John and Jeff Fox like to spend their money at local businesses.
The Omaha couple ordered a turkey for a Friendsgiving dinner and entered Just Good Meat at 4422 S. 84th St. on Friday to buy their bird and other items.
They soon left with nothing, John Fox said, after he overheard two butchers remarking that more “gay guys” had arrived in the store and wondering why there were so many gay people there that day.
Fox said that when he heard the comments, he immediately headed for the car. He then called his husband and told him to cancel the order and leave.
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“If this was 10 years ago, I probably would have let it go,” Fox said. “I need to know that when I go into a place, I feel safe and not discriminated against. My wallet is the same as anyone else’s wallet.”
The owner of Just Good Meat, Sean Fuller, said Thursday that he’s truly sorry that Fox and his husband felt mistreated, but he doesn’t think that his employees said anything derogatory, but that Fox misheard a conversation.
Upon hearing of Fox’s complaint, Fuller said, he interviewed his employees one by one and reviewed video surveillance that he says shows that the butchers were busy working and didn’t see the men come in. The video footage does not have audio.
“I think it was a big misunderstanding,” Fuller said. “If you’re a customer who comes in, you know how diverse our store is. It would never be tolerated. If I saw it happen, I would say something. In my heart, I know it didn’t happen.”
Fox called the business after he and his husband left and was promised by an employee that Fuller would get back to him in 10 to 15 minutes. He never heard back and posted comments about his experience on Facebook. Fuller later commented on the post, then spoke to Fox by phone Monday.
Fox said it was rude that Fuller asked him if he had misheard the workers. He said he felt that Fuller’s words were empty because there has been no public post on Just Good Meat’s Facebook page condemning discrimination.
“(He’s) making excuses for something that’s wrong,” Fox said. “It happened, and he hasn’t rectified anything.”
Fuller said he’s in the thick of the busy holiday season and too busy to respond to every concern online, although he has replied to emails. He said that the cashier who was helping Fox’s husband is part of the LGBTQ community and that many workers are young people who are accepting of all.
“I’m upset that they felt that way,” Fuller said. “I don’t want to lose a customer for anything. It’s not what we are and not what we stand for.”
When asked, Fox took several seconds to think about whether he would return to the store. He said “no” and said Fuller should have reached out to him more quickly to address the situation.
He said he didn’t plan on his post spreading so quickly and hates to hurt a local business, but wants accountability.
“I think awareness is the biggest thing, and tolerance,” he said. “I want other businesses in Omaha to understand that you don’t talk that way around customers and around the public.”