Sweetbay Employee Insults an Italian/American
On July 26, 2012, I had a horrible and demeaning experience at a Sarasota Sweetbay grocery store, which compelled me to do something I have never done before: write a letter of complaint, which I sent to Sweetbay headquarters in Tampa, Fl.
The text of the letter is below:
To Whom It May Concern:
I’ve lived in Florida since late 1995, and never have I encountered an employee of any store, let alone Sweetbay, who has been so insulting.
On July 26, at approximately 2:30, I was in the Sweetbay at 2881 Clark Road in Sarasota. I went to the slicing cold cuts department and asked for a half a pound of prosciutto, which the man before me had just ordered. I noticed the man had pronounced the Italian ham like an American would. But when I asked for the cold cut, I pronounced it like an Italian, or an Italian/American would – “proshoot.”
The counter woman said, “You mean ‘prosciutto.’”
I said yes, but where I come from in Little Italy in New York City we call it “proshoot.”
I said this with a smile, not like I was not correcting her, but just making small talk.
She snapped at me, “Well, you’re in Florida now – not in New York – and that’s the way we say it down here.”
I thought she was kidding, but then I pointed out to her that we also pronounce capicola – “gabagool,’” and mozzarella – “Mootsadel.”
She then pointed out a man next to me who was wearing a shirt with “Michigan” on the front.
She said, “That’s where I come from and there we say it the way they say it here in Florida.”
That’s when I realized she wasn’t kidding and was just being nasty.
I said, still smiling, “I’m sure if you went to an Italian neighborhood in Michigan, the Italians would say it the way I say it.”
She snarled, “I don’t go into Italian neighborhoods.”
The woman cut the prosciutto and handed it to me. I told her a wanted a pound of German baloney.
I said, again still smiling, “We pronounce baloney like everyone else does.”
Then I asked her if when she went to a French restaurant wouldn’t she like to pronounce the French food like the French do.
She said, now seething, “I don’t go to French restaurants.”
While she was cutting the baloney, I heard her say something with her back to me. It sounded like, ”Pretty soon I’m going to start throwing things.”
I couldn’t swear they were her exact words, but it was pretty damn close to what she said.
She gave me the baloney and asked if I wanted something else. I did, but I said no, not wishing to be insulted anymore.
I started to leave the store – seething – but I turned around, went to the customer service area and asked for the manager. The manager wasn’t there, but the assistant manager was called. I told him what had transpired between me and his surly woman employee.
The assistant manager was sincerely concerned. He apologized profusely, and even offered to give me some of the food I ordered free. I told him I was not there to get free food, but that I sincerely doubted I would ever shop at Sweetbay again.
And at this moment, that’s exactly how I feel.
It was obvious to me the woman at the cold cuts counter either doesn’t like people from New York, or she doesn’t like Italians or Italian/Americans, or maybe all three.
If I were an African/American and I complained to the local chapter of the NAACP, you can be sure there would be pickets outside the Sweetbay store at 2881 Clark Road in Sarasota.
This kind of prejudicial actions by any store employee should not be tolerated, no matter what nationality the customer is. I was insulted, not just personally, but I also felt she was insulting my Italian heritage.
I guarantee you if this type of behavior is continued at Sweetbay, your chain store will wind up like Albertsons and Wynn Dixie – almost extinct in the state of Florida.