RIVERTON, Utah – A Riverton man is shocked after finding a “racist” and “xenophobic” picture in his community Facebook group, being used to bolster business for a local Vivint employee.
“I was disgusted, I was sick to my stomach,” Riverton resident Zac Palmer said.
It’s a new type of advertising you have to see to believe.
“It … it caught me by surprise honestly.”
Zac Palmer was scrolling through his Facebook feed Wednesday, when something caught his eye.
“This is something that’s not acceptable, especially in today’s society where you see things just being blown out of proportion," Palmer said. "Jokes are being made that are intended to be funny and are not funny at all."
He's talking about a picture that one of his neighbors had posted in their Riverton community Facebook page.
“Kind of a neighborhood watch kind of thing, where we post suspicious activity and stuff like that,” Palmer said describing the page.
But the only suspicious activity, was the post itself.
“It was shocking to come across that! Especially in a group where there’s families, there’s children," Palmer said. "There’s all these other different types of beliefs, spiritual beliefs, cultures, ethnicities."
The post included a picture featuring a son, a father and a Vivint Smart Home salesman.
“He (the Vivint employee) had a nerf gun and a towel wrapped around his head, pointing the nerf gun at the father and the son, with the son kind of going ‘ahh,’” Palmer said as he mimicked the boys scared expression.
“It was kind of assuming that the home security product that they were advertising would protect them, from I believe the post said, terrorists."
As the photo’s caption reads, “Don’t be alarmed! This is (name redacted) with Vivint. Keeping us safe from terrorists one home at a time.”
“Do I say something? Do I just leave it?" Palmer wondered before deciding, "I just couldn’t leave that post on Facebook."
“Using it as advertising to the neighborhood, but it didn’t come across as advertising to me. It was just blatant racism and xenophobia."
Disheartened, Zac decided to comment on the post.
“I said ‘This post is portraying racist and xenophobic ideologies, it’s not acceptable and it should be removed.’”
“All that I wanted was for them to recognize their mistake and to apologize for it and to remove the post,” Palmer added.
Thursday morning he went back to the page to see if the post had been removed, but he found he had been removed from the group instead.
“This isn’t something that can go unanswered, that can go without someone noticing or a mistake that can be wronged,” Palmer said.
So, he shared a screen shot of the post to his Facebook page.
“This isn’t a joke, this is making fun of or discrediting, or even threatening the lives of people of color, or different religious backgrounds,” he said. “It’s just perpetuating stereotypes and racism and xenophobia that we see in the media all of the time, it needs to stop,” Palmer added.
The couple that posted the picture didn’t want to talk to Fox 13, but they did reach out to Zac.
“The wife said, ‘I don’t know why you sent a picture of my family to the news, it was in a neighborhood private group and could have been handled between neighbors,” Zac read from the message he received on Facebook.
The husband, who was seen in the picture, apologized.
“I’m sorry that you had to see the photo," the husband posted. "But glad at the same time because you opened my eyes to where I need to be more careful and aware."
He explained to Zac that the Vivint salesman had asked him to pose for a picture as part of a team ‘funny photo’ contest. He then asked the couple to share the photo to the community group – thinking it would create a good conversation topic that he could use when he went to the neighborhood to find potential customers.
It wasn’t long before Vivint Smart Homes caught wind of the situation. In a statement to Fox 13 Vivint said:
"This post in no way reflects the views of Vivint Smart Home and we have terminated this employee."
Zac said he didn’t bring this forward to cause any type of harm or create any hate towards anyone, but to shed light on something that should not be happening.
“It may come across as a joke to you, but to others it’s harmful," Palmer said. "There’s a harmful rhetoric out there that puts people in danger and it’s not something that should be taken lightly."