[lg policy] Atticus Bookstore Deserves A Break

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 28 15:10:40 UTC 2010

Atticus Bookstore Deserves A Break
LANGUAGE FLAP • Memo a bit heavy-handed but not intentionally demeaning

Let's give Charles Negaro the benefit of the doubt. His record
suggests he was trying to promote good customer service, not
narrow-minded nativism. Mr. Negaro is the owner of the Atticus
Bookstore and Cafe in New Haven, a multicultural business that
unpleasantly surprised many in the Elm City with a recent memo
directing workers to speak only English on the floor and behind the
counter. Spanish, the first language of many workers, was allowed in
other parts of the store. The revelation of the memo sparked a protest
from those who found it demeaning and offensive. Mr. Negaro has said
that wasn't his intent.

He and his manager, the trilingual Jean Recapet, have hired
immigrants, contributed to the community and even started an English
tutoring program with Yale students. Though they didn't say it very
well, we think they were simply reminding workers to be sensitive to
customers who might feel excluded in the presence of a conversation
they couldn't follow. In this economy, customer service is the sine
qua non of a successful business. One of the great advantages of our
society is a common language, English. But there's always been room
for other languages as well, and in a global economy we should be
trying harder to learn those languages — and immigrants should learn
English as quickly as possible.

Mr. Negaro said he is reviewing the language policy, and we hope he'll
dial it down a bit and get back to what he does well. The store makes
a very good cup of coffee.

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