A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Was It Something You Said, Geno?

In the midst of the immigration debate, a news item appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer about a sign posted at one of the two most famous cheesesteak carryouts in the city. The sign, posted at the point of order and purchase reads, “This is America. When Ordering, Speak English.” Since the news item was published, it has gone several times around the globe garnering Geno’s owner, Joey Vento, some worldwide notoriety and condemnation from at least one city agency.

The sign seems harmless at first glance. No one can deny that the shop is in America.

The request for orders to be given in a specific language could be borne out of a concern for efficiency of each purchase. Apparently the very nature of the cheesesteak business is based on speed – speedier than your average McDonald’s purchase. Ideally, in the cheesesteak business, the customer should place their order with a minimum of words.

The owners would prefer a word count of three to five per order (my estimate). At this point the meat is cooked and slapped into a roll, money is taken from the customer, change is made, and the customer goes on their way. So in this respect it is easy to see why Geno’s does not want to waste time listening to someone try to pronounce their orders while there is a long line of customers behind them.

Then there is the customer service angle. From my experiences when I have graciously answered phone calls in the customer service department where I work – and by gracious I mean they had to drag me to the phones kicking and screaming - I recall that we, in customer service, do everything in our power to accommodate the customer. If a caller has problems asking their question, then we wait patiently for them to finish talking. We have never to the best of my recollection said, “C’mon, bub, spit it out,” even though there have been times when we could have been justified in using this response.

However, the declaration “This is America” could be seen as intimidating, especially if you link it with its most common phrase, “Love it or leave it”. This is a command that may not exactly endear it to those who may love the country, but with conditions. Of course, we must recognize that many people will wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, love the country warts and all, and regard others who disagree as unpatriotic traitors. Let me argue that no country is perfect, being subject to the flaws of those in leadership positions at the time. The ideal of the country is still good, but our leaders may or may not always live up to that ideal. We should be allowed to love our country with varying degrees of pride and sentiment without being labeled as un-American.

Okay, how did I get started on that rant?

I don’t think the sign itself is the controversy, but rather some remarks made by the sign’s owner. Somewhere in the early part of Joey Vento’s 15 minutes of fame, he let it be known that the sign was up because he was frustrated at the number of Hispanics coming into his neighborhood. Now the sign became personal, directed at a particular ethnic group, even though – as Vento has pointed out - that the sign does not mention any particular group. It’s not what you did, Joey, it’s what you said that has kicked up all this dust. While the sign may seem harmless, it’s the owner’s motives that should be questioned.

Public response to the sign has been split – almost like the Red and Blue states. Many people are steering clear of Geno’s for the friendlier atmosphere of Pat’s across the street. Many others have become new loyal Geno’s customers because of the sign. Ultimately, this will all die away and people will start patronizing whomever they want based on the quality of the product and not the political views of the merchant.

As for me, I don’t think I’ll be patronizing Geno’s or Pat’s anytime soon. I estimate that there must be hundreds of other cheesesteak outlets between my house and South Philadelphia. I’ll go to one of them if I get really hungry.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good blog on Genos, I was saying the same thing to myself, there is all this publicity and write ups about the sign, but it doesn't mean
anything, it's the motive behind the sign, the 'NIMBY' (not in my
backyard) attitude.

I've been down there and saw the sign over two months ago, didn't pay it any mind until Geno's Hoof in Mouth disease became apparent and his discriminating taste as the reason for it was made public.

damon oliver

June 23, 2006 at 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is "Wiz wit!" asentence in English?? LOL


August 22, 2006 at 3:13 PM  

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