Gay Apple Retail Store customer claims receipt contained anti-gay slur ‘f@g.com’

“A man who said he found a homophobic slur printed on his receipt from downtown Portland’s Apple Store wants the company to respond by offering cultural competency training for its employees,” Kelly House reports for The Oregonian.

“Adam Catanzarite, who self-identifies as queer… sparked a widespread social media response after he posted a photo to Facebook Tuesday showing a July 8 Apple Store receipt that bears his name,” House reports. “The photo shows ‘f@g.com’ in the space where the customer’s email should appear on the receipt.”

“In his interview with The Oregonian, Catanzarite said the situation arose after he visited the store to buy a $29 earphone set. Catanzarite said a store employee asked him to provide his email address, but he declined to do so,” House reports. “Initially, he didn’t notice the characters printed on the space reserved for his email address. ‘With most receipts, I just stuff it in my backpack and only pull it out when needed,’ he said. Days later, he discovered the characters, which he interpreted as an anti-gay slur with the letter ‘a’ changed to ‘@.'”

House reports, “Catanzarite said he hasn’t heard from Apple regarding how or why the slur appeared on his receipt but in this case, he said, the employee’s intent doesn’t matter.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: “The employee’s intent doesn’t matter.”

Life must be so enjoyable for the permanently indignant/perpetually slighted wrapped in their warped cocoons of political correctness gone absurdly amuck.

In the words of good parents everywhere: “Son, you need to grow a thicker skin or this world is going to grind you to a pulp.”

If the intent was there and proven, obviously, Apple should discipline the employee. Nobody should be slurring anybody else anywhere. That’s in bold because it overrides everything else in this Take and we want to make sure that the the permanently indignant/perpetually slighted see it (not that it will matter).

But, as far as employee discipline goes, to say out of hand that “the employee’s intent doesn’t matter,” is stupefying. What if the Apple employee just quickly tapped in a random quick entry to fill the field (the “f” and “g” keys are right next to each other, after all)? Does Catanzarite still deserve refunds and the opportunity to lead “cultural competency training” for the store’s staff (see full article)? What’s next, ‘your employee looked at me funny, so I want a refund and a soapbox upon which to stand, so I can teach your employees how to offer everyone innocuous blank stares? (That’ll work for 30 seconds until the next customer complains of the employee’s coldness and callousness and offers to lead classes in compassion.)

Sheesh. This world sometimes. Would that everyone would just chill for a change. Live and let live. TGIF.

Again: If the intent was there and proven, obviously, Apple should discipline the employee. Nobody should be slurring anybody else anywhere.

Addendum: 12:25pm EDT: We certainly agree with the comment from “macmuchmore” (below) that, regardless of the employee’s intent, Apple should apologize to the offended customer. If any customer claims to be offended, a good business should always apologize, even if it was nothing more than a random entry.

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that Apple should not require an entry in a field for employees to proceed if a customer declines to give optional information like an email address (if that, indeed is how that system works) and employees should be instructed to simply leave optional fields blank.

Addendum: 12:47pm EDT: We’re dealing with a number of issues here:

1. The employee. Unless they confess, there’s no way to proven they meant it as a slur and Apple should not take action against the employee. If Apple did, the employee could sue Apple. This is where the intent matters.

2. Political correctness. Obviously, we’re tired of it. There’s a line somewhere, but some people live to cross it.

3. The customer. Deserves an apology from Apple if they are offended regardless of the employee’s intent. Does not deserve a refund or anything further unless the employee confesses they intended to slur the customer. Deserves a refund and perhaps a lawsuit win if the Apple employee confesses they intended the email address they entered as a slur.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

112 Comments

    1. No, let’s not. f@g.com is a very common default entry. “F” on a QWERTY keyboard is one of the easiest letters to type, given that it’s under the pointer finger. It’s muscle memory territory.

      Short of the employee coming out and openly admitting something, this is a non-issue.

      1. Poor customer treatment is a non-issue? Sorry, but your wrong.

        If this is genuine Apple will take it very seriously. They don’t want random bozos spoiling their carefully designed customer experience with idiocy like this.

        And the employee doesn’t need to “admit” to typing f@g, its on the receipt and probably in an Apple database. If there is a good explanation for it being a typo, an apology is still due. Most likely Apple will create a new employment opening for someone who has the sense to treat customers respectfully and pay attention to what they are typing.

        1. And,,,,,
          If this is such a “common default” “random” entry, as said, then there should be more of them in the database than other “random” “common default” entries, NO?
          the number of john@hancock.com verses f@g.com entries should be the basis for determining intent maybe? (though handcock would be more telling !-)

      2. f@g.com is a very common default entry.”

        Any intelligent person would avoid this supposed “default” entry. In my 37 years, I’ve _never_ typed this, nor even thought to type it. Am I unique among the rest of my race? I firmly believe this was an intentional slur, but that’s just my personal opinion.

    2. you know whats interesting. F & G are next to each other on the keyboard. since customer didn’t want to give an email, employee may have just decided to fill in both sides of ampersand with those letters. just dumb luck it can be interpreted into a slang word for homosexual. guy is probably looking for a freebie or payday

    1. I am scared of the overwhelming sound of air rushing by me because i did not see a single one of those ads!!!!!!!!

      oh wait, that was just the vacuum in the vicinity of the surface, sucking beyond belief, glad i was not closer to the vortex…..

  1. It’s actually amusing in a juvenile way. I tire of the PC mindset. This customer might have been better off talking to the employee directly instead of making a federal case out of it. Tell the guy “I know you thought this was funny but it might be more prudent not to offend customers and Apple, you can well imagine, would take a dim view of employees dissing customers, even if not meant maliciously. So you might worry about keeping your job a little more.” If the guy had done this right we would never have heard of it and hopefully that Apple employee would had learned a lesson.

    I have many gay friends and of course Tim Cook is gay but they all deserve as much respect as anyone else. Though I admit a guilty chuckle once in a while at that particular lifestyle. The less insecure gays out there will laugh too, even while shaking their heads.

  2. Ar first i was rolling my eyes thinking this to be another ruse usurp Apples money. But, it is quite clear some stupid employee had homophobic intent. That employee should be tracked down and fired.

    1. If the absence of proof, I’d hesitate to proclaim the employee should be “tracked down and fired,” but that’s just me. I’m not a knee-jerker. Instead, I think things through to their logical conclusions.

      Of course, I agree with MDN: “If the intent was there and proven, obviously, Apple should discipline the employee. Nobody should be slurring anybody else anywhere.”

      Proof is a crucial requirement, but proving intent is rather difficult. Absent an employee confession, I fail to see how Apple has any grounds to impose any punishment whatsoever without facing a lawsuit from the employee. Without proof of intent, sensitivity training for every employee is the best Apple could do. If they singled out the employee for sensitivity training, and the employee says it was just a random entry, the employee should sue Apple.

      1. This doesn’t look like an innocent typo, but even if it was, customer service doesn’t mean having good intentions it means paying attention to the details that matter. Giving a customer a receipt with a crass slur in a field they didn’t supply is about as careless as it gets.

        Unless a computer error or other explanation comes to light, or it really was an honest mistake (and the employee is clearly mortified at what they did), it would be reasonable for Apple to let this employee go.

      2. I don’t know what the system is in America. In the UK, an employer requires only a reasonable belief that the employee has misconducted themselves in order to find misconduct or gross misconduct in order to consider disciplinary sanctions or dismissal.

        People rarely make admissions to their behaviour. They rarely leave “proof” in terms of 100% certainty or even 80% certainty. Criminal courts work on a jury being “sure”. Civil courts work on something being “probable”. Employment tribunals work on something being a “reasonable belief”.

        When the facts are clear and the explanations are given, we can decide what category, if any, into which this falls.

    2. The MDN take seems to be an over reaction. The customer simply said he “wants the company to respond by offering cultural competency training”. I am sure that sensible Apple employees would agree. The training need not be onerous as the problem should be extremely easy to correct.

  3. To say that a gay person taking offense at the use of “f@g” is “political correctness gone absurdly amuck” is rather harsh to say the least. If a black person took offense at the use of the N word would that also be political correctness run amuck?

    1. Perhaps you missed this:

      If the intent was there and proven, obviously, Apple should discipline the employee. Nobody should be slurring anybody else anywhere.

    2. Yeah, depending on how it was used. The word is pretty much every other word in segments of the black culture. I personally find the substitute phrase “The N Word” to be offensive. Am I so sensitive that you have to shudder in your boots when speaking about a racial slur and find ways to say it without saying it? You afraid we might riot in the streets or something? Huh? HUH?

      1. Your are offended when people use a polite convention to refer to a word they consider rude and do not want to say? That is getting really sensitive! 😉

  4. FFS the F and G letters are next to each other on the keyboard.

    This must have been Christopher Sholes taking the opportunity to slip in an anti-gay message… All the way back in 1870 when he developed the QWERTY layout…

    Seriously this person is just stupid, a characteristic found both in and out of the gay population.

    1. The characters “FG” weren’t typed together. They were separated by “@”. That was done intentionally. Not an error. There is a chance that the employee didn’t intend to suggest the resulting word, but the employee _did_ intend to type those three characters together in that order.

      The logic of FG together breaks down when the employee could’ve just as easily typed “g@f.com” and avoided this issue entirely.

      I believe there was intent to slur. My opinion.

      1. I guess you’ve never seen an application that allows you to automatically type around a default “@”? I’m pretty sure that’s the case on this Apple form.

      2. But then, all the Gafs would be up in arms, asking Apple to offer Cultural Gaf training.

        Good thing b@t.com wasn’t entered, else some masked vigilante with pointy ears and a cape would be upset.

  5. I’ll wait to learn more, but it does seem kinda hard to believe it was inadvertent. Sure, the f and g characters are next to each other, but the @ isn’t that easy to accidentally insert. I’d like to keep an open mind about this. I just can’t figure out how you’d end up with that as an accident. So of course, the intent matters. You don’t need any training if the intent was a slur, you need to fire the person. But if there really was no intent, then the clerk needs a typing lesson.

    1. Probably the @ isn’t actually typed in, he types the first part and then Tabs or selects the domain field. Most data entry systems do this because the @ is always required.

    2. It wouldn’t be a valid email address without the @. That’s why the .com is there too. Either the employee was very quickly typing a minimum address to me the requirement, or he took his time to plan it out. Either is possible, of course, but considering that he knows the transaction is traceable to him, I’d lean towards the former.

      1. I believe that someone who does this intentionally isn’t that bright or just doesn’t care. If this person did have intent, I wonder if they did it more than once? Apple would have records of every transactions and could search for repeat occurrences.

    1. Who needs those few @gmail.com customers — or to make sure employees don’t offend our customers, intentionally or otherwise. Yeah, let’s just program this in and ignore it

  6. Your ‘take’ on this is typical of someone who’s never been on the receiving end of this type of slur. I have and believe me, it sucks.

    While this particular incident is relatively mild it doesn’t really matter. When society singles you out for who/what you are and you are belittled and demeaned for it, it is a blow to your dignity.

    While you can arrogantly dismiss this to being ‘permanently indignant/perpetually slighted’ I can tell you that if someone is that way, it’s for a reason.

    When I was forced out as a gay man in the 1970s I was in college at the time living in a dormitory. I was violently harassed by my classmates, my personal property was destroyed in my dorm room, had my roommate move out, FAG was written on my dorm mirror in lipstick, I was nearly killed when a particularly homophobic student lunged at me with a knife yelling “no fag is going to live in MY school’. Then I was expelled from school because my “lifestyle was incompatible with the school’s mission”. So if I get a little sensitive by being called a fag or homo in a deregulatory way please excuse me but I’m entitled.

    While you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, having such an opinion tells me that you lack the life experience necessary to be big or compassionate or have the sensitivity and moral guidance to keep your mouth shut when it should be.

    1. Honey, nobody is gayer than me (I make Liberace look butch) and MDN is right, political correctness has gone amuck and, I quote, “If the intent was there and proven, obviously, Apple should discipline the employee. Nobody should be slurring anybody else anywhere.”

      People do need a thicker skin. The final step to real acceptance is being able to deal with comments from neanderthals and not being “offended” over every little thing (while trying to get your EarPods for free).

      1. You have my respect, PRIDE. Well said.

        Scenarios abound:

        1: Was the Apple employee gay or straight?

        2: Was the customer gay or straight?

        3: Did the Apple employee know the customer was gay or straight?

        4: Did the customer know the Apple employee was gay or straight?

        For all the rush to judgement comments here, if you have a PC mentality, sorry to say you are not thinking this through.

        Not a surprise at all.

    2. Yes. Slurs are demeaning. Slurs are insensitive. It is wrong to slur.

      I cannot think of any other possible explanation for the word “f@g” being spelled out except as an attempt to slur the customer. If it turns out this is the case, the employee should probably be sent through re-education, not the whole damn company. Get real.

      Also, the offended party in this case “self-identifies as a queer.” This is fine. You can identify yourself any way you like. It’s a free country. Nonetheless, a self described “queer” sounds like a person who might prominently exhibit his sexual orientation in an exaggerated or ostentatious manner. It is a way of feeling powerful, significant, and daring anyone to not like it. It is a personal celebration of individuality and freedom. Sometimes, however, such people hope to provoke a negative response in order garner additional attention.

      When I was young and stupid, such behavior was offensive to me. I did not understand it. The only way to get over it was to immerse myself in gay culture. I had to get out of my sheltered and inexperienced world. Over time, nothing was shocking or offensive to me. I guess this is what being tolerant is all about. Learning to live with that which is different. The bonus, gay men buy me beers in bars. Complete strangers buying you drinks is the coolest thing in the world.

      Not everyone has built up the level of tolerance sometimes needed to ignore “in your face” behavior. Many of my gay friends refer to it as “flaming.” Similarly, black people have a problem with other black people who behave in an excessive “black” way, often calling attention to all the negative aspects of the culture. We call that being a “nigga.” The comedian Chris Rock has a routine in which he says, “Who is more racist? White people or black people?” He answers “Black people cause black people hate black people too.” He goes on to cleverly express that there is a cultural war in the black community between two sides. “Black people,” and “niggaz.” His typically majority black audience roars with laughter at this because they get it.

      Now I don’t know what went on between the self described queer and the Apple Employee, but I’m going to guess there was something. It might have been small, insignificant. Whatever it was, the Apple Employee was provoked. Most likely this is a white male, young, inexperienced, culturally sheltered, and he didn’t “Think before he clicked.” He hasn’t had enough time in the world to build up the necessary empathy to appreciate different people.

      He attempted to insult the customer in the only way he knows how, attacking that aspect of the person most prominently displayed, or easily attacked. Had the person been overweight, the email address might have been “f@t.com.”

      Is it hate? I don’t think so. Is it homophobia? I don’t think so. I think it is ignorance and intolerance. Clearly.

      1. Thelonious Mac – Can I buy YOU a beer? Good assessment of the situation and good context. I think your conclusion is dead-on.

        Just one point: Straight people often mis-understand the use of the word queer. In the ’80s when gay people started using that word I hated it (still do btw) but it’s not the same as ‘nigga’ which I’m very familiar with by having several black friends. Queer is more a blanket term meant to accomplish two goals; to take ‘ownership’ of a common slur to diffuse it’s impact and to streamline the concept of lgbt which is awkward.

        Personally, I hate the word and never use it but I respect it’s use because I know it’s generally not self-degerratory as is the case of ‘nigga’.

      2. Quick story showing the hypocrisy of the N-word (I’m white, so I’m not allowed to use the actual word).

        My son (white guy) attended a week long football camp in Texas. Riding up in the elevator one day, a black player said the N word. Another black player in the front of the elevator whipped around and demanded in an angry voice to know who said that. When he saw it was another black guy, he was basically “Oh, it’s you, OK then”. I’m sure if my son had said the word, a fight would have started.

        Words have meaning, but the use of the N word by some black people is troubling to me and most other white people I have spoken to about it. We simply can’t understand why black people would want to call each other by a word that has such horrible historical uses and was intended to inflict such pain when being used, even if it is now being used between black people in a different definition. My son and I both think that word should simply disappear from language, but now it has two very different meanings, and unfortunately one meaning cannot be used without the other, terrible meaning coming to mind.

        1. If only it could disappear. It’s hard to explain. A friend of mine (black) said yesterday, “Nigga you been at that computer for hours.”

          I didn’t even really hear the word “nigga” when he said it. Now if a white person, even a friend, had said the same thing, the word “nigga” would have been the loudest word in the sentence.

          It’s weird, I know. I can’t explain it. It’s like what Varen says. We’ve taken the word, we own it now, you don’t get to use it. It’s an indicator of kinship. I don’t like it, though I’m accustomed to it. And it’s got to be confusing as heck for white people.

          Tell your son, just ignore it. Ignore race all together. People notice when you don’t notice and that means a lot.

      3. > sounds like a person who might prominently exhibit his sexual orientation in an exaggerated or ostentatious manner

        For you. An exaggerated or ostentatious matter as far as you are concerned. Would a straight person making-out with their girlfriend in an Apple store being acting in an exaggerated or ostentatious matter. Do heterosexual men have girlfriends just to prove a political point?

        What is ostentatious for you may be normal for you.

        “To illustrate the point with trivial stereotypical examples from British society: just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates. Mutatis mutandis – and in many cases the adaptations would obviously be great – the same must apply to other societies. In other words, gay men are to be as free as their straight equivalents in the society concerned to live their lives in the way that is natural to them as gay men, without the fear of persecution.”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HJ_and_HT_v_Home_Secretary

      4. You sir, make perfect sense, mirroring my thoughts exactly! I couldn’t put pen to paper better. thank you for your comment.

        In my 20 years or more of sales I’ve come across a large number of these type of individuals and your description of the customer is bang on. Lots of times it is very hard to bite your tongue when being provoked, especially if you’re new to sales and customer service. I have no doubt that the sales guy knew what he was typing, just like I have no doubt that he was provoked into that response. Unfortunately if he confesses to the slur then management will have no choice but to relieve him of his duties

        1. Ms2sense:

          First, it is presumed innocent before proven guilty.

          Second, that is a test for the criminal law. Employment law and civil law do not use the same presumption test.

          Third, when the explanations are in, we can all reach a decision to determine what is most likely.

          Got it?

  7. I am first off a daily reader of this app and also gay. You have given the soap box to the side of ignorance and blind points of view. You should have stopped after the “bold” logical point of view. Stick to talking apple, not others human rights and dignity.

    1. I’m also gay, a retail worker and I can see how this was an easy mistake.

      The employee had to type something in yet the customer didn’t provide an email, it just happened that f and g and right in the middle of the keyboard and next to each other.

      I done similar things several times and never even thought about it.

  8. It does not matter what the employee’s intent was. All that matters is that the customer felt it was an anti-gay slur. Apple needs to apologize since it is responsible for how its employees interact with its customers, and then have a serious talk with the employee about what the proper procedure is when a customer does not want to give his email address. Apple cannot force its employees to like gay people, but it can surely enforce its policies on how to treat customers. The employee can be the biggest douche in the world, but as long as he is representing apple, he must follow their guidelines.

    1. I’m not sure what the intent of your post is, but I feel that somebody, somewhere could be offended by it; Actually, as I’ve been typing this response, I feel like I might be offended by your response. You and your family need to apologize to everyone that was offended by your take. There has to be some type of class you can take so that, in the future, your thoughts won’t offend anybody.

  9. I agree with MDN, if this actually happened the employee should be disciplined. But, are we sure this person didn’t actually give the employee that email address?

    Sounds like a case of his word against the employee’s? I’m sure there is surveillance video of the transaction but I doubt there is audio. I could easily see someone giving the clerk that email address because he didn’t want to use their real email address and laughing about it. Then later using it as a publicity stunt and extortion.

    Just saying, there are a lot of very strange and troubled people out there and they never cease to amaze me.

  10. Not sure why MDN is so hung up on the intent thing. First of all, the idea that he called the customer a fag by accident is absurd. That sounds like some poorly thought out lie an idiot would say when trying to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. Secondly, even if were true, and this employ really is calling people fags at work by accident – that’s just as much of a problem. Whether the cause was his incompetence or his bigotry, the end result is identical, and the employee is still at fault.

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