Who is Nicole? Indeed.

IMG_3218Here’s the thing about me: I am an extremely open person. Almost to a fault. I will entertain and answer any question about my life because I assume that people are usually asking for a good reason. There are many mornings when I wake up with a truth hangover, wondering if maybe I should have activated my dusty censoring function. But most of the time don’t second-guess my personal policy of open honesty. You ask me a question and I will give you an answer.

This applies to my oh-so-controversial sexuality. I have to come out of the closet on an almost daily basis. If you are straight, you might be surprised by that. But there is a steady undercurrent of heterosexuality and heterosexual assumptions. Sometimes I let it slide, but more often than not, I don’t, especially in front of my six-year-old daughters. And, of course, homophobia is alive and well. There are situations when Nicole and I unconsciously increase the distance between us, or let go of clasped hands. I am not proud of those moments. But I justify them because I feel like we are trying to make our lives easier in a certain moment or because we feel unsafe; we are not, in fact, ashamed or trying to make homophobic people comfortable.

One place I especially don’t want to be judged is at places where I spend my money. Why would I support people or businesses that don’t support me? Chick-Fil-a, I’m looking at you! The corporate entity has stated its views, and they don’t align with mine. We just go our separate ways. Which is a shame, because I really do love their chicken sandwich, and we all know how picky I am.

So this is why my experience yesterday at B&H was particularly distressing. For those of you who don’t know, B&H is a camera and electronic superstore/institution in NYC. The store itself is enormous, and they transport purchased products with an overhead trolley system, much to the delight of Madeline and Avery. I have been a customer here for over 15 years, spanning my years of living on a boat in the Hudson River to the years when I was pushing a giant double stroller through the tight aisles to get to the elevator.  I have bought every camera I own from this store, plus every lens, battery, flash, tripod, binoculars and accessories. In other words: A lot of money. My favorite thing about this place: the amazing customer service and knowledgeable staff. I have on more than one occasion gone there to buy, say, a certain lens, and they insist I would be happier with another one, which happens to cost a lot less. So few stores operate under that philosophy (i.e., what’s best for the customer and not the bottom line) and so I rewarded them with my business.

It was supposed to be a quick trip. I stopped in to buy a new camera battery and charger (for the camera, incidentally, that I purchased at B&H). My amazing, perfect, beautiful and did I mention amazing daughters (yes, I tend to overcompensate with adjectives for my children’s little egos when they are exposed to situations that might make them feel less than) were by my side as I handed over the credit card to the cashier. What followed was a hideous exchange, a homophobic encounter that was particularly distressing, as my children were witness to it. My children, who think nothing of having two moms; who know only love in their lives; who are explicitly taught to not judge people, and who have never, ever once found our family dynamic “strange.”

The cashier demanded to know who Nicole was, asking several times in a row “Who is Nicole?” After hedging twice I said, “Nicole is my wife.”  If this were a movie moment, you would hear car tires screeching to a halt or a record needle being dragged across vinyl. He stared me, unable to hide the look of disgust on his face. Maybe “look of disgust” is his resting face, and I realize that opinions about appearances can be subjective, but I can say with absolute authority that he was disgusted. He kept repeating “your wife?!” again and again, as if I had some sort of disease that made me accidentally alter gendered words. It was as if he was waiting for me to correct myself.

I guess I could have lied or come up with some sort of more neutral answer, but the thing is, I don’t feel like I should have to hide that fact that I am a woman married to a woman. And I will not doing that in front of my daughters, unless we are in a situation that I deem dangerous.  We are not going to slink around in the shadows and margins because some people can’t accept the fact that love exists in many permutations.

Back to my not-so-nice cashier. After establishing that I was married to a (gasp!) woman, he asked “But who is the husband?” Again, several times in a row. Now lesbians around the world, unite: This question is particularly loathsome and offensive, am I right? Marriage is not some game, and we don’t play roles. I was stunned by this question, and just stood there, mouth agape, held hostage because he was holding my credit card and not giving it back. Quick, I needed to answer, which was difficult because I was so flustered. OK, so I am not proud with my answer, but, again, in the interest of honesty to those of you reading this, I will be honest with what I said: “Well, my wife goes off and works every day and I stay home and cook and take care of the kids. I guess that makes her the husband and me the wife?” Again, cue needle-on-the-record scratch. This is when things got way too personal, and once you start talking about my children, watch out.

With the mask of disgust, still on his face, he pointed at Madeline and Avery and asked if those were my children. OK, this is when I need to take a few deep breaths, because I get enraged when I think of my children being subjected to this. I won’t go line-by-line with what he said next, because, frankly, I can’t handle it right now. I will summarize: He asked several ways how I could have children without a man (and not just logistically), and how our children can be raised without a father (also not just logistically). I was stunned at how out-of-line his questions were and how I was unable to control this situation and just how this conversation had spiraled out of control. I found myself starting to try to answer in vague terms, but when the focus started getting sperm-focused, I snapped. Finally. My children were NOT going to learn about their genesis in a camera store under fluorescent lights with this homophobic cashier. My children were not going to hear about the details of their conception as discussed with this man. Their family dynamic was not going to continue to be dissected and they were not going to be subjected to invasive questions for one nanosecond longer. I took my credit card and receipt and left. Honestly, if Nicole weren’t leaving for Haiti the next morning and in need of that charger, I would have walked out and skipped the purchase.

I should have said “none of your business” from the get-go, but, see, that is not who I am.  Clearly I need to rethink how to handle interactions like this.

I thank God our girls live in two very liberal areas and don’t encounter situations like this very often. No one deserves to be treated that way. It is easy for me to forget the struggles that other gay people go through, those who aren’t lucky enough to live in an area with more acceptance than not; there is still so much progress that needs to be made. And believe me, it is not lost on me that there is a big difference between fighting for acceptance and respect in a store where I spend money on hobbies and for people in who are fighting for acceptance and respect in quotidian situations of much more importance.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the changes that need to happen. What can I possibly do? Tell people they should care about this because equality affects everyone? Or guilt people into because who knows… Maybe their child is gay. Or ask someone to put themselves in my shoes, and imagine what it is like to have to reveal their sexuality like this every day, in the audience of your children, to people who are judging you and your family as less than. I can’t force anyone to fight for my cause. But I can at least demand respect. And change where I shop.

And that is why, after 15 years, I am parting ways with this store, quite publicly. What do I want from B&H? An apology, to my daughters. And soon.

OK, I am glad I got all that off of my chest! Pictured above: You know I can’t publish a post without a picture!

Here is the letter I wrote. I am waiting with bated breath for that apology:

Dear B&H;

To say I am disappointed would be an understatement. I have been a loyal B&H customer for at least 15 years, and if you check my records, I think you will see that I have spent quite a lot of money there through the years. The stellar customer service, knowledgeable staff and amazing inventory won me over from the beginning. I have sung the praises of B&H to countless friends and family, many of who have also turned into customers as well.

Unfortunately, I had a homophobic experience at your store on July 30th that has changed my entire view of the store and my loyal-shopper status. The fact that my children were there to witness this made it even worse. I was with my six-year-old twin daughters, who do not deserve to hear the questions that were posed to me, let alone view the look of disgust on the cashier’s face as he processed the fact that I was a lesbian.

I simply wanted to pay for my purchase (the last $80 I will spend there). But I handed over my credit and was asked, quite bluntly, “Who is Nicole?” And here is where what should be a quick, easy and pleasant transaction turned ugly. I said twice that she is on my account and that we both purchase frequently at B&H. When that didn’t satisfy him I said, “She is my wife.” I was met with a look of disgust; he was literally taken aback. He repeated several times “Your wife?! Your wife!?” I explained that we are a same-sex couple, and that we are legally married. At this point I should have taken my children and walked away, but I didn’t. Instead, I stayed and was subjected to more questions, including “Who is the husband?” (he asked this several times; and, for the record, there are no husbands in a lesbian marriage) and questions about how we had children without a father. I finally came to my senses and shut down the conversation when he started to get more specific about how we could have a baby without a man.

This experience was horrible. I fully understand that, sadly, there are people who are homophobic, but I don’t expect to encounter reactions like this from people who work at the stores I shop at. There should not be an interrogation about partners, (stereotypical) gender roles, and the genesis of children. It simply isn’t appropriate, not to mention belittling and, any way you slice it, judgmental. I feel certain that the cashier doesn’t ask straight people about the spouses, how they have children, etc.

I know B&H is a behemoth. I know you have customers that matter a lot more — from a financial standpoint — than I do. But you should know that you have lost a loyal customer. And I will no longer be singing the praises of B&H.

Sincerely, jlc


92 thoughts on “Who is Nicole? Indeed.

  1. Wow, I cannot believe that he continued to go on and on. I hope that B&H gives you some sort of satisfaction. To have a sales rep like that in a city like NYC…..I’m sure this won’t be the first or last complaint they get about this guy.

  2. This incident is appalling and on behalf of B&H and everyone here I apologize to you, your partner and your children. I was able to ID the transaction and from that know which individual here was involved. I have share this information with his supervisor, our store manager and two others at the very top of our management structure. This should never have happened and it certainly does not represent to ANY degree a company position or attitude. This was aberrant and unacceptable behavior from one individual and steps will be taken internally to see there is no possibility it ever happens again.
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video

    • I’m so glad to see a response here from someone at B&H. No one should be interrogated like you were, Jennifer. Especially from a customer service standpoint, the cashier’s behavior was outrageous.

    • Well I’m not sure who Henry Posner is but I would like to say, well done and very well said. He did not skirt around the issue, and do the little happy “word” dance. His reply was right to the point and I respect the fact he realized how, “aberrant and unacceptable” this was. I’m in California and have never heard of B&H, but I’m impressed.

      • Thank you. For what it’s worth I’m a + year employee here (after + years as a full time professional photographer). I started as director of training and am now director of corporate communications. Much of my job is online reputation management. I am a husband and father.

        There is no “happy word dance” to do. A employee was terribly wrong and that is being addressed internally. His actions do not represent B&H Photo but that does not lessen their effect on this family.

      • Thank you. My comment above should have said, “Thank you. For what it’s worth I’m a 15+ year employee here (after 20+ years as a full time professional photographer).”

  3. Disgusting treatment. Totally uncalled for and unnecessary. Can’t wait to hear B&H’s response. I hope they fire the cashier!!

  4. Jennifer, I don’t know what more to say that I haven’t said on FB.
    Your letter is beautifully written and articulate. To the point without being overly emotional. Well done!
    I so wish this didn’t happen to you. I wish more it didn’t happen in front of the girls. I wish most it didn’t happen at all in this world.
    I find myself counseling my older teen more and more about their frustrations with today’s societal laws and mind sets; be it legalizing marijuana, legalization of gay marriage, or the obvious undercurrent of racism that still exists. My most common response is “you can change this.” And I think they will! I think they (and a good chunk of their generation) will get educated, find their voices, and join our generation in putting a stop to this injustice. It WILL happen in our lifetime!
    Or we will die trying 🙂

  5. Great picture! The girls are getting so big! 🙂

    Love the letter, I hope B&H takes it seriously, to have a sales associate treat anyone that way is WRONG. They should never be asking anyone questions like those!

  6. Really glad to see a B&H response here. I tend not to hold companies responsible for the ignorance of a single employee unless they choose not to address it when a complaint has been issued. It looks like there is hope here. But I love B&H too and if you don’t get a satisfactory response I’ll be boycotting with you.

  7. Wow. I’m not surprised there are people who still think that way, but I’m shocked he would go and on about it to your face. I have a feeling that even if he weren’t a homophobe he’d still be an asshole.

  8. This story makes me sick. How horrible to be verbally attacked in front of your children. Very sad. B & H needs to fire that employee and take a serious look at their hiring and training policies.

  9. Beyond appalling. Glad to see B&H’s response, but I hope it doesn’t end with a simple reporting to a manager. I’d like to know there isn’t just a reprimand for the specific employee, but a company-wide training that underscores the importance of how to deal with their customers. There are lots of configurations of families – queer, multiracial, differently abled, and with multiple ethnicities and languages. This kind of hostility is unacceptable and I refuse to continue my extensive patronage of your store until I know it will never happen again.

    • This will NOT end with “a simple reporting to a manager,” by any means. We do conduct annual mandatory training for every employee on how to behave with co-workers and customers. Making an individual employee attend the training is no guarantee the employee has taken the training to heart. That’s no excuse. What happened was terrible. I do not expect this employee to have an opportunity to do anything of this sort again.

      • Good for you. I have bought a lot online too, including outfitting a video production studio for my employer. Had you not addressed this, I would have stopped dealing with B&H even though I know nothing about this person with the complaint. I’ve been in training my entire career as well, so my first assumption when I get bad service is that management has allowed this to happen because they have neglected investing in effective training, treat employees badly through low pay or overwork, or have sloppy managerial oversight. The classic “can’t, won’t, don’t know how” reasons behind performance problems is at play here and is starting to look you have a “won’t” reason on your hands and that you are dealing with it accordingly.

  10. I really can’t believe any human could think this line of questioning is appropriate. As a professional photographer, the majority of my gear comes from B&H so this is very disturbing. I’m glad to see their response here though.

  11. Zero tolerance! It is truly sad that you and girls were subject to this kind of behavior. I hope that B&H handles the response to this with as much poise as you have.

  12. I am speechless and simply cannot imagine having the gall to be so judgmental. People are permitted to carry prejudiced beliefs, no matter how inane, but it’s hardly the place for a customer service rep to spew such vileness.

  13. You’re so right on the fact that we have to come out nearly every day in a million little ways that many people never think of. If I were you, I’d be out for blood. And, if not literal blood, the equivalent of that asshat’s salary in free camera equipment. And perhaps a chance to throw rotten fruit at him in a stockade. So sorry you guys had to experience that.

  14. Do you know how sad it makes me that THIS is the reason you’ve returned to your blog. I’m so sorry you had this happen to you Jen. I, like you, am too honest and would have found the conversation going down the same lines.

    My carpet cleaner could OBVIOUSLY tell from the pictures in my house that we are a 2 mom family. He had also confirmed my lifestyle with a neighbor of mine. He confronted me when he was ready to be paid for his services and leave he said to me, “have you been doing this alone for a while ?” I asked him what he meant and he said, “I mean has “he” been gone for a while ?” meaning that I was married and he left me and now I was shacked up with a woman.
    He was very nice and his tone wasn’t one of disgust but more of sympathy and I stuttered a little still trying to put together what he just said and responded with…no, he’s never been around and that was that. I didn’t stand up and explain that we had an unknown donor. That I am and always have been a lesbian. My little boys were in the room (playing) but nonetheless present and I kind of bailed. I feel bad that all I wanted was for this conversation to be short and over.
    Assumptions are just another aspect of our lives. At the grocery store. School. The park. Comments like, he looks like you so the blond must look like daddy…both boys arms wrapped around my waist looking up at a woman who is assuming that I’m married to a man. It’s not hateful. still it requires me to explain to a stranger…someone that I wouldn’t normally exchange anything more than a smile, personal information about my life. I like to think that in most cases I’m educating others. Helping to end stereotypes. but OH MY GOD sometimes I just don’t want them to assume they have my family dynamic figured out.

    I’m with K. I don’t know that I would hold it against B&H unless nothing was done about the cashier. And nothing less than being fired would do. That man is a shining example of the ignorance so many people still have. How old was he ? Has he been in a freaking closet his whole life? Completely unsocialized? geeze. It’s shocking to hear this is going on in a city like NY.
    I’m sorry.

  15. It worries me that an employee would ever think that this would be acceptable behavior. We are starting to live in a world where this kind of thing brings outrage, thankfully, but still happens, unfortunately.

  16. Oh, Jennifer… this post saddens me so.You handled yourself with such class and integrity and are a wonderful role model for your baby girls. Bravo!

    I’m not going to address the barbaric behavior of the CSR (customer service REPRESENTATIVE!!!). He is clearly an idiot. However, before reading your blog, I had never heard of B&H. Now it is “that homophobic camera store.” I hope management steps up and does the right thing.

  17. I’m with you here. As a professional photographer..well..I can’t afford them anyway or else I’d take more of a stand. As a mother, I’m horrified. Just horrified. I’m glad you’ve had 15 years of good service there and I’m glad you live in an awesome place in which you can mostly live your lives without your kids having to witness such appalling behavior. I am sad that one incident like this can erase years upon years of great things. I’m curious to see more reaction from them. And your children are lucky and they will be just fine because they have you and Nicole.

  18. You know B&H is run by super super black hat Orthodox Jews, right? I’m sorry this happened, but I can’t stand giving them business anyway. They may as well be Chik-Fil-A. But with extra child sexual abuse and subjugation of women.

    • Our owner and some employees and managers are orthodox Hasidic Jews. Some are not. I’ve been a manager here for 15+ years and I’m the least religiously observant person in Manhattan. An individual does not have to subscribe to any particular religion or belief set to be a bigot or a real human being. This employee’s behavior was inexcusable but I do not believe it’s fair to generalize from that to an entire religion. YMMV

      • Agreed Henry. This was an awful situation and B&H is handling it; why would someone turn around and show a very similar hateful ignorance agains the owners just because they are Jewish? End the hate people. Seriously.

    • Wow you are an anti Semite and a terrible person how dare you generalize this way and speak this way about Jewish people.

      I hope you go we’re hitler ended up

      • Just to be clear the “Jennifer” that replied on this is not me. I did not bring religion into this, and I still won’t. Even as a lesbian, I do not choose the stores I shop at based on the religion of the owners/employees. I don’t care how conservative a religion is….what does matter is how someone treats others.

      • Jennifer, Selkie did not comment regarding “Jews” but rather regarding “super black hat Orthodox Jews.” This does not make her an antisemite… in fact, non-Orthodox (and even many modern Orthodox) Jews are, in my experience, more prone to anger regarding the actions of “black hat Orthodox” Jews than non-Jewish people because of their visibility and the ways in which their actions reflect on the rest of us. I’m not saying that one is right to generalize as Selkie did regarding the whole of the various communities that comprise the Orthodox Jewish world, but there is a difference between this and antisemitism. It’s the difference between anger toward a whole people, and anger at a segment of a people who may be viewed by some as “fanatics.” It is especially difficult sometimes for non-Orthodox Jews, especially queer Jews, to find themselves surrounded by members of these communities because many of us have very painful experiences of being judged and/or harmed by them. So while Selkie may be overstepping, your comment in response is ill-informed and out of line.

    • Your comment is witthout the most pathetic and troll-like comment on this blog. Where does the fact that B&H is run by religious Jews come into play? You’re doing the exact same thing the obnoxious cashier did. Judging. You just labeled all orthodox Jews as molesters and sexists. This is aside from the fact that B&H is top notch in customer service. Throughout the 3 and half years I’ve been buying from them, not once have I had an issue. Think about your ignorant comments before you post them.

  19. Even if this only happens once every twenty times we have a quotidian coming-out moment, it makes all those moments anxiety-producing. You just never can be sure what reaction you will get. And when kids are watching…more anxiety.

  20. I am sorry this happened to you — in front of your children no less. I am glad to see B&H reply in the comments, though I hope this post continue to gain traction so that people AND companies may understand the weight of words if not totally change their points of view (which they SHOULD but YOU KNOW… people are stupid, sigh).

  21. I saw your blog post after it was shared on a Spartan Chicks FB page and I shared it on my own personal one. I am so sorry for what you were subjected to. It really broke my heart to read what you and your children had to go through. I am sorry it is so hard for some people to share their love without being judged. I guess I am lucky because I can’t imagine if I had to let go of my boyfriend’s hand in public to make others feel comfortable. You as a woman/wife/mother should never have had to answer someone’s questions about your relationship.

  22. My brother worked at B&H for a few years, as well as others that I know.
    A) @selkie: so now you are judging all Orthodox Jews based on the actions of some? That’s closed minded and bigoted if you ask me.
    B) this is the first time that I have heard of such abhorrent behavior at the customer service level at the store. The fact that you received a direct reply to your blog from B&H should show you just how serious they take this matter. I’m sorry that you encountered a buffoon. You truly didn’t deserve it and esp not your daughters!

  23. Jennifer, as disturbed and disgusted I am by what happened I am equally proud of you for speaking up about it. Who knows how many other people have fallen victim to this man’s inappropriate questions yet may have never brought it to management’s attention? I am a firm believer that companies need to know about the actions of their employees or else nothing changes. Mr. Posner, you seem to have good intentions and hopefully you follow through on them. I personally don’t believe this is anyone’s fault but the ignorant employee. Should you and B&H not make an example of him as well as take steps to prevent these types of incidents from taking place then you sir, are equally as guilty.

  24. I am inspired by your ability to remain classy and articulate during such a horrible experience. It sickens me that this person felt there was nothing wrong with his disgusting behavior and remarks! I am so sorry that you were put in a horrible situation in front of the girls! I am glad the company has responded and apologized, and I hope they are true to their word of taking care of this employee, and making him responsible for his actions. Otherwise, they won’t need many employees, because they will no longer have anymore customers.

  25. I am really, really happy to see the reply from B&H’s Henry Posner. I only hope that the employee gets the customer-service training/counseling he obviously needs to learn to rise above his petty anti-gay bigotry and treat all his customers with the respect and dignity they deserve.

  26. I am so sorry that happened, especially while you were out with your girls. How stressful! I’m glad to see B&H responding quickly, and apparently seriously. Your letter may prevent another family from having a similar experience. Thanks for being out and for insisting on being treated appropriately.

  27. Mazal tov to you and the girls for the great response from B&H!

    I’m very happy to see B&H’s Henry Posner’s responses. Every company’s management should learn from it.

    The founders of New York wanted a diverse city where all would put aside their cultural, religious, and political differences for the sake of commerce. Glad to see the spirit is alive and well!

  28. It really saddens me that you were subjected to this, and that there are people out there who not only think this way but think it acceptable to put you down, and if this were not bad enough (which it is) to do it in front of your daughters. Absolutely disgusting. I have to say I am pleasantly surprised by B&H’s response through Henry Posen and taking him at his word am hoping that this is just one individual who has totally forgotten the customer should always be made to feel welcome and respected not a whole business. I’m so sorry you experienced that. You have a beautiful family. Thank you for standing up for yourself and your family.

  29. Well said, Jennifer. It is encouraging to see their response. I find it sort of shocking that this clerk has managed to exist in this position of constant customer interfacing and not have had a similar confrontation before. It does not seem reasonable for this person to have a high profile position. Thanks for sharing. You are not honest to a fault– you are an incredibly refreshing human and I love that. Sandi

  30. As a human being I’m disgusted and completely appalled! As an engaged lesbian woman I am insulted and offended! That B&H employee had no business asking you anything that personal whatsoever. His job was to serve you in a service capacity, thank you for shopping there and invite you back. He was intrusive, disrespectful of you and those gorgeous twin girls and rude. That is an understatement. We live in Texas but everytime I hear of B&H in the future I will think of this nightmare that you had to endure. I am so sorry this happened! Thank you for the courage to share it and I hope they do something to make sure this never happens EVER again! As for the employee, he should never be in a customer service role ever again in his life. He needs to apologize and take some lessons on common decency and respect for others.

    • I would like to extend my sadness concerning your experience at B&H. I have been a loyal customer there for many years as well. I am certain they will not allow this guy to continue in a customer facing position, and will probably fire him. The love and support shown here warms my heart. I wish you much love and respect as you move forward, up and away from this experience. May tolerance bloom into acceptance and be transformed into a bouquet of diversity celebration! Peace. – Jonathan Hall

  31. What a horrible experience you and children had to go through! I know ALOT of people that shop at B&H photo, and I will be sure to relay to them this awful experience so that they do not support this store in the future! How can you operate a business in NYC and be so clueless?????

  32. I’m so sorry for what happened to you and your beautiful girls. I don’t know the legality behind these things, but is it even legal for him to be questioning who the other person is on your account if you’re both listed on the account? Let alone all the other stuff (which might not be illegal, but just … awful).

    It’s obvious from Mr. Posner’s reply (and from J’s letter) that upper management has been made aware of what happened. At bare minimum, that employee should be fired (I think this goes beyond sensitivity training, and a message needs to be sent that this behavior won’t be tolerated) and an immediate apology to J and her family should come from top B&H management, not just Mr. Posner. In my view, that apology should have been sent out as soon as they became aware of this.

  33. My family and I will not continue to give this retailer our patronage as we have done in the past. I am aghast at the actions which took place and although I see that B&H has commented, unfortunately do not feel that the response is enough to forgo the horrible experience that your family went through. I agree that the top level management should extend their apologies to your family at the very least, not that will ever undue the stress and embarrassment of the particular situation. I wish you and your family all the best and send positive thoughts in your direction.

  34. I’m glad someone from the store responded. I have not read all the responses.
    I am also part of a 2 mom family with 3 kids.
    I would have asked for a supervisor immediately (and have in a similar situation). It is important for our kids to see us address these situations directly.
    I am more used to this because we are also a transracial family. So, I get more comments and questions when it’s just me and my kids than any other time.
    My kids know how to take ownership over questions they do not want to answer because we have shown them how.

  35. Jen as I mentioned earlier. I’m sorry
    You had this awful experience ESPECIALLY in front of your children. Saddens me so that this type of behavior continues in this day and age. I stand by you 100%. You candled yourself with dignity and class. Not sure I would have been able to.

  36. I am so sad that this happened, and that you bumped into a stupid bad apple, who is either woefully ignorant (“how do you guys make babies???”) or mean enough to pretend to be so. And in front of your kids. Such a damn shame.

    In your place, I would’ve asked for a supervisor (in a blue vest) immediately. Sad that you only spoke up on the Internet hours later. This is SO not what we like to be. We see such diversity, colors, creeds, and languages every day, and we strive to treat everyone well. This is so sad. I’m sorry. I hope that this will be made right.

    -I’m a B&H employee posting, from home, on behalf of myself.

  37. A lifetime supply of free camera equipment couldnt possibly compensate for his inexcusable behavior…but hmm…It might be a good start. In all seriousness thought…I hope something is done.

  38. I’m so sorry this happened. We have been online customers of B&H and receive their phone book size catalog in the mail. I am so happy to see that their representative posted on here. I will wait to here if there was any resolution before making future purchases. I’m holding out hope that the idiot at checkout does not represent the entire company (versus chick-fil-a in which the hate comes from th very top). I try to be socially conscious of where I spend my money and rather pay more to support a company free of homophobia.

  39. It’s unfortunate you had to go through this encounter, but is it possible that the cashier was sincerely confused and mystified? I don’t know anything about the employee involved, but if he has lived all of his life in an insular community in which homosexual families literally do not exist, that certainly could be the case. It was the wrong place and time to be asking them, and asking them obviously shows a lack of social sense and sensitivity, but they are legitimate questions when it comes down to it, and if someone is utterly unfamiliar with the notion of a lesbian household, they might be quite thrown to hear that two women are capable of “having children” (in the traditional sense of the words).

  40. I am more appalled reading this a second time. I am also a long-time B&H customer. I think you deserve further follow-up to ensure you – and the rest of us – that our B&H encounters will be non- judgemental ones with staff that have an inkling what customer service is. B&H is in NYC, which should mean that they take extra care to hire people who respect the diversity that exists here.

  41. B&H is a great company and is lucky to have wonderful employees like Mr. Posner. if Henry says the problem will be addressed you can bet it will be addressed. He’s the best!

    I don’t condone the actions of the teller, but it would be interesting to hear his version of the events. It is quite possible that this was the cashier’s first interaction with a same-sex couple which might account for his confusion. If you go around looking for sexism under every rock, you will probably find it, whether it really exists or not.

  42. Same thing happened to me last year at B&H, but not as extreme. There seems to be an overall problem with women at this place, customers and employees (not many women on the sales floor). I was a 20 year loyal customer and will not go back. I have also convinced at least 20 of my friends to stop shopping there too.

    • @exismc: I am very sorry to read this. I do not know the details of course but nevertheless everyone who visits or store, customer or not, deserves the same level of courtesy and professionalism from everyone here. Managers here cannot control every aspect of each employee’s behavior but we are strict about correcting any inappropriate behavior when it’s brought to our attention. I regret and apologize you were not treated with complete courtesy.

      Henry Posner
      B&H Photo-Video

  43. Wow. So sorry to hear that this happened to you. I’m a straight married man, but this will certainly make me think twice about shopping at B&H in the future as well (and I’ve been a loyal customer of there’s as well for about 8 years). It’s so sad that we live in a society where this still happens from time to time. All my best to you, Nicole, and your two beautiful girls. 🙂

  44. This is very saddening to hear. I can only hope this puny cashier’s personal phobia or views isn’t that of the store. I have been to the B&H store in NYC a few times and I can tell you, it wasn’t a pleasant experience for me. I felt like I was a convict that was just let out. I was watched like a hawk and a felon! I was really disappointed and felt uncomfortable. B&H is nothing more than the Walmart of the photography industry. Don’t people see that? It’s just unfortunate that most companies can’t compete with the monopoly they have created. Good for you for making a stand.

  45. Hey All, Although I too would have probably been brought to tears this person makes me think of my nephew, who has high functioning Aspergers syndrome, which tend to present at times by being overly curious, not taking cues to power back, extreme facial expressions etc. He is super clever and informed in a few areas which makes me wonder if this person is along those lines somewhere… focused on photography to the point of being able to really help people choose whatever but when presented with something outside his familiar with zone he acted as Nicole described.

    Either way, I think B&H deserves to be given a chance to discharge the employee and regain your trust. One person stepping way over the line yet immediately reprimanded seems worth another look at B&H.

    All this said, I was not there so I respect Nicloe’s view of the incident. Beautiful family picture and witty writing style too.

  46. I used to be honest and open about a lot of my life. I have learned that when someone asks something that might be inappropriate for the situation, I politely ask “Why do you need to do that to help me?” It usually deflects their question or forces them to come up with a valid reason for the question.

  47. Sad story from both sides.
    Your kids are a pitty for being bringed up and this kind of setup.
    They will anyway go threy some hard days one day or another,if they are smart kids and they will grow there minds out of there so called parents house,
    I expect maybe the liberal minds will one day decide, that they want to marry and have sex with dogs and cats,
    And the liberals will fight I should accept them as normal people.

  48. I have to agree with Alex here https://arcanematters.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/who-is-nicole-indeed/#comment-3815

    If the cashier was a Hasidic Jew, his questions came from naïveté and not from homophobia.

    As both a former Hasidic Jew and a former B&H employee, I understand where these people are coming from. They are unfortunately closed-minded and brainwashed and not by choice. It doesn’t by any means excuse their behavior, but it might help you understand that just five years ago I was unable to wrap my mind around the idea of people being gay and I would have asked the same questions simply because I’d be trying to understand.

    The problem isn’t a B&H problem, it’s a Hasidic problem. The real problem happens because of people raising their kids in a community with no diversity, where everyone is white, has a beard, and is married to a woman. When I was a kid I never considered anyone who wasn’t hasidic to be a normal person. The other commenter is right to blame it on the culture.

    B&H is wonderful business with great customer service. Me and the owner have been members of the same synagogue since I was born. I grew up with these people and have worked there myself (I still have three siblings that work there), and I can tell you that there IS deep-rooted bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, and just straight-up discrimination happening there. But this doesn’t seem to be one of those cases.

    If all one cares is about price and service, this should be your only place to shop. But if human rights is your thing, look elsewhere.


    P.S. I doubt Henry will respond to anything I write here, but here is just one dirty little secret about B&H’s so called “diversity.”

    After several discrimination lawsuits against them, a slew of bad press, and customers starting to ask questions, B&H came up with a plan to create a perceived look of diversity. They really didn’t want to hire “other” people such as Blacks, women and Latinas, so they started filling low-level positions with temp workers. Those temp workers get paid half or less of what B&H employees get paid and no benefits. The Hasidic cashier is getting paid about $19/hour while the Latina next to him gets paid minimum wage. By hiring temps they’ve also avoided discrimination lawsuits because the employees are working for the agency, not B&H. The majority of non-hasids working on the floor are all minimum-wage temps acting as PR puppets. (Not to mention the entire warehouse staff consists of all Latina employees in low level positions being managed by Hasidic Jews.

    I can go on and on, but this will suffice for now.

    Your move Henry.

    • Bogus!

      I don’t understand? aren’t you a shame of yourself making up such a lies?

      I’ve worked at B&H for almost 7 years (I left the company a year ago) to be more specific: I worked in 440 second floor, I don’t know much about the store, I was there maybe once or twice (employees who don’t work in the store are asked not to just visit there, besides the sales training people, the buyers, etc.) “On my floor” we were about 200 people or more, from thus we had Whites, Black, Hispanic, both men and women, in all positions.

      the same is with the Gradus group (a depertmant within B&H) and all other departments as well.

      I can’t figure what B&H can have done so wrong to you, you should be doing this (I can call sam schlazinger 🙂 ask him why you were fired) but I just want to set the record straight, B&H is a wonderful company to work there, even though the owner is a Jew, they absolutely treat all employees equal and fair.

      • I hope you’ve enjoyed derailing a conversation about homophobia to air your personal vendetta. It seems (I googled you) that you have found MANY an appropriate place to settle your personal issue so why this is necessary I’m unclear.

        Whoever it is you say you “really don’t want to hurt” well isn’t that exactly what you are doing? You are specifically trying to hurt the business of B&H and only commenting on this matter because you wish to hurt their business and perhaps Hasidic Jews in general. Maybe if you had actually said the company had homophobic policies…. this is just unfortunate.

    • I planned to stay out of this thread now that the initial issue has been so peacefully resolved, but the comments above seem to demand some response. Our current hiring and employee training practices are real and we’re committed to doing everything related to hiring and employment in a legal and ethical manner.

      There was one suit, amicably settled. In their 2007 announcement about the settlement, the EEOC wrote, “‘We commend B&H for working cooperatively with us to resolve this matter without protracted litigation,’ said EEOC New York Trial Attorney Louis Graziano. ‘We encourage other employers to follow B&H’s example of resolving this case expeditiously and in good faith.’” We’d made an error. The error was pointed out to us. We took steps to correct the error and repair the situation for any employee who was harmed by the error.

      Regarding Mr. Twersky’s other comments in his self-described “rant,” he says he is “both a former Hasidic Jew and a former B&H employee.” IMO that speaks for itself. He is no longer employed at B&H and did not have the kind of intimate access to our hiring and employment practices he suggests he had.

      I regret this thread, which did seem to have been amicably resolved, is slowly degenerating into a tennis match of innuendo and name-calling.

      Henry Posner
      B&H Photo-Video

      • @Gella
        Did you really just say “even though the owner is a Jew”? Wow. Just… wow.


      • If I said “Even though the family is Hispanic, they were very clean” what does that imply about Hispanic people? “Even though the owner is a Jew, he is fair.” What does that imply about Jewish people? That is what we call a backhanded compliment, and is an example of an antisemitic remark.

      • This could of course turn into a lengthy back and forth thread with no winner. So I will make this my final response.

        Unlike Mr. Posner who gets paid to defend B&H, it isn’t my job to attack them. I will however make a few points:

        1. Yes, that lawsuit was settled. But how about this one? http://gothamist.com/2011/12/14/bh_photo_sued_again_for_discrimatin.php

        2. Why oh why would a company that has nothing to hide need to give employees who get fired for legitimate reasons (being late, etc.) five-figure severance packages with non-disclosure agreements? I also find it interesting that the only ones getting compensation and NDAs are all NON-HASIDIC employees. Seems a bit odd, doesn’t it?

        3. You very well know my deep ties to the owner of B&H and everyone in upper management. You should also know that our conversations were had without the filter of a hired PR gun. I have spent probably as much time or more then you in intimate conversation with the owner (on planes, cars, at his home, and his office) where we spoke like two Hasids speak to each other. I’ve decided to take the high road here and maintain a small sense of gratitude to him by not revealing the content of those conversations and what was said about the hiring practices at B&H.

        In closing, please ask around some people who know me before you even attempt to debate me and you will quickly find out what a terrible idea it is. As they say in law practice “don’t ask questions you don’t know the answer to.” So please be wise and go have a conversation with Mr. Schreiber before you respond and find out what I know.

        P.S. I owe a lot to Mr Schreiber who has done a lot to help me in the past. I am therefore begging you to please not drag me to the level where I will be forced to hurt him.

        P.P.S. Before you get your lawyers on the case; remember that it’s only “libel” if it isn’t true.

  49. “Yes, that lawsuit was settled. But how about this one?”
    A 2+ year old article for which there is no follow-up because the suit was without merit and has all but vanished.
    “I’ve decided to take the high road here …”
    That’s comforting. Thank you. 🙂

    • I am a buissnes owner my self.
      What does this have todo with ultra Orthodox Jews this conversation becomes just about hate and personal issues I personaly salute B&H made it to the biggest retail company in NYC and when you are that big you are always a target it’s just funny we still didn’t hear the other side of the story

      • It doesn’t have anything to do with them. It is obvious Luzer over there has some deep seated personal issues that are being inappropriately brought to this forum and frankly derailing the conversation.

      • and you wont hear the other side of the story because she deletes those comments … as proof look what she just did below ..

  50. It seems to me they are more then willing to fix the problem. They have the best prices and best customer service. Seeing how they replied to you ,tells me I will get very good service, and I will continue to buy from them.

  51. Hi Steve- Let me clear some things up for you: Was using my OWN credit card. I am married and we, like everyone else, have credit cards of the same account. The account I am referring to is the STORE’S personal data on me. When I use my credit card, my information page pops up, and on that page is my name, my wife’s name, our address, and everything we have every bought in the store.

    • you deleted my comment because if things dont go your way youd rather stop someone from talking … you believe in freedom of choice but only when its suits your way of thinking …The fact that you deleted my comment shows what a narrow way of thinking you have ..makes me wonder what other comments youve deleted on here just to make yourself look better .. If you dont like what someone thinks just delete the comment .yea the signs of a real honest person !
      Your Guilty of exactly what you accuse others of …when a person does not agree with your ways just call them names …I think your story loses are credibility at this point ..

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