An Open Letter to Bow Street Market

Dear Adam Nappi (owner of Bow Street Market),

Are you following this Bill Cosby thing? He was the guy everyone loved and trusted for so long. America’s Dad. Seemed like such an amiable fellow, didn’t he? Everyone I knew thought he was such a nice guy. Sort of like what people around here say about you. I was reminded of the creepy similarities between you and Cosby again today when I read that he has filed a lawsuit against his accusers. How odd, this notion of blaming the victim.

Some folks are easy to read. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not. Then there are those who are a little bit more guarded about what they rally are. I often think about what one long time employee of yours once said about you: “He’s a nice guy, but he can be an asshole if he needs to be. Most people don’t know that side.” Almost sounds like an endorsement of someone’s impressive manhood, but in your case it strikes one as evidence of a phony, soft-spoken facade.

When you terminated me in August it came as a relief to be out of your dysfunctional operation. I felt like a thoroughbred with a lame leg, just shoot me. What a breath of fresh air to be out of that nightmare called Bow Street Market. As you’ll recall I was utterly composed, professional, polite, and relieved to move on with my life, even after a clear instance of wrongful termination. Almost immediately you directed your managers to whisper lies about my having created a “hostile environment” as the excuse for the termination, remember? A hostile environment created by employees when the GM calls female employees derogatory names with your full knowledge? Even with that I still sent you several polite and supportive emails thanking you for the opportunity, wishing you the success, and requesting a short letter of recommendation. You became increasingly hostile towards my requests.

In spite of all the revisionism, dishonesty, and cynical positioning of yourself, these facts remain unchallenged: I worked hard for you, just as many others do, and I got the job done in a way that your general manager said “exceeded expectations.” And I did so in a department that was acknowledged by everyone at Bow Street, yourself included, as the most “dysfunctional and problematic” in the store.  A department staffed with improperly trained, childish, petty minded, and mean-spirited employees empowered to say and do whatever they wished, and doing so without a competent and qualified manager to oversee the situation.  You, your wife Sheila, and your general manager Jim Frey all knew this quite well as it was brought to your attention frequently. You gave only the slightest pretense of concern when you’d say to key employees “we want names!” (ostensibly of the problematic employees). Forget Bill Cosby, look up the tactics of the Third Reich. Or Joseph McCarthy.

The environment at Bow Street is so poisonous that you actually bribe employees to stay after they’ve given you notice of their intent to work in more favorable environments. I don’t have to think about this for a moment to know that I have never seen this anywhere else. I’ve never even heard of an employer having to double any employee’s hourly wage, plus bonuses and vacation time, just to force them to stay where they clearly do not want to be. These are grocery store employees, not Fortune 500 CEOs. How desperate can you be?

For my part, I went through the chain of command, asked for help, and even offered solutions to the problems, going so far as to offer myself available for transfer to another department if that would help.  None of that worked.  As much as I wanted to be away from the unmanageable deli staff, neither you nor anyone else took the matter seriously enough to take any timely and effective action.  Like any other incompetent owner who lacks the courage to take action, you deflected responsibility and redirected the blame, eventually shooting the messenger.  A classic coward’s play.

Then, amazingly, you made matters far worse after terminating me.  I gave you sufficient information and encouraged you to not worsen things, but you gave none of that any consideration either.  You clearly wanted to seem resolute, a firm leader, a good businessman.  You continued to act without the courage or maturity to ask me what the issues were.  Just as you had been too lazy to properly look into the accusations that led to my termination, you listened to absurdly embellished and self-serving accounts of my supposed actions and intentions from immature employees. Then you sought a no-trespass order when all you had to do was inform me of your desire to keep me from patronizing your business (what a real man would do), and finally topped it off by asking your attorney to threaten me with legal recourse.

While it may have been clever, it was also cowardly and unprofessional.  But I get it, the reasons you did all of these things were because you were uncomfortable with my occasional presence in your store knowing you had fabricated the reasons for terminating me.  You couldn’t stand former co-workers going out of their way to greet me enthusiastically when I came in for coffee or groceries, you didn’t like a particular relationship between two employees, and you sure as hell didn’t like me telling off some troublemaking employees who destroy morale.

So now I’m what you would call a “disgruntled” ex-employee who is motivated to never let this matter die.  There are ways to have it go away, but those are actions for you to take, not me.  You created this mess, you can come up with a solution.  Even though I didn’t pursue a Labor Board action because I refuse to draw other employees into the crossfire, what I hope you understand is that this is not going to fade away with time.  If your attorney has been convincing you of that, then he’s misleading you.  With all of the misinformation and blatant lies you’ve spread and allowed to be spread about me, one thing should be evident, I have no patience for hypocrisy, sneakiness, and dishonesty on this scale.

But above all else, I will no longer allow individuals like you to cause me financial injury or denigrate, defame, and mischaracterize me behind my back without a response. You’ve inadvertently stumbled upon Newton’s Third Law of Physics: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”

You came up with cynical strategy of using the self-serving motives of some foolish employees to make me look “dangerous” because you wanted to keep me out of the store and had no other reason for doing so. Nor did you have the courage to tell me directly. You were so embarrassed by your decision to terminate someone without cause that you couldn’t even look me in the eye when I’d come in for a cup of coffee. It’s fortunate that you married someone who’s more than willing to wear the pants in the family. That’s a cheap shot, I know, but it feels good saying what so many of your own staff whisper behind your back.

So you can keep hiding behind a thin veneer of respectability, hoping that your long time reputation as a nice guy will help you weather this storm. And maybe it will. Or maybe you’ll just turn out to be the Bill Cosby of Freeport, someone who misled others into thinking he’s a nice guy while juggling his unethical behavior and self-serving rationalizations. You use Bow Street Market like Cosby used quaaludes, drugging folks into submission. You’re pretty good at stopping just short of the line you shouldn’t cross in public. It’s like when you told your general manager, “I don’t care what you do, just don’t get me sued.” Adam Nappi’s First Rule of Management?

I have a very good friend who’s an very well-known attorney in California.  Twenty years ago he was the victim of malpractice at the hands of a local doctor who made a mistake so egregious that it almost cost my friend his life.  As an attorney he had all the resources to ruin this doctor’s life and take his very last cent.  He refused to go that route.  What infuriated him the most was that the doctor refused to take responsibility for his mistake, denying he was in the wrong.  My friend didn’t need money, the only thing he wanted was a formal apology, on the record.  That was all.  An apology.

Why did I tell you that story?  You’re a big boy, you’ll figure it out. For all your cynical attempts to involve law enforcement and attorneys and create mass hysteria among those on your payroll, sometimes the simplest solution is staring directly at you like the heads on Easter Island. You can be a man and do the right thing, or you can get your $300 an hour attorney to come after me and make my point for me. Your call.

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