Do we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone?

Last week I was shocked at the story that broke in the U.S. of Sarah Sanders, and her family, being kicked out of The Red Hen restaurant because she is on team Trump.

When I read the article, it reminded me of a fickle board game where you roll the dice and are sent to jail.[1] Surely, we are not discriminating people because of where or for whom they work … are we?

My curious nature got the better of me, so I checked out our rules around refusal of service. In summary, you can refuse service to anyone, in Australia, if you don’t break any anti-discrimination laws. Examples of refusing service in a discriminatory manner are[2]:

  • A caravan park refuses to allow a booking for a group of 18 year olds because they’re concerned about them being ‘rowdy’.
  • A hotel refuses to accept a room booking for a same-sex couple because gay relationships make them feel uncomfortable.
  • A coffee shop manager refuses to serve someone because they’ve had other customers of the same racial background cause trouble in the past.
  • A furniture store refuses entry to someone who uses a guide or assistance dog because they are worried the guide dog will cause damage to their products.

Putting all political views aside, this got me thinking more deeply about what it means to truly serve. Most of us would like to think we are able to live a life practising a no judgement, no discrimination approach—how you treat anyone is how you treat everyone. Customers and colleagues. Street sweepers and CEOs. Pensioners and millionaires. We are all the same. We all deserve to be treated like VIPs: don’t you think? Yet so many of us experience service interactions where love, kindness and devotion towards us (the customer) is seriously lacking.

Sure, customers can dish up some ordinary humanistic behaviours towards staff at times too. In fact, customers are great at being rude, unappreciative and, in some cases, disrespectful. That’s when we need service angels to bring some unexpected joy and compassion into someone’s day and be reminded that it’s a privilege to serve customers—humans, that is.

And just to give you some hope and to end on a light note, check out this classic clip from Fawlty Towers where Basil decides to kick out all his customers and then realises that perhaps he is the problem and he should leave.[3]

Jaquie Scammell
‘Love being in service’


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