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Gay Store Worker Asks If He Was Wrong To Embarrass A Customer Who Called Him A Homophobic Slur

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“The customer is always right” may be the guiding principle in retail, but every retail worker has their limits.

For one gay Redditor, being called a homophobic slur was the line in the sand. But some people in his life felt he took his response too far.

The Original Poster (OP) took his dilemma to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit, asking his fellow Redditors:

“AITA for calling a customer out on his homophobia and embarrassing him?”

OP explained:

“So at my job, we sell bath and what you would call body stuff (possibly works) and we have three different tasks: sell, work cash and replenish the store with product.”

“While we work we all use headsets to communicate with each other so we know to not approach a customer if they’ve already been approached—just to make sure we don’t bombard them—among other things like regular work stuff.”

“We usually talk about customers as in saying something like ‘the lady in the red dress is all good, she doesn’t need any more help’ or something along these lines.”

“Yesterday I was selling.”

“I think it’s time for me to mention I’m an openly gay man, and if you took one look at me you’d know (long dyed hair, feminine clothing, I’m a proud walking stereotype, I like that). I also wear a pride mask at work (just a nice simple black design with the word ‘pride’ in rainbow printed on the side in small text.”

“I also live in a conservative area. Fun.”

“So yesterday I decided to go up to a customer who was another man dressed in a black shirt with grey stripes, and ask him if I could help him find anything, on the headset I heard he was getting a Christmas gift for his girlfriend.”

“He then looks me in the eyes, and says the following words:”

“‘I don’t take advice from F*gs'”

“He said in a low voice, so I don’t think anyone else heard him.”

“Now being an openly gay man in a store targeted to women, this is not been the first time I’ve heard something like this, it’s sad to say I’m used to being called slurs, even outside of work.”

“So instead of getting upset, I grab my headset and said:”

“‘Okay so the man in the grey and black shirt wants to shop alone, he says he doesn’t take advice from f*gs'”

“As I turn to see the reaction of my coworkers, we all have this sort of gasp moment, before getting back to normal (edit: I mean as in a slight recoil in a surprised reaction, nothing extremely out there and outlandish,)”

“My manager just replies ‘copy that’.”

“Instantly I see this dude go pale, then turn a bright red colour before immediately leaving the store without buying anything.”

“None of my coworkers had a problem with this, you’d be surprised how many LGBTQ people work my store, including my managers (yes, and lesbians/bisexual women—I don’t know how people don’t understand that)”

“When I got home I told my roommate as a funny joke, but he told me that I was an a**hole for calling him out in front of everybody and that I shouldn’t antagonize people because that could’ve ended badly for me.”

“Quick edit: I thought it would be best to make it more clear, my roommate got mad that I called this dude out, specifically saying that I’m in customer service and that being a d*ck isn’t ‘part of the employee handbook’ which is the single gayest thing I’ve heard a straight man say.”

“I don’t think that just because I’m in a retail job, that I should just take homophobia lying down.”

“I think I’m completely justified, but anxiety is getting the better of me, and I’m wondering if I did the right thing, should I have let it go?”

“So Reddit, judge this f*g— AITA?”

OP’s fellow Redditors were asked to place blame based on the following categories:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
  • NAH – No A**holes Here

Redditors delivered their decisive verdict.

“If he doesn’t want to be called out as a homophobe in public, he shouldn’t be a homophobe in public. You did good. NTA” —MyFickleMind

“…NTA, and honestly that was probably the best way to handle it, OP. You weren’t outright rude or confrontational, simply repeated the slur he used in a more public fashion. Good on you.” —Dracarys_Aspo

“I wish I could have openly called out bigots when I worked in retail. People need to learn to not say every cruel thought that comes to their mind. NTA” —AnnieM1313

“Here’s the thing: whatever comes out of your mouth you should not be ashamed to hear repeated. It’s a good way to chose your words and live your life.”

“OP simply repeated the customers own words. He got upset by his own language and that’s on him. And the roommate needs to get over himself. NTA” —Netteka

“I can honestly say that if I was the Store owner, I’d have asked him to leave for being rude to staff anyway. You don’t want his custom…” —icesurfer10

“OP, you told the truth using his words and you didn’t embarrass him, he did that to himself. He wasn’t embarrassed that you heard what he said, but that the others did. He knew what he said was wrong and left the store once he realized everyone else heard it, too.” —codeedog

“Yup, NTA. I managed wireless stores for 17 years and as a woman, I’ve had some customers request to speak with a man more times than I could count.”

“I always answered with ‘just so I understand, are you asking to speak with someone with a penis because you think that makes them more qualified?’. It embarrassed them 100% and I would still have a man help them but only after making it clear why I was passing on the customer…” —thedoodely

“…The customer is not always right but the customer is always the customer. That’s what my mom always said. This is a perfect example. And OP handled exactly as such.” —ijustcantwithit

“NTA, you used exactly his words and if it was embarrassing for him to hear, he shouldn’t have used them. It’s not your job to hide his homophobia or lack of manners…” —cai_hong

“…NTA – That dude deserved it.” —RatMaster999

It’s in nobody’s job description to accept bigotry or abuse. Hopefully OP’s customer learned this lesson from the encounter.

Written by Peter Karleby

Peter Karleby is a writer, content producer and performer originally from Michigan. His writing has also appeared on YourTango, Delish and Medium, and he has produced content for NBC, The New York Times and The CW, among others. When not working, he can be found tripping over his own feet on a hiking trail while singing Madonna songs to ward off lurking bears.