This Target Cashier Missed The ‘No Homophobic Insults At Checkout’ Part Of Training

Seth’s cashier at Target was unprofessional and immature, but that’s not what bothered him about the encounter. The real problem was with his, as Seth puts it, “homophobic insult[s].” Describing a thing that you don’t like by saying “that’s so gay” might be acceptable among your friends, if your friends are teenage boys in 1997, but it’s not how you should talk at work. Especially when your job involves working with the general public, which consists of a fascinating variety of different kinds of people. Including gay people. Like Seth.

He initially didn’t do anything after finishing the transaction. Shock and dismay will do that, sometimes. Then realized he had to complain to Target. That’s where things went slightly wrong before he got the resolution he was looking for.

I was in the check-out line at the Target in [redacted] on Friday night, 11-30-12, around 8:30pm. The cashier told the customer in front of me that something was “SO GAY”. As a 30-year-old gay man I found that comment to be completely inappropriate. I chimed in and told the cashier, [B], that his remark was rude, uncalled for, inappropriate, passé, ignorant, and not okay. He immediately said back that he said it “all the time” and “it was not a big deal” and “he uses it a lot”. In the moment I did not what else to do or say.

When [B] did ring me up he asked me “why I wasn’t buying any nail polish” which was clearly a homophobic insult. I was shocked and upset. My purchase was complete and I left.

When I got back to my car in the parking lot I realized the gravity of what I had just experienced and how wrong it was. The next morning I tweeted at @Target and @askTarget other than providing me with a reference # they were of absolutely no help. I called Target’s toll-free number 3 times and only received run-around and promises that the store manager from the [redacted] store would call me back.

I finally called the store and spoke with [D], a manager. I told him about my experience. He was shocked and upset that this had happened to me. He said this experience was no a reflection of Target’s values and he sincerely apologized. He asked what I wanted and I simply said for the #1 top head manager of that Target store to be aware of what happened to me and call me back.

Within an hour, [K], the head manager of that Target location called me back. I re-told my experience to her. She apologized many times and told me she’d be handling the situation personally. She said this is absolutely not the type of experience that a Target guest should have. She wanted me to know that I am always welcome in her store and this incident was “very wrong”. [K] seems embarrassed and genuinely upset that this had happened. She also again asked what I wanted which I just said her to know what happened and reassurance from her that she would handle it as she saw appropriate. She insisted on mailing me a gift card which hopefully will show up at my home soon.

Bottom line, I do feel the local managers handled my complaint very well, but I am very disappointed that the actual corporate hot line and twitter account never did anything.

One problem that we’ve discussed in different posts here before is the question of when you ought to go to corporate, and when you ought to march up to an employee and demand to speak to the local person in charge. In some cases, the answer is simple. Did you order a product or service online? Call, e-mail, or tweet away. Is it a locally owned business or very regional chain? Your best bet is to speak right to the owner or manager.

In between, though, are national and global chains and franchises. Is a problem systemic and chain-wide, like a sale flyer pricing error or a receipt-checking policy that you find onerous? Take your problems to the top.
If front-line employees refuse to get a manager for you and you can’t reach one on the phone, or the manager is being unreasonable, by all means, contact corporate.

In this case, the management of the individual store were responsible for hiring and training that employee, and may have skipped the “no anti-gay slurs at the checkout counter” module. They’re responsible for that employee’s behavior, though, and Seth should have gone to them first. Compare the store manager’s horrified reaction to the confused runaround he got from the customer service call center.

Do we love to read your stories and see your pictures? Of course. But we’re even more pleased when we hear that you’ve taken tools that you learned about here and earned your own consumer victories, without even getting us involved.