his ID to buy the package of Mucinex, but he was puzzled when he was rejected.

"My ID is a Puerto Rican driver's license, and it is a Real ID, too," Guzman Payano told WRTV. "She (clerk) looks at it and then she faces and looks at me again and asks for a U.S.-issued license."

Guzman Payano said he showed the clerk his passport -- he said he has been questioned before about his ID -- but the clerk still refused to sell him the medicine, the television station reported.

Guzman Payano said the incident left him in tears. A Facebook post later that night by his mother, Arlene Payano Burgos, went viral and has been shared more than 7,300 times.

"What caused this employee to ask him for his visa?" Payano Burgos wrote on Facebook. "Was it his accent? Was it his skin color? Was it the Puerto Rican flag on the license? Whatever triggered her to discriminate against my son embodies exactly what is wrong in the United States of America today."

Guzman Payano told the Journal & Courier on Saturday he had contacted CVS' corporate offices but had not heard back from the national pharmacy chain.

However, a CVS spokeswoman confirmed in a statement that an ID is "considered a valid form of identification at CVS Pharmacy,”

"We are committed to ensuring that every customer receives courteous, outstanding service in our stores, and we apologize to the customer for his recent experience,” CVS spokeswoman Amy Thibault said. “We are fully investigating this matter to learn more about what occurred. While our employees must adhere to laws and regulations requiring identification for the purchase of over-the-counter medication, our expectation is that all customers be treated in a professional manner.

“All employees at this location have been reminded of the company policy."

According to Purdue's student data page, 71 students enrolled at the university are from Puerto Rico, the Journal & Courier reported.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened,” Guzman Payano told the newspaper. “It is weird because we’re such a broad campus at Purdue. There are people from everywhere. But I can’t use my ID from Puerto Rico? Not even my passport? This shouldn’t happen here. Period.”