When Deena Gitaitis approached the register at her local Publix in Valrico on Thursday, January 13, she had no intention of buying one of those sleazy tabloids. But she noticed that in place of the National Enquirer, there was a sign that said it could be purchased at the customer service desk. Intrigued, Gitaitis asked the cashier why.
"She said that something in it had offended one of the customers, and it had been removed," Gitaitis told the Planet. "I said, 'Ooh, what was it?' She wasn't sure. Someone else came over, I presume a manager, and said the customer had been offended by the word 'gay' on the cover."
Gitaitis, a 31-year-old wife and mother of two who describes herself as "straight but not narrow," found the criteria for hiding the tabloids offensive. Once home, she went on the Internet and discovered that the Jan. 7 Enquirer cover had a tease that said "Who's Gay and Who's Not."
"How innocuous can you get?" she said.
So she called the store's general manager. "He told me he was caught in the middle, that he was just trying to keep his customers happy," she explained. "A child had asked what the word 'gay' meant, and the parent was upset at it being displayed in a checkout line."
Gitaitis then sent out an e-mail to a number of lists that said, in part, "The word 'gay' is not an obscenity. The word 'gay' is not something that needs to be hidden from public view. To suggest so, as Publix has, is offensive to me and everyone else who values equal rights and civil liberties. I've already called Publix and told them I won't be shopping there again as long as this policy stands."
When the Planet called the store manager, Leighton Hall, he was in heavy backpedal mode. He would not confirm that the paper was removed because of a complaint about the word "gay" on the cover, saying only that "Someone thought there was something potentially offensive for kids. They thought it was inappropriate."
Was there more than one complaint? "Probably not," Hall replied.
Publix spokeswoman Maria Rodamis explained Publix's policy regarding magazine display: "Certain magazines, like Redbook or Cosmopolitan, we have a cover placed in front of them; you can see the [logos] but all the descriptions of the articles have been covered."
With regard to removing periodicals from the checkout line, she said, "It varies from store to store. If numerous customers complain, a manager can remove them from the shelf and indicate that they'll be available at customer service."
Gitaitis said she personally knows of 20 people who have sent e-mails to Publix in protest of the newspaper's removal. Further, the manager just doesn't get it. "He told me there's going to be a new issue next week and it'll be back in its usual place," she said with a bemused chuckle. "That the National Enquirer isn't in its usual place - that is not the root of my problem."
As of Friday, Jan. 14, said Gitaitis, the signs had been taken down at the Publix, and the National Enquirer was back on the racks. No precautions had been taken to protect inquiring minds from the latest issue's headline: "Scott's Secret Love Child: What He Hid from Laci."
The Publix in question is at 3461 Lithia Pinecrest Rd., Valrico. The phone number is 813-661-4283. You can reach Publix's corporate headquarters at 800-242-1227 or www.publix.com.
HATEMONGERS OF THE WEEK
That tsunami last month? It wasn't a chance for the world to come together. Nope. God was just trying to kill off the Swedish gay guys on vacation in Thailand, and he got a little overzealous.At least that's the rationale from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Yes, while the rest of the world looked on in horror and millions were moved to help, these good folks (the same bunch that protested Matthew Shepard's funeral) took the time to create this anti-Swedish "monument," put it up on their website (godhatesfags.com) and solidify their place as Hatemongers of the Week.
Thanks, Westboro Baptist - you're always there in a pinch.