An openly gay pastor and a Whole Foods in Austin, Texas are mired in a legal battle over a personalized cake with a three-letter slur.
Jordan Brown, the founder and pastor at Austin’s Church of Open Doors, says he ordered a personalized cake with the words “Love Wins” from Austin’s Whole Food flagship store. On Thursday, he picked up the cake and paid for it, but it wasn’t until he got in his car that he realized an extra three-letter slur had also been included on the cake.
"For me, it was humiliating," Brown said to KVUE. "The feeling that I had just resurfaced a bunch of painful memories."
In response to Brown’s claims, Whole Foods release a statement strongly denying responsibility for the slur.
"Our team member wrote “Love Wins” at the top of the cake as requested by the guest, and that’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store. Our team members do not accept or design bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive. Whole Foods Market has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination. We stand behind our bakery team member, who is part of the LGBTQ community, and the additional team members from the store, who confirmed the cake was decorated with only the message “Love Wins.”"
They also claim that no other employees, including the cashiers, recalls seeing the slur on the cake.
Though Brown acknowledges he did not notice the word on the cake right away, he shot video of the cake that shows the writing on the cake with the box sealed and the label still intact.
"I was rushing out," said Brown. "I have ordered multiple personalized cakes there before and I've never had a problem, an issue. And so I didn't think anything of it. 'Love Wins' is an easy, simple word."
Brown called the store after he saw the slur, and received an apology from the Whole Foods, who offered him a gift card and said they planned on firing the person responsible. Two hours later, the store called Brown back and said they were no longer taking responsibility.
On Monday, Brown and his lawyer filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods. On Tuesday, the store responded and said it is taking its own legal action against Brown. They cite security camera footage, which shows Brown purchasing the cake with the UPC code on top of the box. Brown’s video shows the UPC on the side of the box.
Their full statement is below.
After a deeper investigation of Mr. Brown’s claim, we believe his accusations are fraudulent and we intend to take legal action against both Mr. Brown and his attorney. Here’s what we know:
Our bakery team member wrote “Love Wins” at the top of the cake, which was visible to Mr. Brown through the clear portion of the packaging. That’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store. Whole Foods Market has a strict policy that prohibits team members from accepting or designing bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive.
Mr. Brown admits that he was in sole possession and control of the cake until he posted his video, which showed the UPC label on the bottom and side of the box.
After reviewing our security footage of Mr. Brown, it’s clear that the UPC label was in fact on top of the cake box, not on the side of the package. This is evident as the cashier scans the UPC code on top of the box, which you can view here.
We stand behind our bakery team member, who is part of the LGBTQ community, and we appreciate the team members and shoppers who recognize that this claim is completely false and directly contradicts Whole Foods Market’s inclusive culture, which celebrates diversity.
Yours Truly, Whole Foods Market
The security footage in question is listed below.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.