Metro Weekly

Gay Couple Blocked from Purchasing Pride Onesie at Target

Florida couple scolds Target after employees refused to sell them Pride-themed merchandise amid a conservative boycott of the store.

Target Pride Display – Photo: Phillip Pessar, Flickr.

A gay couple claim they were banned from buying a Pride-themed onesie for their child at a Target store in Lake Park, Florida, because store employees said the outfit should have been pulled from shelves.

The employees’ actions appear to come in response to an ongoing backlash against the big box retail chain from conservatives, who have become enraged by the sale of Pride-themed merchandise in stores, especially outfits designated for the children’s section. The store has since decided to remove Pride-themed items for children from shelves, as well as a trans-friendly bathing suit.

Michael Hoffacker and Michael Roedel, of West Palm Beach, said they went, baby in tow, to the Lake Park Target store on Saturday to buy baby formula, diapers, and clothes when they spotted a yellow onesie emblazoned with the words “Bien Proud,” reports West Palm Beach ABC affiliate WPBF. They took the item — which had both a barcode and a price tag — to the self-checkout aisle, but received an alert that a store worker was on the way.

“A Target team member walked over and she let us know that that item should have been pulled from the shelves and it had a ‘Do Not Sell’ [designation] on it and they would not be able to sell us the item,” Hoffacker told the news station.

The couple then asked to speak to a manager, who informed them that they would not be able to buy the item, but gave them an 800 number they could call to complain. 

“We said that that was unreasonable. [The manager] told us if she were to sell us the item, she would probably lose her job,” Hoffacker said.

But after they called the company, a representative told them nothing could be done.

“It was a pretty painful and emotional moment,” Hoffacker said. “I’ve never actually felt restricted from my rights as a gay man through being in college to when I came out until now, I mean, this was one of the moments when I felt like I didn’t have the rights that I deserved to have. It was very uncomfortable.”

Roedel told the news outlet he felt the situation was “hurtful and infuriating,” and called on the store to “do better.”

“Target, in this moment, is wrong. They need to be better and they need to be a better ally in this community and especially in a situation where our family is there, trying to celebrate who we are in a very, very historic and proud, prideful June, and we’re there having a team lead, a manager at Target, tell us we can’t buy a product to actually celebrate our community,” he said.

Hoffacker subsequently wrote a letter to the company and its CEO, demanding that Target reverse its decision to pull Pride-themed items from the shelves. 

In the letter, Hoffacker recounted the story of their encounter with Target employees and complained that the manager’s multiple and repeated excuses for why the store couldn’t sell the onesie appeared to show “no compassion” for how the refusal to sell the item negatively impacted the couple’s family.

“Target claims to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, or so I was told by your Executive Team Lead during our exchange,” Hoffacker wrote. “However, Allyship requires standing strong for those who are marginalized when it matters most. Target failed, and continues to fail, to do so in this moment. Instead, Target has allowed itself to be bullied by a small, vocal minority using a tried-and-true playbook to threaten violence and fear against viewpoints they disagree with. This impacts us all. What will you do when they come for other minorities next? Pull their merchandise, as well?

“You have a chance to reverse this hurtful decision at the beginning of Pride month. Until I see your company living the mission and values you proclaim to embody, you’ve lost a very loyal customer, my family and countless others I will be sharing this story with,”  Hoffacker concluded. “Do better, Target.”

In a statement about its decision to pull the Pride-themed merchandise from the shelves, the company cited threats to employees’ safety and well-being from conservatives — many of whom have been staging or filming altercations with Target employees as a way to “virtue-signal” to other conservatives and encourage others to boycott the store. 

“For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work,” the retailer said in a statement.

“Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior,” the statement continued. “Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”

Target’s market value has dropped by more than $15 billion since the calls for the boycott first went out, with many conservative pundits publicly saying that their intent is not only to hurt the financial standing of companies that embrace “wokeness” or celebrate LGBTQ identity, but to make it so that other customers feel uncomfortable being seen or associated with the brand.

Conservatives recently pulled a similar stunt with beer giant Bud Light after the company partnered with transgender TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney for an online promotion. But Bud Light’s attempt to distance itself from the transgender community led to a subsequent backlash from liberals and LGBTQ establishments, who began boycotting products from Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser Busch, to punish the company for caving to the right-wing mob.

According to a new survey, there may be many more liberal-leaning parents who, like Hoffacker and Roedel, are disgusted with companies that kowtow to social conservatives.

The survey, conduced by the left-wing organization ParentsTogether, polled more than 10,000 parents across the United States, finding that two-thirds, or 67%, said they were disappointed by Target’s decision to remove or relocate Pride merchandise from stores in response to conservative outrage. Nine out of 10 parents surveyed indicated they were regular Target shoppers, having purchased items there at least once in the last month.

According to the survey, more than half of parents said the decision made them less likely to want to shop at Target, and more than three-quarters of respondents said they would have preferred the company taking other action — with 53% suggesting the company ban anti-LGBTQ aggressors from its stores, and another 23% suggesting adding additional security measures — instead of removing the Pride-themed merchandise.

“Let’s be clear: the overwhelming majority of Americans, and the overwhelming majority of parents across the United States support LGBTQ+ rights and want the companies that they patronize to support the LGBTQ+ community as well,” Ailen Arreaza, the executive director of ParentsTogether, said in a statement. “As parents, we try to teach our children that bullies don’t win. So when we see companies giving into bullies’ demands, it sets the wrong example. With the LGBTQ+ community under attack across the U.S., now, more than ever, parents want companies to stand up for the values they believe in.”

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