Customers rally around fired Wawa employee Mike Cuzzo
The controversial firing of a Wawa gas manager in Howell has sparked social media outrage and a rally in his support.
Mike Cuzzo of Brick was known for his offbeat and pleasant personality at the Route 9 store. He often wore a tuxedo and brought customers their receipts on a silver tray. When cleaning their windshield, he used a "Weepy the Wee Wee" squirt gun - a toy that simulates a boy urinating.
According to the Our Howell NJ Facebook page, a customer offended by the squirt gun complained to Wawa manangement, leading the convenience store chain to fire Cuzzo. "About an hour and a half later, I was called in and released," Cuzzo told NJ.com. "I was shocked."
Customers have taken social media to protest his firing by creating several Facebook pages and a Gofundme.com page to show their support. Several dozen gathered for a protest near the store on Sunday morning. “I came to support Mike,’’ customer Mike Renna told the Brick Patch. “He’s one of the last good guys in customer service. He actually knows the true meaning of customer service.”
Cuzzo, describing himself as a "hard worker," told NJ.com he has a college degree in finance and also has his own financial planning business. He said he previously worked for Allstate.
In an on-air conversation with New Jersey 101.5's Dennis & Judi, Cuzzo said he "never crossed the line" while dealing with customers. He says he has around 70 "customer compliment" letters and believes if the company was unhappy with him before last week's incident "they would have terminated me earlier."
In a statement issued via email on Monday, Wawa says they "understand and sympathize with the outpouring of support" for Cuzzo" and would not make a decision about any employee "based on a single isolated incident like this" but did not elaborate out of "respect" for Mike."
The Lester Glenn Auto Group has reached out to Cuzzo through its Facebook page to offer him a job and posted: "We are currently working on an opportunity for him and plan to meet with him later this week!"
Full text of statement issued by Wawa:
"We understand and sympathize with the outpouring of support many of you have expressed around our former associate, Mike's departure. As an outgoing and dedicated associate, he made many friends throughout his time at Wawa.
"But we want everyone to know that we would never make a decision about any associate based on a single isolated incident like this. Decisions like these are extremely difficult and are only made after a series of steps and discussions take place.
"As a company, we give our associates the benefit of the doubt as well as second chances. This situation was no different. But, we continue to maintain that out of respect for Mike, and any associate that separates from our company, we do not share details of employment or departures.
"Mike brought a unique brand of positive energy and devotion to his job, and for that we will always be grateful."