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Oregon Apple Store 'slur' incident being investigated

updated 06:47 pm EDT, Thu August 14, 2014

Apple looking into receipt claim, but questions raised in victim's story

An Apple customer at a store in Portland, Oregon is claiming that his receipt contained a homophobic slur. Adam Catanzarite, an LBTGQ activist and HIV prevention specialist, received a receipt for a pair of Earpods that listed his email address (which he had declined to give) as "f@g.com." More than a month after the incident -- and following a claim that a promised refund didn't occur -- Catanzarite published a photo of the receipt on Facebook and called for a boycott.



While the email address could be a legitimate attempt at a slur, the long delay between receiving the receipt and reporting the outrage -- along with Catanzarite offering to teach a sensitivity class to the employees -- has raised questions about the incident. A number of Apple Store employees, often identifying themselves as gay, have pointed out that the receipt requires an email address of some sort to be filled in, and that "f" and "g" are next to each other on the keyboard. Since Catanzarite declined to provide an email, the staffer in question may have simply filled in something quick, possibly oblivious to any hurtful interpretation.

It has also been noted that at the time of the incident, Catanzarite received an apology from the manager, a gift card from the store and a promise to refund the cost of the Earpods. Apple corporate is aware of the allegation and is investigating, but has not offered any comment on the matter. It was only after the alleged refund did not appear that Catanzarite went public.

He added in his post that he felt the employee's alleged slur was "not acceptable, particularly for a company that 'prides itself on being LGBTQ inclusive and welcoming.'"

"Being queer and having worked with queer youth, I know firsthand that this is an example of the type of homophobic beliefs and actions that lead young people to harm themselves," Catanzarite said. He did admit that the slur could have been completely unintentional, but decided to press the issue anyway.

"It is possible that this could have been made in error, but the impact of the action remains the same," he said in his Facebook post. "The employee who entered f@g.com should not be fired ... 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."

A number of commenters have pointed out that due to the store record-keeping associated with the sale, there is no question of the identity of the clerk in question to store management, and that a deliberate action of this nature is akin to resigning, as the incident would result in a near-instant firing or suspension after the customer reported it. Neither the store nor Apple corporate have said if the employee in question is still working at the Portland store.




by MacNN Staff

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  1. andi*pandi

    Moderator

    Joined: 06-19-00

    seems like a bit of a stretch.

  1. chimaera

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 04-08-07

    How would the employee know the customer was gay?

    Either employee knew the customer, the customer announced it, or ... it was random key presses. Probably the latter.

    Why do they require an email on every sale anyway? I hate that in a physical store.

  1. azrich

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-19-10

    That term has evolved beyond just meaning homosexual. It now means someone annoying. So I suspect it was entered purposefully.

    Lets hope the employee that did it turns out to be gay. I think that would put an end to this problem.

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    I'd be willing to bet that if the refund for the Earpods, as originally promised by the staff at the store, had been received by the customer (unclear if the manager made the promise), then nothing further would have happened. Also, why is an EMail address required for the purchase? Any customer needs to have the right to refuse to give one, especially if the customer thinks it's an invasion of privacy (which it is). If that is store policy, then it needs to be CLEARLY stated.

    If I do encounter such a situation and am not willing to provide my EMail address, then I would just fill in something fake. It would be better, though, if the store simply requests an EMail address, and allow the customer the decision as to whether to provide one or not. That seems reasonable.

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    An email address is NOT required to purchase anything. That doesn't stop them from asking you though, and it shouldn't, either. You're free to decline, just like this guy did.

    Some stores ask me for my email address to email a receipt to me in lieu of a printed receipt. In these cases, for trusted stores, I give it to them. It makes archiving and tax time easier for me when things are sorted and filed electronically.

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Originally Posted by DiabloConQuesoView Post

    An email address is NOT required to purchase anything. That doesn't stop them from asking you though, and it shouldn't, either. You're free to decline, just like this guy did.



    Looks like "anything" does not apply here. From above (bold part is my emphasis):

    "A number of Apple Store employees, often identifying themselves as gay, have pointed out that the receipt requires an email address of some sort to be filled in, and that "f" and "g" are next to each other on the keyboard"

  1. Whattheheck

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-15-14

    Two main reasons they ask for your email are (1) to make your purchase retrievable if you have lost your receipt and need another copy, if the item does not have a serial number, and (2) to randomly send questionnaires about your experience (both sales and repair). A customer can decline to provide an email and the staffer will put in some bogus thing probably not intentional because, as has been pointed out, a staffer must login with a unique user ID. Having said that criminals aren't the only dumb people out there.

  1. coffeetime

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 11-15-06

    Sometimes you can tell if a person is gay and sometimes you can't. The employee probably detected the vibe from the customer's behavior and attitude and just being a "D**K" about it. Also mistakenly typing that email address is just hard to believe.

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    akent35, I'm not quite sure how that's different from what I said. A customer is not required to provide a valid email address to purchase anything and everything from the store, and in cases where the customer refuses to provide an email address, a fake email address, or gibberish, is filled into the email address field by an employee during the electronic checkout process.

    "Requiring an email address field be populated by the employee" and "requiring the customer to provide their valid email address" are two completely different things. No one who is looking to buy something from an Apple Store is being turned away, empty-handed, because of their failure to provide their email address.

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Originally Posted by DiabloConQuesoView Post

    akent35, I'm not quite sure how that's different from what I said. A customer is not required to provide a valid email address to purchase anything and everything from the store, and in cases where the customer refuses to provide an email address, a fake email address, or gibberish, is filled into the email address field by an employee during the electronic checkout process.

    "Requiring an email address field be populated by the employee" and "requiring the customer to provide their valid email address" are two completely different things. No one who is looking to buy something from an Apple Store is being turned away, empty-handed, because of their failure to provide their email address.



    The problem is that by requiring an email address be "provided", a store employee can put anything they want when the customer refuses to provide one. And, what happened at the Oregon store is proof enough that such a policy is both bad and ridiculous.

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Originally Posted by WhattheheckView Post

    Two main reasons they ask for your email are (1) to make your purchase retrievable if you have lost your receipt and need another copy, if the item does not have a serial number, and (2) to randomly send questionnaires about your experience (both sales and repair). A customer can decline to provide an email and the staffer will put in some bogus thing probably not intentional because, as has been pointed out, a staffer must login with a unique user ID. Having said that criminals aren't the only dumb people out there.



    Don't care whatever the reasons are. The customer has every right to refuse to provide whatever "extraneous" information is being asked for, and no one else should be allowed to fill something in.

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Originally Posted by coffeetimeView Post

    Sometimes you can tell if a person is gay and sometimes you can't. The employee probably detected the vibe from the customer's behavior and attitude and just being a "D**K" about it. Also mistakenly typing that email address is just hard to believe.



    Well said! That is why that stupid policy of "requiring an EMail address" must be rescinded.

  1. thinkman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-04-05

    One person does something horrible, and now we are being ask to boycott the entirety of Apple! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame!

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    "The problem is that by requiring an email address be "provided", a store employee can put anything they want when the customer refuses to provide one."

    I think they can do that with just about any field of information that they type into any of their systems.

    Wouldn't a less sledgehammer-ish solution be to allow the employees to simply leave the email field blank, or indicate that the customer declined to provide one? And how do we know that's not already the case, and this one, single employee simply typed something in rather than do what they were perhaps taught to do in training?

    Why do we need to completely abolish the notion of collecting the customer's email address if they're willing to provide it, and the email is used for nice things, like paperless receipts and the like, all based off of a single, seemingly isolated incident of worker misconduct?

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Originally Posted by DiabloConQuesoView Post

    "The problem is that by requiring an email address be "provided", a store employee can put anything they want when the customer refuses to provide one."

    I think they can do that with just about any field of information that they type into any of their systems.

    Wouldn't a less sledgehammer-ish solution be to allow the employees to simply leave the email field blank, or indicate that the customer declined to provide one? And how do we know that's not already the case, and this one, single employee simply typed something in rather than do what they were perhaps taught to do in training?

    Why do we need to completely abolish the notion of collecting the customer's email address if they're willing to provide it, and the email is used for nice things, like paperless receipts and the like, all based off of a single, seemingly isolated incident of worker misconduct?



    You are still missing the main point, as it applies to this store's policy. Again, and I state (for what seems like the millionth time! :brick::brick:):

    "A number of Apple Store employees, often identifying themselves as gay, have pointed out that the receipt requires an email address of some sort to be filled in, and that "f" and "g" are next to each other on the keyboard"

    Note that it clearly states REQUIRES. That left it up to the employee to enter anything they want.

    As for "Wouldn't a less sledgehammer-ish solution be to allow the employees to simply leave the email field blank, or indicate that the customer declined to provide one?", I already stated something similar to that above. That is, when the customer refuses to provide an EMail address (or any other unnecessary piece of information), then either that information is left blank (and not to be filled in by ANYONE), or there is some sort of check box that basically states that the customer refused to provide it. In fact, probably most customers that refuse to provide the information would check that box themselves.

    Finally, I am not saying we should "completely abolish the notion of collecting the customer's email address if they're willing to provide it, and the email is used for nice things, like paperless receipts and the like, all based off of a single, seemingly isolated incident of worker misconduct?". Just allow the option for the customer to not provide it. Allowing a store employee to arbitrarily fill in the EMail address (or any other unnecessary information) is just plain bad. And, none of us know if such practices (and with similar results) have not occurred elsewhere. Just eliminate the stupid, worthless requirement that such information is required. That, to me, is a bunch of BS!

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    Akent, you guys are arguing the same point, and agreeing nearly 100%. Let it go, man.

  1. FastiBook

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-17-05

    Apple keeps a record of all of these documents, so it should be verifiable. Also, the customer may not have noticed it due to not looking at the paper till some time after, perhaps clearing out a desk or home office and saw it. Truth will out.

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Originally Posted by EstaNightshiftView Post

    Akent, you guys are arguing the same point, and agreeing nearly 100%. Let it go, man.



    Not quite. Some folks still feel it is OK to "require" such extraneous information, and subsequently allowing an employee to "fill in the blanks". I am saying that such information must be optional, and that no one else can be allowed to alter it. That is what the policy of that store (and ANY other retailer) MUST BE.

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Originally Posted by FastiBookView Post

    Apple keeps a record of all of these documents, so it should be verifiable. Also, the customer may not have noticed it due to not looking at the paper till some time after, perhaps clearing out a desk or home office and saw it. Truth will out.



    Good point. Thus, lesson learned: make sure to look at all paperwork associated with a purchase.

  1. arrannen

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-11-03

    I used to work at a store that required an email address and when the customer didn't want to give an email address, I'd type the closest, fastest thing I could to get on to the relevant points... so often it came out as e@r.com or y@u.com. Easy and quick to type. Look where "F" and "G" are on the keyboard and how the fingers move when you type. F@g.com types very quickly. Granted it looks bad and perhaps was a poor choice, but I offer the suggestion that it was more an innocent mistake taken out of context by a group who are used to being put down upon. Perhaps a little less sensitivity and a LOT less sensationalism would have been called for here. Its a shame that what you see on a receipt that you will most likely never see again requires such huge media attention when it could be better served by more pressing issues to the GBLT community

  1. unicast reversepath

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-14-14

    Originally Posted by EstaNightshiftView Post

    Akent, you guys are arguing the same point, and agreeing nearly 100%. Let it go, man.



    Some people like to nitpick and will use any excuse, no matter how small, to argue - even to the point of it becoming mild trolling. Some people just like to argue. :D

  1. akent35

    Banned

    Joined: 12-17-13

    Originally Posted by arrannenView Post

    I used to work at a store that required an email address and when the customer didn't want to give an email address, I'd type the closest, fastest thing I could to get on to the relevant points... so often it came out as [email]e@r.com[/email] or [email]y@u.com[/email]. Easy and quick to type. Look where "F" and "G" are on the keyboard and how the fingers move when you type. [email]F@g.com[/email] types very quickly. Granted it looks bad and perhaps was a poor choice, but I offer the suggestion that it was more an innocent mistake taken out of context by a group who are used to being put down upon. Perhaps a little less sensitivity and a LOT less sensationalism would have been called for here. Its a shame that what you see on a receipt that you will most likely never see again requires such huge media attention when it could be better served by more pressing issues to the GBLT community



    All of that seems reasonable, but again, if a customer does not provide a piece of non-critical information, or what is not required for the sale to be completed, then it is not acceptable to allow anyone to alter the receipt. That is a basic fact. Given all that is going on with privacy and all, the receipt cannot be altered, plain and simple.

    Also, in this particular case (and to make matters worse), the customer never received the promised refund. Hence, the management at that store went back on their word. How then can one expect them to be trusted? That's just another reason why refusing to provide the EMail address is the customer's right, and cannot be subsequently filled in by anyone other than the customer.

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