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.

Joe Bruno


15 Responses to “Sweetbay Employee Insults an Italian/American”

  1. JB – all of us “Italian-Americans” should speak up as you did should they encounter similar circumstances. In today’s world no nationality stands for any comments that are derrogatory to their heritage. No one has a sense of humor any more. No Polish, Italian, Puerto Rican etc jokes are tolerated. Than why should anyone stand for derrogatory remarks from service representatives in local stores. Good for you for speaking up. I hope the “lady” was terminated by her employer.

    • Lenny, I’ll probably never find out if the woman was fired, or not. I probably won’t be shopping at Sweetbay again anyway. They are a second-rate supermarket. Publix is first-rate and at Publix the employees fall all over themselves to please the customer.

      And you’re right about the political correctness prevelant in our present society. If you tell a joke about a Martian, the ACLU will sue you in a second.

      Sad, but true.

  2. Chris Catenacci Says:

    This has nothing to do with being italian. Looks like she gives a shit about french people too. I guess its just a plain stupid bitch. People should always be interested in how an adopted foreign vocabulary is pronounced in its country of origin. I really cant stand that. Its like hearing someone ordering two “expressos” haha

  3. I stopped doing business with them back when they were called “Food Lion”. There was a serious scandal over their food quality that left a lasting impression on me. Just because they changed their name doesn’t mean they’ve changed their ways. Judging from your experience, they are hiring the bottom of the barrel employees because they only offer bottom of the barrel wages and benefits. That is one more reason to not do business with them. I shop at Publix because their employees are very professional.

    • Capt Odato, I also made a complaint on the phone to the Sweetbay headquarters in Tampa. So far no response to my email, or phone call.

      You’re right. I go to Publix and the employees are great.

  4. skinny vinny Says:

    joe….your dealing with (TRAILER TRASH) she probrably never had a decent meal in her life.

  5. Johnny S Says:

    Joe, If my pal (your dad ) was alive he would have given her a good retort.

  6. marc maturo Says:

    Joe the Patriot: God bless you; even my wife, a non-Italian Hawaiian, uses the Italian pronounciations as if she were born in Genoa. I commend you for your patience in handling the situation with such civilness in the face of blatant rudeness, discrimination and outright ignorance. Screw “Sweetbay.” Next time in the Sunshine State, Publix it will be. Spread the word. Screw Sweetbay. This woman is fortunate she did not act in such a manner with Tony One Ear.

  7. Have to shop at Publix!!!!

  8. marc maturo Says:

    Push Publix; screw Sweetbay

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