Portland Apple Customer Finds Homophobic Slur On Receipt, Calls For Social Competency Training

AppleSlurAdam Catanzarite went into a Portland, Oregon Apple store for a pair of headphones, and left with what could be considered a homophobic slur. A few days after his purchase, Catanzarite took a closer look at his receipt only to find "f@g.com" written where his email (which he declined to give to the employee) should have been.

Catanzarite, an HIV prevention specialist at Cascade AIDS Project and a self-identified queer individual, took action, calling the store, speaking with the manager, and eventually being promised a refund; as of yesterday, he had not received it.

PQ Monthly reports:

In a post to Facebook, Catanzarite explained his immediate response and why he felt this was unacceptable:

“The store manager did not do what he said he would to rectify the situation… being queer and having worked with queer youth, I know first-hand that this is an example of the type of #homophobic beliefs and actions that lead young people to harm themselves. This type of action is NOT OKAY, especially from a company that prides itself on being LGBTQ inclusive and welcoming.”

Rather than fire the employee who entered the offending phrase, Catanzarite believes that there should be more cultural competency training for Apple employees on the whole. The Oregonian reports:

Catanzarite followed the initial Facebook post with another on Wednesday morning, describing the encounter in greater detail. In that post, he said:

“The employee who entered f@g.com should not be fired (take a minute to let that settle in if you need to), but should be given an opportunity to learn about the impact of the use of the word fag and how these words impact the individuals who have been oppressed by them.”

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.

“All I can really focus on is how it impacted me and how we can move forward to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Several updates from PQ Monthly indicate that the incident really could have been accidental on the part of the employee, particularly regarding the quick input of emails (when not given to the employee) and the proximity of "f" and "g" on the keyboard. The unnamed contact–an employee at the same Apple store location–also said that they believe the employee in question is homosexual and that they have heard him use the word "fag" "in a casual, callous, or even joking manner.”

Misunderstanding or not, it is undoubtedly important to recognize the sensitivity around use of inappropriate or offensive language. Apple has yet to respond to the situation, beyond recognition of its occurrence. 

Comments

  1. Mike says

    Meanwhile St Louis is a powder keg and in Iraq kids are drinking their parents blood to prevent death from dehydration or being put in mass graves or beheaded while alive. Get over yourself, Mary.

  2. Fire Da F@g says

    So either it was an accident (which is totally, 100% implausible)or it wasn’t. But you don’t get to say that: 1) it was an accident; but 2) if it wasn’t an accident, it’s because he’s a f@g TOO!

    F@g or not, that employee should be fired. Even if joking inappropriately with a co-worker isn’t cause for termination, being inappropriate with a customer/client certainly has to be.

  3. John says

    “Misunderstanding or not, it is undoubtedly important to recognize the sensitivity around use of inappropriate or offensive language.” Your inappropriate or offensive language is not the same as mine. Is there a short list of words we are ALLOWED to use?

  4. Mike says

    Yeah now this dude is on his Facebook directing the “media” here and there. Oh shut up. Keep it in Portland. Frankly, I don’t know why he chooses to live in such a place well known for its homophobia. No one ever did that on one of my receipts in Texas.

  5. TheOtherOne says

    Oh look. The homophobic trolls are telling us that this doesn’t matter. Weak sauce as always. It matters, and Adam Catanzarite is showing remarkable restraint and wisdom in his response. Apple, not so much.

  6. TheOtherOne says

    Oh look. The homophobic trolls are telling us that this doesn’t matter. Weak sauce as always. It matters, and Adam Catanzarite is showing remarkable restraint and wisdom in his response. Apple, not so much.

  7. JackFknTwist says

    Of course the way to deal with this is to go back to the store and punch the guy who did it.

    Instead I read above an apologist bending over so much he’ll give himself a hernia.

    And yes there are wars going on in the world…..but what point does that make ? We should ignore scum like behaviour ?

  8. The Milkman says

    I’m seeing a few comments suggesting that this person should “get over it”, ostensibly because there are more important things going on in the world. The truth is that what’s important to an individual depends on their perspective. Yes, St. Louis and Iraq are spiraling out of control. What can Mr. Catanzarite do about those things, assuming that he decides to take the commenters’ advice and “get over it”? How should he direct his efforts? Oh that’s right, he can’t do ANYTHING about those things. What he can do is stand up for himself and not allow himself to be insulted and demeaned during a simple commercial transaction. And in so doing, he stands up for all of us.

    The only reason we’ve improved our lot in life over the past 30 years is the fact that we’ve stood up, come out, and refused to take abuse from bigots. That’s exactly what needs to happen all over the world. Those of you who think he’s being unreasonable should think again.

  9. Turing's Ghost says

    Wonder what he would call Tim Cook, the Apple gay CEO?
    Also, @THEOTHERONE, I agree. Wonder why trolls show up on this site? Sadly, it used to be troll free.

  10. northalabama says

    a keypunch error? really? would that argument fly with a black customer if the employee claimed he was only trying to enter the west african river niger, and accidentally typed one too many g’s?

  11. keepingitreal says

    John,
    Only right wing people like you would think that f@g is an appropriate word and yes I know you think it’s fun to come here and call us all a f@g but you will never be man enough to say it to anybody’s face.

  12. gay apple employee says

    As a former Apple employee, i can tell you exactly what happened. In order to finish a transaction, an employee must enter an email address for the receipt. if customer doesn’t want to provide one, the employee is supposed to enter a dummy apple one that doesn’t go anywhere. Out of laziness, most employees put a@apple.com, or 1@a.com, or in this case F@g.com. Because it’s simply a way to fool the system into thinking you are entering a proper email because there is an “@” symbol. Apple is one of the most accepting companies in the entire world, and not once did I ever feel unsupported by them because I was gay. This is a waste of everyone’s time, and this asshat needs to find something better to do with his time.

  13. JackFknTwist says

    @ GAY APPLE EMPLOYEE :

    Rationalizing a faux pas.

    And where did the employee get the “g” from ?
    It’s 5 spaces away from the “a”.
    Your explanation sounds like BS to me.

  14. says

    Well, yeah, it’s not the biggest deal in the world @GayAppleEmployee but it’s probably worth it for Apple stores to suggest to their employees that if you’re going to make up a dummy e-mail address f@g.com is right up there with c@nt.com and n@gger.com on the list of non-customer-friendly ones to pick.

  15. crispy says

    It doesn’t sound like he’s defending the employee. He’s saying that he’s not representative of the broader corporate culture.

    One bad apple, so to speak.

  16. Seth says

    Lol! So he openly degrades himself by calling himself queer and he degrades gay and lesbian youths by calling them queer and then he objects when others degrade him by calling him f@g? What a maroon!

    Gay people aren’t queers and we aren’t f@gs. Anyone who calls us that – even if that person is gay , or especially if that person is gay – needs to be called out.

  17. says

    “Catanzarite took a closer look at his receipt only to find “f@g.com” written where his email (which he declined to give to the employee) should have been.”

    If the customer didn’t give the clerk his email address, then there was no reason for the clerk to type anything into that section. It was obviously typed in that way deliberately.

  18. ron says

    As a fellow gay Portlander, I’m quite disturbed at how overblown this whole thing is. It’s quite clear to me that the employee was just entering a garbage email address to complete a sale. This is simply manufactured outrage.

    I once got some documentation from another company which contained sample emails from a user called “Maricon”, a Spanish slur equivalent to “faggot”. I raised a huge stink, and was incredibly embarrassed to find that it was actually the name of a technical writer at the company, who was using his own name in his writing.

    I think everyone should pause with their pitchforks and torches, and think about how we should feel if we cost some unlucky retail employee his job for what is likely a bunch of random keypresses.

  19. says

    i self-identify as Queer because queer means “from a different perspective or point of view. a deviation from the expected norm. unusual. unique. not common”

    it’s not a pejorative. there’s a difference between self-identifying and someone using another word pejoratively as a slur.

    for example: the person could have simply put “GAY” in the email. and it would, yes, have still been an attempt at a homophobic “dig”, so to speak.

    i remember as a kid seeing two schoolchildren fight, and the white one said to the black kid “BLACK!” – yes, just using the word black, with the intention of trying to “hurt him” with it – as in “you’re black, and that’s a lesser and bad thing, so i’m throwing it back at you”

    it’s intent and motivation, folks.

    hope this clears things up for all the low-thinkers who’ve been commenting on this story. although i have a feeling it will not.

  20. GregV says

    If the employee has to enter a dummy address that must include “@,” it’s very plausible that if he randomly tapped the middle of the keyboard, then “@,” then randomly again the middle of the keyboard, he would end up with f@g about as often as he would get g@g or h@f, etc.

    I do find it ironic that someone is arguing that people should think about how people have been oppressed by certain words, and then he refers to “queer” youth in the same sentence. I know far more gay men who see “queer” as an offensive and oppressive word than I know gay men who actually use it to describe themselves.

  21. says

    gregv, you’re also likely over 40. right?

    i (back when i was a youth) identified as queer. as did many others of my generation (born in 1982, btw). Queer, to us, is something to be proud of – and empowering and ELECTIVE self-identity as ones who exist outside of the perceived norm. unique. unusual. less common. of a different point of view.

    the word “gay” was what was used against me when i was a child, and was bullied, and physically attacked and hounded for years.

    i’m gay, and queer. not all queer people are gay, not all gay people are queer. we’re electing to identify OURSELVES as Queer. i don’t label others queer. it’s very simple.

    many queer youth have taken the same mindset – they, unlike many older gay men, have zero interest in “blending in with the greater masses” – and find their joy and empowering mindset in embracing their Queerness – embracing that what makes them different from the masses is to be celebrated.
    many gay men want nothing more than to “blend in” and be “Seen as Normal” – i’m not one of them, and neither are queer youth.

  22. Mitch says

    Many people must decline to give an email address when making a purchase. I would think Apple would have a policy to deal with this situation – and I doubt that it is to make up an email address.

    Whether it’s accidental, purposeful, or downright homophobic, it’s inappropriate and Apple deserves to be called out on it.

  23. JackFknTwist says

    @ Little Kiwi :

    “queer ” not a pejorative ?
    Seriously ?
    It has always been a pejorative and never anything else.
    Yeah, I’m gay but there’s nothing ‘queer’ about me.
    Being gay is perfectly not out of the ordinary, we are just a minority…..most are straight.
    I don’t think of being left handed as ‘queer’.
    I don’t think of gays as adopting a political persona of ‘queerness’.

    The term is alienating and divisive and I have no doubt whatever its use has added to the bullying in schools and the heartbreak of some of those young kids struggling with their identities.
    As for ‘queer youth have taken the same mindset’…..that’s wishful thinking of a group that is brave and strong and ready to fight.
    Most kids are vulnerable and scared and get picked on – your idea of a queer uprising by kids standing up for themselves in some fantasy ‘queer mindset’ belies the reality of bullying, harassment, discrimination, humiliation, pain & heartache.
    The words ‘fag’ ‘faggot’, ‘queer’, are as offensive as ‘shirt lifter’, ‘bender’, ‘switch hitter’ etc.
    I , for one, have no intention of adopting the nomenclature of our former oppressors !

  24. says

    I didn’t say you were queer. I self-identify myself as Queer. You must have missed that part where i explicitly stated that I’m self-identifying.

    after all – look at me. you can actually see me. i’m not an invisible non-entity. clearly my self-identification as Queer, (as well as gay) since my teens has worked for me.

    simply put – you click my name you’ll see that all you’ve written is false – we queer-identifying folks tend to not hide in the shadows, or the anonymity of the internet.

    i can tell that you’re upset and didn’t actually read what i wrote. so i invite you to read it again, a few dozen times, so you can realize that my self-identification has nothing to do with you at all. and my years of volunteer with with lgbtQ youth,…well…i say what i say from experience.

    queer is not a pejorative. it’s not inherently harmful. i’m living proof. i self-identify as Queer, and you don’t see me hiding behind internet anonymity.

    #calmdownblanche

  25. Hrm says

    Here’s the problem with this whole story. Everyone knows Apple is VERY much against discrimination, and would easily take care of this if he would have simply reported it to the store either online or in person. They would have taken ALL appropriate action as they do NOT play when it comes to this. Instead, he decides he NEEDS to make a huge public spectacle about it as if Apple’s somehow got a pattern of this kind of thing. It’s the quickest way to make allies thing we have nothing but professional complainers in our camp.

  26. Hrm says

    @Littlekiwi, believe me, if ANYONE on this site is queer, it’s you. That doesn’t mean the rest of us are. Feel free to silo yourself as being some kind of aberration.

  27. crispy says

    “Many people must decline to give an email address when making a purchase. ”

    Actually, a lot of people give their email addresses. Apple stores have done away with cash registers. Instead, you pay one of the employees wandering around the store with handheld devices, and they ask for your email address to email you your receipt. It eliminates paper. And it provides you with a permanent record of your purchase for return and warranty purposes.

    The fact that he refused to give his email address for his receipt tells a lot about this person.

  28. says

    like i’ve written a billion times, which can be read by those who actually possess reading comprehension skills, when we self-identity as Queer we’re not labelling YOU. we’re SELF-identifying.

    i like being queer. so far, so good.

  29. says

    he bought ear buds. and didn’t give his email address. because he was buying ear buds, not registering a computer.

    why should he have to give his email when buying ear buds when y’all folks who comment anonymously do so because you, as well, don’t want your information being given out?

  30. MIke says

    Oh my, this happens at an Apple Store in one of the promised land cities? Who-da-thunk? If this happened at a Walmart in Tennessee, this comment section would be filled with overly generalized statements about everyone in Tennessee, if not the entire South.
    Wake up people! This stuff happens everywhere, even in the promised land.

  31. Randy says

    There is never a reason to enter a false email on behalf of a customer.

    The fact that one was entered indicates that the employee was not accidentally hitting the wrong keys, but took steps to do it. This was the intended slur.

    And as with any group, being a member of the targeted group doesn’t mean a bigot isn’t a bigot.

  32. crispy says

    “he bought ear buds.”

    Yeh, earbuds with a remote and mic… meaning they’re earbuds for an iPhone. I assure you Apple already has his precious email address.

  33. says

    are a lot of people in here stupid or is one stupid person making various comments under different names?

    How is this man’s self-identification as Queer in any way comparable to someone else, a straight person, putting “FAG” on the receipt?

    curiuos: take FAG out of it. you’re buying something, they ask for your email, you don’t give it, and they put in GAY. or HOMO.

    would you say “that’s ok, as those are terms i’m fine with!” or would you go “why on earth is this person putting a comment about my orientation/identity on this receipt?”

  34. Mike in the Tundra says

    “I , for one, have no intention of adopting the nomenclature of our former oppressors ! ”

    The wonderful thing is that you don’t have to identify as that, but you do not have the right to complain about what others use to self identify.

    @ Little Kiwi – thanks for the ageist remark. There wasn’t enough bigotry already here.

  35. JackFknTwist says

    @ LITTLE KIWI :

    To say that ‘queer’ is not pejorative, as you do and then say, “it’s not inherently harmful, I’m living proof ” is delusional.
    Just because you were not harmed does not mean we can generalise from that proposition, however accurate and worthy.

  36. d charles says

    I get where different people are coming from regarding their personal views on words like queer. I’m in my early twenties, and to me, it’s nothing but a perjorative. If people somehow think it isn’t a slur in today’s youth culture, I have a suggestion. Go to vine. com, search the word queer, and see how today’s youth use it. 99% of the time, it’s a flat-out perjorative. Do the same on twitter or any other site like that and you’ll see the same. I get that some, esp in accademic circles, are all for reclaiming words, but you’re trying to reclaim a hateful slur. Unfortunately, lgbt is the only identifier that hasn’t been weaponized as a slur, mostly cause it’s hard to weaponize an acronym.

  37. says

    fun fact – those who are most opposed to those of us who self-identity as Queer are always the “invisible anonymous” brigade. ironic, eh? those you think are adopting a “pejorative” label are stronger and more visible than you. funny, that.

    how am i reclaiming a hateful slur? i am queer. i’m of a different point of view. i’m a deviation from the expected norm. i’m unusual and unique. and i like it :)

    LGBTQ – queer and questioning. it’s both.

    y’alls be missing the point – when we self identify we SELF-identify.

  38. d charles says

    I’m new to posting on this site, so not sure how to shake the anonymity label. I’ve been a lurker on here for quite some time, to the point that I knowI usually like what little kiwi says, and also that people try to pretend to be him to wreck his image. I wasn’t saying that those who are lgbtq and self-identify as queer are wrong or anything. I should have stressed more that we all have dif perspectives. But, I work on a non-profit ecucational board as their lgbtq-liaison, and speak with local parent groups and gsa student groups about the unique struggle lgbtq kids face in schools. And as has been made clear in this thread, anytime you have a large sample group of a particular community, you are going to have disagreements over the appropriateness of certain words. There are no easy answers or silver bullets when it comes to this topoc, and we can all say, do, and thino what we want. But I was merely trying to add my personal experience workng with students at the ground level, and when straight people use the word queer, it almost always hurled with venom as a slur. And this is MA. I’ve had to do research on language usage for this position, and like I mentioned earlier, if you use the most recent and popiular social media platforms, it gives you a more accurate idea of how the masses use these words. I’m not saying lgbtq people should stop using queer, only that we shouls all be more aware of each of our unique perspectves, and what one lgbtq person might find acceptable, others might be hurt by it, esp vulnerable youth populations. My general view on language has alwaya been: there are soooo many words to choose from, if I discover this word or that word causes harm for another, I can find a new word. Same as dropping “retard” from my vocabulary. Some call it squashing free speech or being the word police, but I measure people on a spectrum of kindness and believe we should always be striving to cause as little harm in the world as possible. And I truly don’t mean to put anyone’s back up. I think conversations like this are healthy.

  39. PDX Tim says

    This was completely intentional. Just like anywhere else in the US, Portland has plenty of homophobes and this Apple punk probably thought he was being funny. The guy only took it to social media when the store refused to respond to his concerns about what they were going to do about this employee. It is obvious that Apple, which just opened a shiny new store in Portland, wants to sweep this under the rug until people forget about it. I am glad Catanzarite isn’t going to let that happen.

  40. says

    “Everyone knows Apple is VERY much against discrimination, and would easily take care of this if he would have simply reported it to the store either online or in person.”

    Did you actually read the story? He did report it to the store, and according to him, they promised him a refund, which he never received. That’s when he posted something on Facebook.

    Re: Queer. Many people self-identify as queer and would use the term “queer youth” without a second thought, though identifying others is always trickier than identifying yourself. (Few identify as f@g.) That doesn’t mean you have to identify that way or approve of the Q-word, but it has a different contemporary history than the F-word. Not that que@r.com on a store receipt would be any more appropriate than f@g.com.

  41. GregV says

    To clarify: the gay male friends I regularly hang out with are numerous and range in age from their 20s to their 60s and ZERO of my “real life” gay male friends identify as “queer.” Their attitudes toward the word range from nonchalance about other people using the word to finding it vile and offensive.
    I have a small number of acquaintances who are NOT gay males (a female drag king, for example) who use the word.

  42. says

    That’s interesting @GregV–guess it depends on our social circles. I’m much more apt to identify myself as gay rather than queer, but quite a lot of people I know of various ages identify as queer before gay (or bi or straight or trans). Granted, I’m around a lot of academics, but not only. (I also know people who hate the term queer and would never, ever use it to identify themselves.)

    The youth organization in my state officially uses LGBTQQ (queer and questioning) and queer on its homepage–coincidentally, the guy in this story was part of that organization. It’s just not that controversial in my circles, but clearly that’s not the case with everyone. To me it’s reclamation heyday was maybe in the 90s and it’s seeming a bit dated again now … we’ll see how the next generation deals with it.

  43. John O says

    I thought it was hilarious. It was a gay guy that did it. It’s something I would probably do. Wanna-be activist f@gs just can’t take a joke.

    You silly outrage queens just have to get your fix here, everyday – don’t you ?

  44. Bill says

    @crispy : I wouldn’t give them my email address either for one simple reason – I don’t want to get marketing messages from them for the rest of my life and no U.S. company can be trusted to respect that preference no matter what they say.

    As an example, I was in a minor fender-bender a while ago due to an idiot trying to pass me on
    the shoulder while I was making a right turn from
    a right-turn lane. I sent my insurance agent and people handling the claims an email with pictures showing the turn lanes and the positions of the vehicles. I asked that the email address be used only with regard to this incident and have been getting advertisements ever since. When Corporate America refuses to respect one’s wishes in this way, that’s a good reason not to trust any of them.

    In the case in question (regarding the alledged slur), it could have been accidental: They usually won’t do a full DNS look up to verify the domain name but for last component in it (.com in this case) there is a relatively small list of ones that are allowed. You also need the ‘@’ and Apples software would check for both. So, if the employee types 1 letter, a mandatory ‘@’, a second letter, and a mandatory top-level domain such as “.com”, and was going to pick letters at random, there are 676 combinations. With digits as well, there are 1286 combinations. That’s a small enough number for what came up to happen purely by accident. Plus, many people who program or work with this type of technology read the ‘@’ as a delimiter and would not think of it as an fancy form of the letter ‘a': hey would think “f at g dot com” so the interpretation as a slur might not register.

  45. crispy says

    Bill, he has an iPhone. Apple already has his email address, phone number, mailing address and social security number. If they want to market to him, they can.

    If that’s the reason he wouldn’t provide an email address for his receipt, he’s ignorant, petty and probably paranoid enough to believe that a simple typing error is corporate discrimination.

  46. keepingitreal says

    John O,
    I’ll repeat my comment to you from yesterday. Only right wing people like you think that f@g is an appropriate word and yes I know you think it’s fun to come here and call us all a f@g but you will never be man enough to say it to anybody’s face.

  47. Booker says

    JMC, actually Catanzarite himself is saying the entry might have been an innocent error; his point is that it happened and that the intent isn’t relevant because it was hurtful either way.

    I see that point: even a mistake should be apologized for if it caused offense. It would just be a very different kind of apology than for an intentional act.

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