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?
Tags: American Civil Liberties Union, Baptists, be your own boss, disabled veteran, Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales, freedom of speech, French Canadians, gay marriage, gay wedding, gun shop, Muslims, owning your own business, self-employment, used book stores