HOWELL, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A Wawa employee in Howell, New Jersey just wanted to make customers smile when he pumped their gas – so he said he used all kinds of props to make them laugh.
But as CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported Monday, one of those toys got Mike Cuzzo fired.
Wearing a tuxedo and a clown nose was part of Cuzzo’s routine when he worked as a field manager at the Wawa gas station on Route 9 in Howell.
“Whatever I do I make fun. My kids call me ‘fun dad,’” said Cuzzo, of Brick, New Jersey. “I created a smile with an eye contact before you came into my area, because I cared.”
His props included glasses with disco balls, and a golden tray to deliver receipts, made customers laugh – at least for two years. But recently, a passenger was not amused with one toy – a plastic figurine shaped like a boy, which squirts water when its shorts are dropped so as to simulate urinating.
Cuzzo used the toy, which has been marketed for generations as “Weepy the Wee-Wee,” to clean the side mirror of her van.
“Again, I didn’t see her there,” he said. “The driver was accepting it, and I sincerely apologized for not meaning any harm, or disgust, or disgrace.”
The passenger — whose identity Wawa would not reveal — complained. Cuzzo was fired – even though he said he regularly used the toy.
“I would always ask if there was kids in the car, ‘Is it OK if I use this?’” he said.
In a statement, Wawa said it appreciates Cuzzo’s positive energy, but wants everyone to know that “we would never make a decision about any associate based on a single isolated incident like this.”
Still, many customers have rallied behind Cuzzo on Facebook – protesting and threatening to boycott Wawa.
“I loved that guy,” said Robin Forest of Howell. “He used to make me laugh. He would, like, make my morning.”
When asked if he was offended by the toy, J.R. Rizzo of Howell added: “You know, I can understand where it came from, (but) no, it didn’t. I mean, it was still meant as a joke.”
Sloan asked Cuzzo if he thought maybe the squirt toy crossed a line.
“It’s a gray area,” he said. “Listen — I have been a professional all my life. The last thing I want to do is make someone upset. There was no harmful intent.”
A college graduate, Cuzzo worked in the finance industry before going to Wawa. He said he has been getting job offers, but he will not be taking the squirt toy with him.
The Facebook page calling for Cuzzo’s reinstatement has gotten close to 1,500 likes. A fundraiser has also raised hundreds of dollars for Cuzzo while he is out of work.