Except for a couple of brief forays into gainful employment, I’ve owned my own business most of my adult life. Businesses, actually. While the bulk of my working experience has been somehow related to the publishing industry, I’ve also owned a couple of used book stores, a furniture store, and a gun shop.

One of the reasons I’ve been mostly self-employed is that I make a very poor employee. You may not know this about me, but I can be opinionated at times. Bosses tend not to appreciate that. I learned early on that I was better suited to be in charge and make my own decisions, for better or worse.

While I have always appreciated the freedom of being my own boss, it didn’t take me long to realize that that really is a myth. If you’re an employee, you have one boss. If you own the place, everybody who walks through the door is your boss to some extent, if you want to stay in business very long. Yes, you can be independent, but at the same time, you have to remember that your customers can vote with their wallets if you don’t give them the kind of products and service they expect.

The same goes with voicing your opinions. You have the right to say whatever you want in your own business, but again, you still have a customer base to answer to. Piss off enough people and you’ll find yourself filling out job applications before you know it. Which leads me to a couple of recent news reports.

A story has been flooding the internet about a disabled veteran who says he was asked to leave the Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales because a group of customers from Qatar objected to an Arabic tattoo on his leg that translates as “infidel” or “unbeliever.” According to him, the manager told him to either cover up the tattoo with duct tape or leave, which violates his right to free speech.

What do you think? Was this the right move on the part of the manager? Apparently not, in the eyes of thousands of people who have posted comments online or e-mailed the Florida Skydiving Center.

But let’s put our patriotic outrage aside and stop and think for a moment. What if that tattoo had said “I Don’t Believe In Jesus” and the other customers were Christians who were offended? “What if it said “I Hate Niggers” and the other customers were black? At what point can a business owner or manager exercise their right not to provide service to a customer who is offending others? Is it okay to offend Muslims, but not Baptists or African Americans?

Okay, here’s another one. In Richland, Washington, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing a company called Arlene’s Flowers because the owner, Barronelle Stutzman, has refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding, citing her relationship with Jesus Christ.

News reports say that the couple, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, were longtime customers of her shop, but that the business owner claims in her response to the lawsuit that being forced to provide flowers for a gay wedding would violate her constitutional rights of freedom of speech and religious exercise.

Again, what do you think? And before you answer, remember that she apparently had no problem taking their money in the past. Now put whatever personal feelings you may have about same sex marriage aside and ask yourself what your response would have been if this were a biracial couple. Or an obese couple.

When should you stop minding your business and mind your own business? Where does my freedom to run my business the way I want to stop, and your freedom to make a public statement on your body, or to marry the person you love begin? I’ve had some bad experiences with French Canadians. Does that mean I should be allowed to refuse to sell them a subscription? If we hold another of our RV rallies, should I refuse to allow a black couple, or a gay couple to attend because they might offend somebody else in attendance?

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19 Comments on Mind Your Own Business

  1. Joe Homich says:

    Been in my own business my whole working career.

    In a nutshell: My business, my money at risk, my rules.

    If my customewrs don’t like it they will vote with thier wallet and I will learn real fast what is “acceptable” and what is not.

  2. Sharon Ortloff says:

    Are we still in grade school? What is wrong with people? Why can’t we just live and let live. If we are not in mortal danger – agree to disagree.

  3. Mac says:

    Nick the article is thought provoking but your example is “apples and oranges”. The “Infidel” tattoo simply brands the veteran with the word used by many Muslims to describe him. For your Christian comparison the veteran might have had a tattoo that said “Sinner”.

    The restrictions on business owners are far too great. With very few exceptions they should be able to refuse service to anyone. Otherwise who really “owns” the business?

    This skydiving company exercised their rights, and now everyone who has an opinion is exercising theirs 😉

  4. Jon Ensminger says:

    Just put up a little sign that says, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” Than any person has the right to go elsewhere. Why bring in the ACLU, as when you do this you know that you are in the wrong.

  5. Connie Bradish says:

    So let’s see, if a filthy disheveled drugged up skid row bum comes into your upscale restaurant, you have to serve him? Or the guy is drunk at a bar and wants another drink and then wants to go get into his car and drive DUI, you need to serve him a drink?

    There are no black and white answers for this question. Each situation is different. That’s why I believe that each business owner decides his/her own rules. If I don’t like the rules, I go to another business. If a business has too many restrictive rules, they will soon go out of business. Business owners have rights just as customers have rights.

  6. Candace says:

    As business owners you have the right to refuse service to anyone. Put a sign up and let customers know up front exactly where you stand.

    As customers we patronize stores we choose to based on our own reasons.

    In the examples above the customer with a tatoo is making a personal statement BUT the business owner does not HAVE to sell to him if he chooses not to. On the other hand I would not, as a business owner, refuse service to someone based on another customer’s offense … no matter what their religious or political opinions are.

    Either you are IN business or not. I would tell the offended party, “you don’t have to purchase here, but you also do mot have the right to tell another customer what to do. If YOU are offended, then leave.”

    Personally I feel if a foreigner decides they are offended by the actions of someone in the country they are visiting, then leave… IMMEDIATELY, or shut up and keep your “offenses” to yourself while you are a visitor in a foreign country.

    What this all REALLY comes down to is that there are opposing views and each side wants to proove the other is wrong.

    I say live and let live. If you don’t approve or are “offended” by a business that YOU have the right to support (or not), then move on to where you are are more comfortable… for what ever YOUR reasons are.

  7. Mike L says:

    I agree with all Candace said. A business should have the right to refuse service to whom ever they wish. As a customer if I don’t like what the business is doing I just don’t shop there.

  8. Ed Avance says:

    Why not have a sign that says. You the Customer have the right (option) to shop elsewhere if you don’t like my opinions, rules, prices, race, color, ethnics or anything else. GOOD B’ye!

    and I as the owner of this business have the right to refuse service to anyone even if you are a JERK! White, purple, pink, black, Legal or illegal, from outa space or wherever. Good bye

  9. John H. says:

    Taking what some of the replies are to the extreme, couldn’t we find ourselves back to the days of Whites Only signs in restaurants? I mean if you can refuse service to anybody just because, how far have we come in the last 60 years or so? Do we really want to go back there?

  10. Patricia Smith says:

    No a business owner DOES NOT have the right to refuse service to anybody. Federal law prohibits discriminating against potential customers on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation.

  11. Randy Beatty says:

    If the flower shop owner was happily taking the gay couple’s money in the past and did not refuse them service, her claim about not supplying flowers to their wedding based upon her religious beliefs are not true. She is making a political statement.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    You surprize me on this one, Nick…I would have expected you to say that as an owner of a business, you have a right to choose how to do that business, whom to deal with and who not to deal with (Arlene’s could afford to turn away business…used to have way too much to handle anyway in the years we lived in Richland)…besides just because the shop owner had previously done business with those gays does not mean she KNEW they were (good grief, among POLITE company it used to be that sex was not a subject one talked about in public!!)…and maybe she feels that selling them flowers for their “wedding” goes into a different territory entirely. Everyone has to draw lines in their lives, and we may not agree with where they draw them, but they should be allowed to draw them!! There are other businesses in the area who would gladly take the money, besides!! I personally would not want to do business with someone who did not want it…it is not like we only have 1 choice! My brother, a business owner, just charges too much to problem customers, and they go elsewhere…rather than fight with someone…charge more!!

  13. George Stoltz says:

    Way too many lawsuits. This couple should vote with their wallets and get on with their lives.

  14. Jess Acevedo says:

    I’d avoid both of those places like the plague. I don’t appreciate a merchant imposing his or her political or religious viewpoints on me.

  15. Carla T. says:

    Nick, a good example of this is at the grocery store in Colonial Beach, Virginia where we met you when camped there last fall. We were in the store twice and both times the woman who checked us out and seemed to be a manager told us all about Obama is ruining the country and if he got re-elected the economy was ruined forever. As it turns out I am not an Obama supporter and don’t necessarily disagree with her. But what if I had been? And irregardless do I really need to listen to a monologue of somebody’s political beliefs when all I want to do is buy something for dinner and go home?

  16. Croft says:

    John H. (above) nailed it. Are we saying “Whites Only” signs and policies are acceptable once again? Or, as in the Washington case, “Straights Only”?

  17. BobH says:

    I’m too old to spend any time on a soapbox and too old to pay much attention to those who do. I find myself taking refuge in 2 Corinthians 11:19 “Suffer fools gladly” (Sometimes this is tough but I try)

  18. Frank says:

    The bottom line – Get the government and yes the laws out of our lives and out of our businesses. We should have the right to refuse to serve anybody for any reason. Thats freedom.

  19. Allan says:

    Business owners should have the right to conduct their business however they want as long as it is legal. Ultimately they may pay a heavy toll for bad decisions. People that don’t like how your business opperates also have a right to express how they were treated by your business. “The customer is always right” may be an ideal for a business to strive for but there may come a time when you have to draw the line and let them know that they are wrong. The “Golden Rule” still is a good way to treat others in business and out.

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