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A 77-year-old, longtime Trader Joe's employee at its Coolidge Corner store in Brookline, Massachusetts, finds herself the beneficiary of a GoFundMe campaign after the retailer fired her for selling a six pack of beer to a family member who was a couple of months shy of turning 21.

The goal of the fundraising campaign was $10,000 … and it already has raised more than $25,000 from some 273 people.

The customer who started the campaign for Gloria Cocuzzo, Deanna Miller, explains the case this way on GoFundMe:

There has been no end of shared heartache during this awful year and now a new bit of horror has visited our community.

The good news is that we can do something about this and do it right now.

Most everyone who has frequented the Trader Joe’s in Coolidge Corner has had their day brightened by an incandescent and loving connection with Gloria Cocuzzo. Gloria has been a much loved fixture and stellar employee at Trader Joe’s for 16 straight years.

Now 77 years old, she fussed over our children as they grew while always paying us that uplifting compliment that makes one’s day. Gloria has put us first. She worked straight through the pandemic not taking a single day of vacation at tremendous risk to herself so that we could feed our families and she could earn a salary, allowing her to simply live paycheck to paycheck.

Last month as her daughter drove her to get her vaccination shots, even as she was healing from a broken rib she only wanted to get back to her cash register. She only wanted to get back to greeting us at the store. And that’s where the worst day of her life happened. 

Where a simple serious mistake has left her “sick” and “about to shatter” and without hope.

It’s also left her without a paycheck and with no health insurance. 

In a moment she’d do anything to live over and correct, Gloria reportedly sold a six pack of beer to a family member who was a few months short of their 21st Birthday. It was a terrible lapse in judgement and she feels worse about it than any one of us can begin to imagine. 

After a harrowing call to the manager’s office and three sleepless nights of waiting. Gloria Cocuzzo was fired.

At 77 years old, in the middle of a pandemic Gloria finds herself with no job, no income, no health insurance and no chance for appeal.

Management knowing how she’s so beloved by the community reportedly tried to pressure her into saying she had resigned. Gloria refused to be part of this untruth.

Added to this, Gloria was just weeks away from a promised $4000.00 bonus for those who worked through the pandemic. She is no longer eligible for this hard earned bonus.

How we can help Gloria put her life back together is a tough question. She is utterly devastated. Close friends have been trying to remind her what a bright and much loved light she is and that after all, She’s GLORIA! 

But facts are facts; she’s a fired 77 year old woman who lived paycheck to paycheck and was fired in the middle of a pandemic. She has no insurance and her prospects aren’t clear.  

The shame and hurt she’s suffering is just about unbearable.

Let’s show her how much she means to us! Let’s get her funded in a substantial way to help alleviate the terrible fears she’s suffering, but more importantly let’s show her that a whole community loves her dearly and is here to help in any way we can.

Let’s return that beautiful beaming smile and the joy her oversized flowers and shiny clunky jewelry always gave us. She gave all of this to us, let’s return the favor and help repair something awful that happened to a special person during this awful year.

The Boston Globe says that Trader Joe's has not yet commented publicly on the case.

This is the second case in as many weeks that has painted Trader Joe's employment policies as at least mildly draconian.  Earlier this month, the company was criticized for firing a New York store employee who wrote the retailer's CEO asking for stricter health-snd-safety protocols in the stores.  The firing also came after the employee had a difficult confrontation with a customer, and the company said he was canned for being disrespectful toward customers, but it only was six months ago that he'd been lauded in a performance review for exemplary service and attitude.

KC's View:

Let's be clear.  We don't know all the details of this case.

But … if I'm understanding the recitation correctly, Gloria Cocuzzo actually reported her own misdeed.

And when I look at that GoFund Me page, I see hundreds of passionate customers and a pretty persuasive 563-word defense.

If it is legally possible, Trader Joe's needs to find a way to walk this decision back … there's no percentage in the company not siding with its customers on this one.