A lesbian couple from Milton Keynes say they have experienced staff homophobia several times at their local Tesco supermarket.
Andie and Amanda Trinder-Whittle told the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF) that while shopping for a party at their local Tesco Extra store earlier this year, a checkout assistant referred to one of the women, in her late thirties, as a boy.
Andie said: “The checkout operator gestured to my wife and asked repeatedly ‘Is the boy over 18?’ to which I replied, ‘If you want to know my wife’s age why don’t you ask her and request ID?’
“Now my wife is almost 40, so it was a ridiculous situation really, as he continued to address me and not her and then dropped it. I told him he was offensive, he just smiled sarcastically and didn’t apologise.”
The couple complained to the store’s general manager and given a £20 voucher. Despite assurances that staff would be giving re-training, they felt the matter was being swept aside.
Several months later, Andie revisited the store, only to hear a checkout assistant referring to another worker as a “gay boy”.
She said: “This time I deliberately chose a middle aged woman instead of a young boy as I thought at least she wouldn’t be ignorant and rude.
“On this occasion the operator was trying to get the attention of another staff member and shouted ‘Oi gay boy’ to him across the shop floor in front of me! I couldn’t believe it, one staff member addressing another colleague like that in front of a customer.”
After complaining again, the couple received a letter from Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s chief executive, who apologised and said the matter was being taken seriously.
Andie said: “What makes me angry is that instinctively the store didn’t feel they should challenge such homophobia and if I hadn’t felt so compelled to complain and challenge them I wouldn’t have received any response at all.
“I know the store is popular with many gay people and I just wonder how many lesbian and gay people are putting up with this kind of daily homophobia not just in Tesco but in other stores.”
A Tesco spokesperson told LGF: “This behaviour will not be tolerated in any way. The matter has been dealt with internally.”