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We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone


So what do you think?

A homeless woman outside of the bakery where I'm picking up my cake today asks for some money to buy something to eat. I say I don't have change, but come on in with me and I'll buy you something.

There are people you can take one look at and you know they need help. She wasn't a pretty person and probably a drug addict. The hair was wild, the clothes shabby. However, she was quiet though a bit incoherent.

The woman needed something to eat though. It is my birthday and I'm not going to say no to someone who needed help. Kinda bad karma IMO.

She got a small cup of coffee though I said she could get large. While she is waiting for her Danish, a bakery worker comes out and tells her to leave.

I say "That's ok. She's with me. I'm buying her something to eat".

The worker says in a really annoyed tone "We would rather you NOT do that".

I say "It is my birthday. I'm buying $30 of birthday cake here and if I can't buy this woman breakfast on my birthday I'll take my business elsewhere".

She gives me a dirty look and walks off. Happy Birtday to me.

I know this part of the city has a homeless problem. Still, she just looked bad. She wasn't bothering anyone and, through me she was a paying customer.

And ... I think bakery worker should not have confronted me and told me not to buy soemthing for this woman. She should have let it drop after I said the woman was with me and I was buying.

I always thought that phrase just meant if you were causing problems they could refuse service. It seems some businesses will do tha based on the way you look or many other reasons.


I drove off and the woman was outside the bakery looking a bit confused about what to do next. She just stood there staring at the coffee and Danish in her hands.

  1. While I can understand their position, You were totally in the right. (as they say up here in the North Woods) "Good on you!"

    1. You did a good thing. I wonder how the owner/manager would feel about the worker's attitude.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jeebs

        It is worker owned. It was a struggling bakery due to some poor business decisions by the original owner, so the employees bought it. It is the kind of place you want to support, but this makes it hard for me to fee good about going there and supporting them despite the fact that they are a needed instituion ... one of the few old time Danish bakeries in my area.

      2. good one on you !!
        happy birthday and screw them......
        I get it, I have owned restaurants and had this situation come up.......only it was christmas....
        I bought both parties their lunch that day - Everyone deserves kindness. I prefer food to money in those situations!!!!

        1. I honestly don't see what the worker had to complain about. The food was paid for, and it is highly unlikely the place will become a magnet for homeless drug addicts just because of one kind act.

          Happy Birthday, and I hope you receive a blessing today.

          1. firstly, you stood up for the lady. thank you. this world needs more of that.

            secondly, I wonder if there are any laws surrounding how picky a business can be in regards to whom they serve. I was just watching the news last night where a landlord argued that "preferring" to not rent to blacks was not the same as discrimination. discrimination based on race is an obvious no-no, but then you wonder about other sorts of "preferences" and whether there's any legislature to protect against situations like you saw.

              1. Yep, Bravo on ya.

                I can not imagine sayng to anyone "We would rather you NOT be kind to a fellow human being in OUR establishment!"
                It's just bad human-ship!

                Happy Bithday to ya!

                1. This is when I wish there was a "Like" option here. You are a good person.

                  1 Reply
                  1. That was very nice of you, and happy birthday. However, it is very possible that the bakery has had past interactions with this person that were unpleasant. Or, she may spend a lot of time outside the store asking their customers for change, which many customers may find to be a less than pleasant experience.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: donovt

                      I agree with this. A similar thing happened to me at our local starbucks. This really tattered homeless woman was behind me and digging out change from folded up, dirty plastic bags and stuff so I just told the counter guy to put her order on my card. He was all, "are you sure?" and I was kind of shocked, like, I'm here doing a good deed. The lady got her scone or whatever and thanked me and went and sat down and started combing through her 500 bags or whatever, and the manager came over to me while I was waiting for my drink and said, "You know, she HAS money. She's in here every day and has plenty of money to pay for things. We just wish she'd stop bothering our customers."

                      she might have had some money, and I am certainly no Warren Buffett but I could tell by looking at her I have a lot more than she does. If she was a scam artist, she spent an awful lot of time on her hair and makeup and outfit and grocery cart contents just to score a free scone a day at starbucks. I get why they were bothered by it, they just want her to GO AWAY. We all want homeless people to GO AWAY but they just don't, somehow, we just keep making more and more of them every day.

                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          For him to tell you that she technically could scrape together enough change for a cup of coffee is tantamount to "having money" is totally illogical. It is sad to hear that even at a starbucks (I mean, it's not fine dining) there is resistance to letting less fortunate people in, even when the product is paid for.

                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            i dont know...I always err on the side of helping people too but I did see a news program once about people that panhandle at intersections. Some of these people showcased made over 60,000 a year.... panhandling!!!! Anyway it showed how at the end of their "shift" they would go hop in their luxury car and go home to a house and clean up. It was very interesting.

                            1. re: LaLa

                              i saw one of these getting into a Jeep Cherokee at the end of the day a few years ago....

                              there's a guy who stands outside of a place i stop in for a drink occasionally, always directing cars into spots (unnecessarily). i often offer to buy him a drink. the first time he said, "i'll either have this or this or this..." all common things. i asked him directly the one thing he wanted. "Big Red." fine. i happened to stop back in a few hours later, i forget why. he asked me for help and to buy him something... i said, uh i did. a few hours ago. he said oh yeah... and walked away. i'm all for helping, esp when i can, but i can't do it multiple times a day.

                              and happy belated birthday to rworange! you did a good turn.

                        2. Happy Birthday.

                          I don't understand how workers/owners can act so poorly in view of paying customers. Don't they realize their actions reflect poorly on the business?

                          The worker may have been "protecting" the store from a bum rush, but she overreacted to a 1 minute transaction.

                          1. Thank you for being kind to someone in need. Happy birthday!!

                            1. Similar story.. sorta...
                              I was in a bar, near Christmas. An obviously homeless guy was working his way round the room asking for change. As he approached my table the barman came up and asked him to leave. I was a little drunk, and without thinking I said 'no - he's with me, he's my friend' - and I pulled out a chair for him.
                              He sat down, looking bemused. We chatted briefly about how to ride trains without buying a ticket - and then he got up to go and I gave him a pound. (about 2 dollars). He was sober, well, more sober than me,
                              Before he left he thanked me profusely. Really profusely. I was taken aback - it was only a pound, I said.
                              Not that, he replied. You called me your friend. I can't remember the last time anyone called me their friend.
                              And then he left the bar.
                              People keep asking me to repeat the story, and it always chokes me up. It happened about 5 years ago, and I imagine the guy is probably dead now.
                              I always give something to sober homess people. And when I can, I stop and talk to them.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Peg

                                That's a beautiful story...something out of a story book....thanks for sharing!

                              2. Happy Birthday! I'm big on the karma. Thank you for being so kind. The bakery worker should have kept her mouth shut and I would drop a quick note to the Owner/Manager informing them of the experience.

                                1. Yay! Happy Birthday to a wonderful person! I agree with everyone else -- this was a lovely gesture on the OP's part. Just for a second though, let's see if we can give the employee the benefit of the doubt and assume she wasn't being mean for the sake of being mean. What reasons could she have for her behavior? Could it be that this place (as someone else said) has had dealings with this particular person before? Could it be that other customers have complained about being hassled by homeless people inside or out in front on the business? I'd like to believe she just wasn't a jerk. Maybe this spot is becoming a hangout for homeless people and they feel it will hurt their business. How many of us can honestly say we'd be okay with our business becoming a magnet for panhandlers? Before everyone flips out on me, let me repeat that I agree that the OP did a wonderful thing, I'm only trying to find possible reasons for the employee to behave in such a mean way.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: purple bot

                                    +1. Good for rworange and good Karma as well (and Happy Birthday). As described, there is a very good chance that this establishment may have had issues with this particular woman or other homeless folks so I will cut them some slack as well. I've seen and heard of some pretty troubling behavior from street people who are often suffering from some sort of mental illness for which they just as often are not afforded any treatment. I once had a woman urinate on the floor in front of me in a bagel shop and I've had more than once been in a shop where some poor guy had obviously soiled himself. Like it or not, in the society that we live in, this is not good for business. That, unfortunately, is often the reality of such situations.
                                    I have bought food for many a homeless person (I try not to give cash) and I have volunteered in soup kitchens as have my kids so I think I can say I am far from heartless. For all we know, the bakery brings all their leftovers to the local soup kitchen at the end of each day (many do) thus helping many. If they go out of business because those among us who are turned off by the plight (and sight) of the less fortunate stop patronizing the business, everyone loses. As purple bot says, I still think OP did a really good thing and no matter the reason, the employee should have kept her mouth shut.

                                    1. re: bobbert

                                      Exactly my thinking, but with a slight caveat. It is always best to react to others in the best spirit in which you are able, but when someone reacts with such a description in the OP, it makes me wonder if there was a history there. In my five years at the same cafe, we had quite a few homeless in and out, but only had to ever ask two of them never to return. But they did, again and again. Both of these people were, at times, quiet, and aware, and even meek enough to break your heart . . . but those other times, they were threatening, and engaged in acts that diverted the staff to the point that made it difficult to do the job. It was a tough thing to ask these people to leave the first time, and so more so *every* time after, because both individuals came back.

                                      The server no doubt could have handled it better, but we don't know anything about what she had experienced with that individual prior to this occasion. And this is me being hopeful, that the OP got unknowingly caught up in some kind of existing tension, and not the other assumed scenario. Neither makes me feel better though.

                                      But kudos to rworange, truly. And happy birthday.

                                      1. re: onceadaylily

                                        You said it concisely..

                                        I wondered when I read the OP if perhaps this woman hadn't caused a problem THAT VERY MORNING...so when rworange walked in with the homeless woman, she was thinking, "oh geez, I just finally got her to move on!"

                                        She could have been nicer about it, agreed, but it's also possible that this woman is the proverbial bad penny, and just might have issues that make her not-so-meek and not-so-quiet from time to time.

                                        rw, your heart is so very squarely in the right place...it's just making it work so that *everyone* is happy that's the key.

                                  2. kudos!
                                    a lovely act of kindness!
                                    Happy B'day, and lunar New Year on the Hebrew calendar.

                                    1. I think:
                                      a) Happy Birthday!
                                      b) Karma works.
                                      c) Golden rule works everyplace, every time.

                                      1. You obviously care about your fellow humans are are kind hearted. Thank you.

                                        I worked in a bakery for a few years. There were certain unfortunate individuals who hung out in front regularly. We all knew their names and treated them with dignity. We also tried to find out their real stories. One woman was on a combination of medicines and one of her case workers asked us to make sure not to serve her anything with caffeine or too much sugar. So whenever someone tried to buy her coffee or pastries, we either gave them decaf or told them she wasn't allowed. There was one gentleman who seemed just sad and desperate. But when he was allowed inside for any length of time, he would break into a tirade and throw whatever he could get his hands on. Another woman had a tendency to pass out and pee herself, which led to us not to allow her inside either.

                                        Some customers wanted to help these people and buy them food, coffee, whatever. We would try to explain the various situations, but sometimes we were accused of being insensitive or heartless. The fact is we knew a lot more about these folks than our customers. Sometimes we were so busy we didn't have time to explain and just let it slide, but we often had to clean up a mess as a result. And usually the giver was long gone. We helped however we could, but we could not allow violence or hygiene to affect or business.

                                        17 Replies
                                        1. re: mojoeater

                                          Mojo, very cool that you knew about and tried to help the person stay on their appropriate diet. You obviously were paying attention to specific individuals. The OP doesn't sound like that, or maybe the employee didn't want to set off some behavior she knows about from this particular woman. Seems to me that if the (recent) birthday girl wanted to follow up, she could say something about it to the bakery. I get that it is worker owned, so the employee is also an owner, but that doesn't mean just doing whatever one wants without consulting the other owners. I'd have a hard time not sounding testy, but put on your nicest voice and ask/tell them about it when they aren't busy. Maybe you'll wind up filing a formal complaint or maybe (doesn't sound likely but we can hope), you find that there is a specific history that the worker was acting on and your feedback will help them find a better way to handle it.

                                          1. re: mojoeater

                                            Yes, I realize I didn't know the back story.

                                            Where I think it stepped over the line was how nasty this woman was to me.

                                            They are within their right to tell someone to leave who they think might be a problem.

                                            When I jumped in and said ... with a smile at that point ... that I was buying her a pastry, as a customer I feel that the bakery should have shown me respoect as a customer ... one who has shopped there over two decates ... by either

                                            1. Letting it drop

                                            2. Maybe telling me in a nice way after the woman took off with her sweet roll, that they have had such and such problem.

                                            When businesses are kind to the homeless, it makes me want to be good to them and tell others about them.

                                            After living a year in Guatemala, a country of unimaginable poverty, certain businesses stand out.

                                            One was a produce vendor who gave an elderly poor woman a bag of fruit and was really nice to her. I went back and did all my shopping there and had a freind with better Spanish than I had why they were getting my business.

                                            Another restaurant owner in Antigua is one of the nicest guys on earth ... and the food is good too. He gives more than anyone I know to the homeless. The one time I saw him turn someone down, he explaned the back story to me after that person left. It was pretty ugly. Still he wasn't nasty to that person, he just calmly said he didn't have anything.

                                            I don't want to come off as Saint Orange. I'm not that tolerant of agressive street people.

                                            There is a McDonald's I rarely go to because I can't think of a time some scary street person hasn't asked for change, sometimes surprising me out of nowhere. The guy I 'loved' was the one who tried to chase me down as I was driving thru the parking lot.

                                            I was at Target when I asked the manager to get rid of the guy begging change at the door. Puplic streets are public streets and there isn't anything you can do. But I do not want to have to deal with this in a private lot on private property.

                                            There was another street person camped at the door of the bakery begging change as I came out. That type of person I feel the bakery has the responsibility to tell them to move along.

                                            But there are people you just KNOW need help at a certain time. Heck, I'll even gie a buck to a drunk occasionally becuse frankly, if I had to live on the street, I would drink ... a lot.

                                            There are a few street people I know by name and usualy drop a buck.

                                            However, there are people who step over the line and get too aggressive for me and I should not have to run an obstacle course every time I enter a business.

                                            I in no way think a customer has to tolerate someone who actually enters a business, like someone mentioned about a guy in a bar. That type of person needs to be told to leave.

                                            The thing with this woman was she asked me in the parking lot for something to eat and I said no. Then she moved away and didn't hang aroundSo when I saw her walking the other way when I entered the bakery, I told her I didn't have change (just got some from the ATM) but come on in with me and I'd buy her what she wanted.

                                            WHat really killed me about this woman was that I had about eight dollars change. She saw it and didn't ask me for an extra buck. She just wanted that coffee and Danish.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              Well yeah, they should've been nicer to you, but about the person you were with...if you decide you're interested enough to ask if there's a backstory, I'd love to hear the reply.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                re "back story"

                                                i am curious why you believe that the counterperson owes you details about why a person, any person, may not be welcome in a business establishment. 1) how does this preserve the individual's dignity, to tell this to you 2) you are a stranger to her, not a family member, officer of the peace or social worker, and not an employee of the establishment-- why do you "need to know?"

                                                i worked at many bars in my time where certain people were "86'ed." we were trained, when these people attempted to enter the establishment, not to engage or explain reasons why folks were "86'ed." it was considered less confrontational, and therefore safer for the staff, the other patrons, and the private property, to avoid specifics or personal anecdotes and simply turn the individual away. we were not equipped to handle people whose behavior could become erratic or unpredictable at any time, nobody on staff had heath insurance, property insurance had deductable that would not cover minor vandalism/urine/feces, etc.

                                                i have mentally ill folks in my family and circle of friends. the point is not how meek and sweet they can be during their lucid moments-- it's how they are during the unpredictable times when they can be a danger to themselves and others, or be very destructive or disruptive, etc. i also know some very charming and polite criminals, who are perfectly sweet and reasonable, and even tip well-- but if they are in a public place, they don't have a problem doing illegal business or stealing or soliciting sex or selling drugs or pirated cds or stolen goods or whatever it is that makes them unwelcome in the place of business. i don't see how this is fair to put this on min wage earners just because they work in a job dealing with the public. they are no more equipped to deal with potential problems than bar employees-- probably less, since i've never been in a bakery that employed bouncers or security staff-- and frankly they are not paid/compensated enough either. they are also obligated to watch out for the safety of their employees and other customers, and to prevent illegal activity in their place of business, and to prevent situations that could disrupt business. . . so. there is a sign which clearly states they can refuse service for any reason at any time. without being obligated to explain reasoning to random customers off of the street, such as yourself. again, why do you feel that you *are* owed an explanation, when the counterperson was clearly uncomfortable with the situation? she may have been worried about a lot of potential fallout from serving this woman that would certainly have affected herself, her coworkers/coowners, her other patrons, and her business, but at the same time reluctant to turn away your patronage. you have stated you are a regular customer of this place, and that the place is struggling. it sounds as if the worker was really not happy about the situation, but served you anyway-- desperate for the business, despite potential fallout. that's a really tough, unenviable situation to be in.

                                                despite the set-up in the op, and let's take the "it's my birthday!" out of the equation-- there isn't a cut and dried right or wrong here. refusing service to someone "with back story" does not make the business or the counterperson uncharitable or "bad." (for all you know this place may make all sorts of charitable donations and responsible community-oriented gestures, such as supplying the local women's shelter w day old pastries, or hiring workers from rehab and halfway houses-- most collectively owned business are *extremely* socially responsible, after all.)

                                                buying a pastry and/or cup of coffee for another individual who probably may need considerably more help than that, and then just leaving the situation for the other patrons and the staff of the establishment to deal with, does not make any individual "charitable" or "good." sure, there is probably a good chance all will be well in this particular situation, except for the worker's anxiety and your ill-will toward the establishment-- but what if it's the 1%, or 7% or 15% of the time when the woman engages in the behavior that makes her unwelcome? what if someone is hurt? what if items go missing? what if people who are seriously unequipped to deal with a medical or safety situation are suddenly faced with it, through no fault of their own? and why are the employees who are in the location and the neighborhood day in and day out, in your mind, not within their rights to refuse service at their own discretion, to avoid potential or repeat problems?

                                                many people *do* have respect for a business, or a group of coworkers, who set clear expectations for patrons within their establishments, just saying. even though there is not an explanation for every action by the management of a business to every customer and non-customer, making the effort to follow "house rules," in general, makes for a much more enjoyable experience for the great majority of customers. for example: if a nice little grocery store in your neighborhood had a "no unattended children" policy which you quite preferred, and then someone came in with half a dozen kids running wild through the aisles, possibly making messes, possibly becoming safety hazards, possibly putting unpaid for merchandise in their pockets, and generally being disruptive-- would you have the expectation that the management of the store, or the group of coworkers, 1) would step in? 2) would step in to prevent the same situation in the future with the same group of kids? 3) if the management did not do any of these things, as a customer would you feel disrespected or inconvenienced or unsafe?

                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    But what if they just don't want poor people in their business. Should the rest of us just stand by and say "well it's their business, let them do it." Ever heard of the Woolworth's lunch counter?

                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                      okay speaking of assumptions-- i do assume some things about the workers in a collectively run business-- including that they probably do not discriminate for any reason. please see the rochdale principles, on how collective businesses, which i am very familiar with, generally run. i apologize for not placing a link because the links are hinky today, but you can google collective business, cooperative business, or rochdale principles.

                                                      of course this is chowhound, where everything i know to be right must be wrong. so many people exclaiming "good karma!" for someone threatening a collectively held business w loss of patronage is pretty dang ironic, i must say LOL! :)

                                                      1. re: donovt

                                                        Odd. I merely read a great deal of suppositions, hypotheticals, and distinguishable analogies. At bottom, every disagreement with the OP's actions, veiled or overt, boils down to a "what if?" objection that seems to reflect a justification for generally embracing a different philosophy in similar circumstances.

                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                          But doesn't everyone else's pov boil down to the supposition that the bakery worker only wanted the homeless person out because they were homeless?

                                                          1. re: donovt

                                                            No, just the simple assertion from the OP that there was no apparent justification. Although, in a way, your helping me to illustrate the point that one's judgment of the situation is based upon our prejudices and the assumptions we make. This, taken togeher, suggests further the course of conduct we each may have personally taken in the OP's place.

                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                              the only "assumptions" i made about the situation were 1) that the woman was local/known to the bakery worker 2) that there was a valid reason the business does not welcome this woman. the op actually made other assumptions, for example that the woman was a drug addict.

                                                              the op overlooked the fact that the woman was panhandling, which is not legal where i live. perhaps it is legal or quite acceptable in other places, i don't know. so i'm stating that right off the bat, the woman is doing 2 illegal things 1) loitering outside of the business 2) panhandling-- bugging the people entering and leaving the business establishment for money. the business owners/coworkers, unless they are blind, would be aware of this if it went on for any length of time, and would doubtless be informed by the complaints of some of their customers who would be annoyed by this if it happened regularly. just going by the facts presented in the op, the businessperson would seem to be obligated because of 1) her business 2) her customers 3) the law-- not to encourage this woman to continue doing this in front of her establishment-- which is a valid reason not to welcome her in the establishment.

                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                Although I did mention "suppositions, hypotheticals, and distinguishable analogies" in referring to your post, the reference to "assumptions" and "prejudices" was, to be clear, offered in broader consideration of the judgments of the event offered by each of us.

                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                  i am not sure what you mean by that.

                                                                2. re: soupkitten

                                                                  But you keep getting it wrong.

                                                                  1. I said she was doing the opposite of most street people. In the parking lot she asked me for mone for something to eat and then kept walking. It was one of the reasons when I got near the door that I told her I'd buy her something. She was just going along her way.

                                                                  2. She was not outside the door of the bakery. There was another woman sitting there, not the woman who just asked as she was moving along.

                                                                  I didn't give anything to the woman outside the door because I felt that was a PITA. As I wrote before, the bakery did nothing about that other woman. So they pick on the woman who is buying something from them.

                                                                  I have no clue about the loitering laws and panhandlingg laws in the city I didn'tt mention. So, um, isn't that an assumption on your part that she is doing two things that are breaking the law?

                                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                                          I do believe I said I didn't want the back story.

                                                          However, I did say that a business that explains itself makes me as a customer able to understand a situation.

                                                          Lot's of assumptions, some counter to what I've written. This was not a minimum wage worker, but a co-owner.

                                                          There was a beach where thousand of starfish washed up. A kid walked down the beach throwing them one by one. A passerby said "You can't save them all. It doesn't matter" The kid said ":It matters to this one"

                                                          Someone was hungry and asked for something to eat. I wasn't out to change her life. Only give her a meal.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            "There was a beach where thousand of starfish washed up. A kid walked down the beach throwing them one by one. A passerby said "You can't save them all. It doesn't matter" The kid said ":It matters to this one"

                                                            That reminds me of something else I have heard before ; "No good deed goes unpunished"

                                                            Happy Belated Birthday. My Grandmoms Bday is the 28th,too. She would have done the same thing.

                                                    2. Bakery was well within its rights, and had every right, to do what it did.

                                                      The phrase "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" literally means just that, with the exception that it cannot mean that you are allowed to refuse service based on race, ethnicity, sex, etc. (i.e., a legally protected class).

                                                      Bakery could've refused service to you just because you were buying something for an indigent person.

                                                      By trying to do a nice thing, you've essentially disrespected the bakery.

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        Ipse Dixit: It's true, federal protection in these matters extends only so far as to prohibit discrimination or segregation based on race, color, religion and national origin (it doesn't extend to gender). But beyond that, it's a state's call. Many states have civil rights laws in place that prohibit businesses that are generally open to the public from refusing service based on unconventional dress, perceived disability, or for other reasons that cannot be deemed clearly protective of a legitimate business interest. According to the OP, this woman was not in the least disruptive, so maybe, even by the letter of the law, the situation is not as cut and dried as all that. In most of the country, regardless of what its signs might say, in order to deny service, a place of public accommodation must be able to show that serving a certain person or category of person measurably messes up its business.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          About time someone disagreed.

                                                          As I said, I thought that phrase was just reserved for disruptive customers. Not someone who is standing there quietly waitinf for a Danish.

                                                          Well, yes. I don't have respect for tha bakery anymore, as a result.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            I think there have been restaurants with "jacket required" rules since forever and that has nothing to do with the customer being disruptive.

                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                              No Charge: Legally, having a dress code is different, even if its just a shoes/shirt requirement. However, if the lady was not just shabby but extremely dirty, or if she smelled very bad, the bakery would have a legal right to refuse service. There is no legal protection for the hygienically challenged. I agree with your comment below that it may have been better to just ask her what she wanted and to bring it out to her.

                                                              RW Orange, do you think you'll ever ask the bakery manager if there really is a no-homeless policy? Maybe this was just one worker reacting harshly for some reason.

                                                              1. re: ninrn

                                                                She didn't look dirty or smell, only shabby.

                                                                In the two decades I've been a customer the staff has rarely been warm. So it is not likely I'd chat it up with anyone there.

                                                            2. re: rworange

                                                              Well, yes. I don't have respect for tha [sic] bakery anymore, as a result.

                                                              Feeling is probably mutual.

                                                              They no doubt lost a little respect for you.

                                                              What you did was most certainly offensive to the bakery.

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                No, they started out with no respect for me by publically repremanding me simply for trying to purchase something for someone.

                                                                Remember, my response ... with a smile yet ... was saying I was buying this woman something and I got an angry response out of the blue.

                                                                Do I care if I lost any more respect for trying to give them my money for what they are in business to do ... sell baked goods? Guess.

                                                                Never in a million years would I have guessed some unwritten code of conduct that homeless people are not allowed into any store to purchase an item if they are not causing any problem.

                                                                And a business who has any respect for their customers would have said so in a different manner. Or for better customer relations would have explained to me why they reacted like that so I could be on board with them.

                                                                Again, I am not ASKING for the back story. I just think peculiar behaviour like this should be explained by a business that cares about its customers.

                                                                While I don't buy food for every homeless person I see there have been occasions in the past when I purchased food for a street person and that person was in the store or restaurant with me. Not only have I never had anyone talk to me like that, I never had anyone even qustion it. The business was just happy to get my money.

                                                                To be clear this is a different scenario.

                                                                Somene ... homeless or not ... walks in a business and is told to leave. I'm in no way involved ... don't care.

                                                                However, they involved me in what may or may not be their policy. At that point they should back off, or not be pissy with me.

                                                                I am suspecting some people who are responding in this thread may just not see homeless people as human beings just like every other human being capable of being both good or bad

                                                                Different fake situation. I am in a cafe sitting next to a chariming well dressed business person and offer to buy them a coffee. The waiter takes the order. A restaurant employee comes up and tells the person to leave and I say I just bought them a coffee. The staff member turns to me and says in an angry tone "We'd rather you NOT do that".

                                                                I was at that point with this woman. She had her coffee in hand and was waiting while another employee was putting her Danish in the bag.

                                                                This is a place that doesn't leave coffee cups on the counter. They hand you an empty cup at the time of the order. So, if this woman had any history, the woman serving us didn't know any more than I did.

                                                                And let me repeat, this is an employee-owned business, so we are not talking a clueless new hire.

                                                                Let me put it in another way. There are stores, especially near schools, that have problems with kids. We have all seen the "only two students allowed in the store at a time" sign. The few bad kids ruin it for everyone else.

                                                                Hmmm ... maybe they should have but a sign in the window saying "street people not allowed n the store, especially if shabilly dressed, even if they are paying customers" I would have come to the same conculsion as this exchange, but at least I would have been forwarned and would have told the woman to wait outside and I'd buy her something.

                                                                And given all of that, my main point here was I was surprised that a "we rreserve the right to serve anyone" meant anything other than a person who was causing problems.

                                                                If that specifc woman had run ins with the bakery before, whatever her conditions, don' you think she would have said "They won't let me in that store" rather than walking in with me.

                                                                It is a guess on everyones part that that particular woman had history there.

                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                  I hope it was clear, RWOrange, that my post is saying I think you're basically right about what those signs can mean legally. Regardless of what it declares on a sign, a business providing food, shelter and other forms of "accommodation" can only refuse service to someone whose presence will definitely create problems for the business -- as an immediate disruption or otherwise, but provably so. The reason states have made so many clarifying laws in addition to the federal ones is because it's very easy for business owners to say that just about anyone they don't like will cost them business (i.e., "Well, I'm no bigot, but I know my customers, and they don't want to eat next to colored people"). The state laws are basically saying, 'your customers will get over it and so will you'. And history has shown, for the most part, it's true.

                                                                  In the '70's, my fresh-from-India family went on a naively planned road trip into the deep South. Laws be damned, about seventy percent of the gas stations and forty percent of the restaurants we went to wouldn't serve us! About half the motels wouldn't give us rooms. (Despite the vacancy signs and empty parking lots, all the rooms were "full".) We were clean, polite and ready to pay cash, but we were brown and my Mom wore a sari. They were scared, weirded out and judgemental, not unlike your bakery employee. Flash forward to the week after 9/11. I'm out of gas on a road somewhere in New Mexico. Of course, Indian people had nothing to do with the WTC attack, and India has lived the nightmare of terrorism by religious extremists for decades, but the gas station attendant hates me on sight anyway. Times have changed though, and at least she knows she HAS to serve me. I filled my own gas, and she literally THREW my change at me. I picked it up, said thank you, and left. She had the right to behave badly. I had the right to fill my tank. Even if I look like people she thinks might as a group be dangerous.

                                                                  The reason I think it might have been better to take the food out to this homeless lady is because it would have spared you both a hurtful experience.

                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                    And given all of that, my main point here was I was surprised that a "we rreserve the right to serve anyone" meant anything other than a person who was causing problems.

                                                                    I am puzzled why you'd be surprised.

                                                                    Doesn't matter if "that" person is your guest. If the restaurant doesn't want to serve your "guest" it is their prerogative.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      I said why I was surprised. I thought that meant disruptive customers. Someone who was making trouble at the time.

                                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                Ah, the elevation of rule above reason, it's expansion has been so beneficial to our society. Simply because someone has a right to do something does not make it the right thing to do.

                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                  OP wasn't asking for a moral opinion; rather just what a business "can" do ... not what it "ought" to do.

                                                              3. My 2 cents:

                                                                1. Helping a person in need is a wonderful thing to do.

                                                                2. However, you did a small business a disservice by encouraging a homeless person to enter its premises. I don't see how the presence of a homeless person could be anything but bad for a struggling employee-owned bakery, and that's probably the reason for the negative reaction of the employee.

                                                                3. A smarter approach might have been to ask the homeless woman what she wanted, buying it, and giving her the coffee and Danish outside as you walked out with your cake.

                                                                4. Even if incoherent, shabbily-clad drug addicts were a protected class under some federal or state law, the homeless woman might still have problems finding legal representation to go after a struggling, employee-owned bakery.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: nocharge

                                                                  "2. However, you did a small business a disservice by encouraging a homeless person to enter its premises. I don't see how the presence of a homeless person could be anything but bad for a struggling employee-owned bakery, and that's probably the reason for the negative reaction of the employee."

                                                                  Of course the Christian and human being in me tends to agree with a lot of posters' positive reactions to the OP, but the other part of me agrees with nocharge. The OP and the rest of us have no idea if that homeless woman has caused problems for the bakery in the other minutes, hours and days that the OP is not at the bakery. Also, it is a food establishment and having an obviously dirty and unhygienic person in view of customers is a big negative for the business. I'm not saying there is a right and wrong, I'm just pointing out the other side of the story, as the bakery owners see it. I have worked in both food and retail establishments and certain homeless people with obvious mental disorders make running a business a very difficult thing, often resulting in lost business. Just something to think about. Again, I am not saying this point of view is the right or wrong one, but it needs to be considered.

                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                    But the fact was

                                                                    - Another employee had served her coffee and was bagging her Danish

                                                                    - She was not unhygenic, only her hair was uncombed and her clothes were shabby

                                                                    For fun, let's throw in another variable not mentioned yet. The homeless woman was black. The bakery worker was white. The reason I am mentioning this at all is because it was early in the morning and let's just say the woman's hair was 'nappy'.

                                                                    There are now laws protecting people from race, gender and sexual discrimination. However, there were times when I am sure that same argument might have been raised about blanket exclusions of certain groups because it was displeasing for some customers and would cost business.

                                                                    Some people don't like children in restaurants ... or stores. Some are disruptive and at times my business has been lost when I didn't want to deal with that. So ... blanket sweep that children should not be allowed because of a few families are out of control and it displeases customers. Ever watch a kid handle produce often with dripping noses? Also news shows have done reports about how filthy a supermarket basket can be because of children sitting in the kid seats and having dirty diapers.

                                                                    I don't want to get this on everyone's favorite topic of kid-bashing, but I'm just saying that perhaps an entire group should not be marginalized because of a few troublesome ones ... and I'd say if there are not more disruptive kids than disruptive homeless people, at thest the numbers are close.

                                                                    Let me keep reminding people. I the major issue for me is my preception of a business reserving the right to serve someone was just based on someone causing an immediate problem, not just personal displeasure.

                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                      "- She was not unhygienic, only her hair was uncombed and her clothes were shabby"

                                                                      I stand corrected.

                                                                      But I still stand by what I said: you don't know if the bakery has had problems with this particular woman in the past. As someone who has had to deal with drug-addicted and mentally unstable people in an enclosed retail space, I tend to side with the bakery owners.

                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                        Don't forget as a Christian, Jesus hung out with lepers. Extremely bad for business. Bummer if a finger falls off or something.

                                                                        This whole thing about mentally unstable ... not the same as homeless.

                                                                        I volunteered a lot with the mentally ill. One woman from a nursing home was bipolar. so taking her anywhere was a dicy game for me. When she was good she was very very good and when she was bad ... well.

                                                                        LIKE, dealing with children, I always made sure we had an instant out in a restaurant and took her off times. She hated being touched. It set her off in a bad way. She needed her feet elevated. At Christmas time one year, someone at another table made her way into our corner, reached out and grabbed her foot and said "Cute christmas socks". Well.

                                                                        Yes there are unpleasant things that can happen.But keep in mind not all homeless people are mentally ill OR drug addicted. Not all mentally ill are homeless. I cant see banning an entire group based on a few bad apples.

                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                          You are the one that keeps bringing up generalities while I am just talking about the woman you encountered. I never said to ban all homeless people from the bakery and I never said all homeless people are mentally unstable. I did say that you don't know if the bakery has had a problem with this woman before; that she may be mentally unstable. You said she was probably a drug addict and that she seemed a "bit incoherent." All I said is that if the bakery has had problems with this woman before (something you or I don't know) then they have the right to ask her to leave.

                                                                2. Happy birthday rworange! I am so glad that there are some people who still have a bit of heart in this world. Having worked with homeless people (for whatever reason they might be homeless) it troubles me when they tell their stories of being invisible, ignored and sometimes outrightedly abused. Just because someone is homeless it doesn't mean they're not affected by people being rude or inconsiderate, in this case by the bakery worker being annoyed by her presence. Obviously Australia is culturally different to the US, but generally speaking if someone is not causing problems they can't be refused service based on whether they look shabby or not. Any one of us could be unlucky enough to become homeless one day for whatever reason and I hope if that misfortune ever strikes me someone like yourself would be kind enough to help me out with a coffee and a Danish.

                                                                  1. But did she like the danish?

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: beevod

                                                                      Just putting up a sign saying you reserve the right to refuse service does not mean that it is legal. You cannot refuse service for any reason that would violate the law (i.e., race, religion, etc.) if you are in business of selling to the public. Dress codes, etc. are allowed, but just putting up a sign does not legal make.

                                                                      That said, there is a coffee shop near my work (a couple of blocks from the U.S. Capitol), and also near by is a homeless shelter. I have never seen anyone in that shop turn away someone who was not abusive or causing trouble. Many a time I've bought a danish or a cup of coffee for one of the homeless guys who asked. In fact, one of the homeless guys is trusted to go pick up things at the store for the manager. I've seen him return with a box of sweetener and change from a $20 many a time.

                                                                      1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                        hey din, I think I know the cafe you mention, not far away at the liquor store over on 8th I have seen the owner quietly and calmly explain to the few problem drunks outside why he needed them to move on and not hang out, or inside the store after purchase get them to relax and leave or they'd be 86'd. always did it with tact and allowed the guys to retain their dignity.

                                                                    2. Happy Birthday and mazel tov for helping a fellow human being and treating her with respect. That being said, in the future I would agree with some of the other posters that you should buy her the pastry and give it to her outside. The employee, while very rude to you, did not owe you an explanation, especially when put on the spot as to why she did not want to serve the homeless woman. In my area there have been very few homeless people but the few that are around have tended to be obviously mentally ill. This by no means means that they should be treated less than someone else. However, this does mean that if not taking their medication, they could be potentially violent or disruptive... both killers for a struggling business. I was in a situation once on a train when a man was asking for change, and literally got in my face, yelling at me... the other passengers nearby shouted at him to leave me alone. It was honestly quite scary and if I were a business owner, I would absolutely not want my customers to be put in a situation where they would have to feel that scared. I would absolutely let the owner of the business know what happened, but it's in their right to let you know or not to let you know the back story.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                        I never said they owned me an explanation. I just said as fasr as good customer service it goes a long way.

                                                                        This is an employee-owned business. The woman is a co-owner.

                                                                        I can't think of one level of society where there are not people behaving badly. "Going postal", for example. Should we clsoe all post offices because of a few crazies? Oh wait ...

                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                          RW...on a lighter note...you should watch the south park episode "Night of the Living Homeless"


                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                            "employee-owned" doesn't always mean employee get to act like a boss. My husband worked for an employee owned business and all it meant was they got some stock and got to vote on board memebers....thats it.

                                                                        2. I have no problem assuming that the bakery was judging the woman on nothing but appearance, because I have faced almost the same treatment before.

                                                                          Many many years ago I worked at a metal fabrication shop back home in Reno NV. My shift was 3:30 pm to 2:00 am four days a week with Fri-Sat-Sun off. No matter how fresh smelling and clean your clothes were when you arrived at work, by the end of the night you were covered in metal dust and grime.
                                                                          We were paid weekly when we got off work Thurs nite-Fri morning. I would cash my check at the local's casino down the street and usually have a meal at Denny's around the corner. Apparently there was a new waitress/hostess working that morning and she took one (disapproving) look at me and seated me in a section that was blatantly marked "Section Closed". Long story short, I was treated as a third class citizen right up until I pulled out my well-stocked wallet to pay for my meal. I believe before that she expected me to dine-and-dash. Her eyes seemed to light up as connections were made in her brain and I pulled out a $20 and paid my bill. I took my change and tucked it into my wallet as I left without tipping. I called the manager the next afternoon and let him know how I was treated. I never saw that waitress again.

                                                                          1. While I've done the very thing rworange has done, I can understand all the potential issues this causes for the business owner.

                                                                            Even if the bakery employee/owner shared rw's compassion for the homeless woman, they can't make all of their paying customers feel as comfortable with being around a presumably unkempt (perhaps even to the point of having wet and/or soiled themselves) and possibly disruptively mentally ill person, especially while they're buying something to eat.

                                                                            It's very possible that the homeless woman loiters in front of the business regularly and panhandles and does other things that make the customers feel uncomfortable. It's possible that she's made a scene within the four walls of the business. But rw couldn't have known that. Seems to me the biggest issue was how the situation was handled.

                                                                            So my question to rworange is, had the employee/owner pulled you aside and said

                                                                            "I'm very sorry to say this, but this woman has caused numerous problems for our business, and while I can see that you're just trying to be kind for her, would you please not do this in the future?"

                                                                            how do you think you would have reacted?

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                              Well, except for the last few words, that is what I have been saying was reasonable to me.

                                                                              >>> even to the point of having wet and/or soiled themselves) and possibly disruptively mentally ill person, especially while they're buying something to eat.

                                                                              Again, I have to apply this to children and few businesses would ask a mother to leave with her baby.

                                                                              This woman wasn't dirty. She wasn't disruptive. Another employee was in the process of serving her. But telling me she had been a problem in the past and that is why she was asked to leave would have made all the difference. I would have sympathized with the busines and said something like "I'm sorry. She didn't seem like a problem person to me"/

                                                                              Also. there was a different homeless person sitting at their door begging money and they did nothing about that. Instead the person giving them money was picked on.

                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                Yeah. I see what you mean. They didn't address the issue properly and treated you, the paying customer, poorly.

                                                                                But I'll have to take issue with the mother and child analogy. That one's reaching a bit IMO.

                                                                            2. Happy belated birthday, mine is also 9/28!

                                                                              I do have to say, though, that your story makes me think that the bakery might have had issues with this woman before. I have bought food for homeless people but I bring it to them, I don't ask them to come inside an establishment with me for that reason.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: MandalayVA

                                                                                My point exactly MandalayVA. Thank you for pointing this out.

                                                                              2. Happy belated birthday, rworange!

                                                                                I am so glad there are people like you in the world; it makes it a better place for all of us.

                                                                                I've read all the posts with interest and there are lots of great points made on both sides of the issue. It's impossible to know exactly what motivated the worker to be so unpleasant about serving your guest. No matter what, she was very rude and inappropriate in her comments, even if she did have a good reason or backstory with that particular customer.

                                                                                At the end of the day, IMO it is better to extend grace and kindness generously. Your point about Jesus being with the lepers and others who were deemed unfit is really the most important one, even if a person doesn't believe in God. Assuming the best about people, giving the benefit of the doubt, showing kindess where others don't/won't is never a bad policy. Sure, we might end up getting taken advantage of occasionally but I would much rather take a chance of that than of turning my back to someone truly in need of kindness.

                                                                                Thank you for posting this and giving us food for thought.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                                  Keep doing the right thing. Karma baby! Especially now many people have no home or job and end up on the street. They are not all alcoholics or drug addicts. I do not give people money but rather I buy them food or coffee. If they refuse the offering then I walk away. Hope your BD was fantastic.

                                                                                2. I'd like to offer another side to this story. Several years ago, I had a food concession in an airport. The homeless were a huge problem. Where I was located it was climate controlled, dry, there were bathrooms, a seating area, etc. Security for the most part left them alone. In the beginning I truly felt bad for them. Some clearly had mental issues. Others just seemed lost.

                                                                                  Without fail, I gave them my day old goods at the start of the day, and my leftover burgers and dogs at the end. I couldn't sell it, and thought they should have the good of it. I was nothing but nice. Then, they started getting pushy. They'd appear when I had customers, look sad, look at the food, get closer, get closer still, until someone bought them a hot dog.

                                                                                  I am not heartless. I fed them repeatedly. I'd watch the other vendors throwing away their leftovers and I'd think how inhumane it was to put food in the trash when people were hungry. But I learned.

                                                                                  One day I absolutely had to go to the bathroom before my husband came to cover the stand. I locked up what I could and made a dash. It was between flights, the only people in the area were the homeless and assorted employees. I was gone maybe 5 minutes tops. When I got back, the majority of the inventory was stolen - they were eating it in front of me!

                                                                                  That was it. From that day forward, I discouraged customers from buying them anything, and I started throwing my leftovers in the trash, as well.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Whinerdiner

                                                                                    Your story makes several points and also answers the question many people have about why restaurants don't just give away their leftovers at the end of the day instead of trashing it. Unless you give to an organization that distributes the food among soup kitchens, shelters, etc., you always run the risk of what happened to you. You are a prime example of someone who tried to do good but was ultimately taken advantage of. It also shows why a business is unfortunately forced to make across the board decisions or assumptions. Just like the bakery employee in the OP's initial post.

                                                                                  2. Oh, you caught me on a bad day. Fuck you, soup kitchenn/donut shoppe. Glad it's not you. If i want to spend my money how I want, well, f.... you. Enjoy your lunch, lady.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                                                      Plus one for mamachef. I have sat on my hands for this one. Who really cares!

                                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                                        I stood up and cheered when I read your post. I love all the intellectualizing about what constitutes a deserving human being who is allowed to go into establishments like other people got to choose who came and went. Most homeless have issues we could never deal--how would you be after a week on the streets 24/7?-- and though I am an atheist, when I see someone struggling I remember "there but for the grace of God go I."

                                                                                        1. okay so much for trying to keep discussion civil.

                                                                                          intolerant people bug me, but heck they are all over the place. someone needs to stick up for the commie pinko bakery and it may as well be me, since i don't mind the personal insults. for the record, i think the mods should leave those insults and their plus ones up and keep the thread open, which is the opposite of what the folks throwing obscenities want.

                                                                                          to the op: the bummer about a collectively owned establishment is that you can't call the boss and get someone written up, reprimanded, or fired, no matter how much you may want to. all you can do is what you've already done-- threaten them with loss of patronage, follow up by taking your business elsewhere, to a nice decent corporate establishment perhaps ;-P and then slam the place on chowhound and yelp so that folks with your pov can also withdraw their patronage. it's struggling and collectively owned, definitely the biggest underdog in the economic scene, it shouldn't take too long to go under-- unless their baked goods are decent. . . but no matter it's still only a matter of time. then this cranky worker and her pinko comrades will be out of jobs *and* business, and this shabby panhandling lady will be avenged. assuming she would like to see the place close-- did you ask her?

                                                                                          you would have to be pretty dang sure though, imo, to push the button like that, and you'd need to tell us the name of this place. for example, if this bakery is NOT the arizmendi bakery, you should let folks know what other collectively owned bakery has been operating in your area for decades.

                                                                                          if the bakery in question happened to be the arizmendi, however-- you will be happy to know, there is one other bomb you can drop on this bakery. and i think you should, if you really think your allegations of classism and discrimination, repeated in your subsequent posts, have any merit, whatsoever. the arizmendi is a member of NoBAWK. you can report to this network that the bakery is in violation of 1 and 7 of the rochdale principles which cooperative enterprises the world over operate under (antidiscrimination and community) respectively. co-op socialist commie pinkos are nothing, if they are not committed, so-- again, assuming you're right-- they should cut the bakery off. which does not sound like much, except that the bakery is almost certainly dependent on the other co-ops for their supply chain of fair trade and organic/sustainable ingredients, coffee. . . other goods (rochdale 6). you cut their supplies, and their affiliation with sustainable and socially responsible businesses in the area as well as any worker owned produce/coffee farms in the developing world. . . you cut them off at the knees. i really doubt they could continue to operate. as long as you're sure you're right-- go for it.

                                                                                          the op asks: "So what do you think?"-- my opinion is obviously unpopular here. it's probably a little left into commie pinko territory. okay a lot. but the op's take on this bakery doesn't jibe with what i know of people who give up their personal material wealth for a social cause. it doesn't make sense, like-- "i became a buddhist nun for the bling"-- doesn't make sense. but most folks follow the op and are telling me to effing buzz off, so i guess i'll stop offending their sensibilities.

                                                                                          20 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                            I think you've made a very persuasive argument for giving the bakery the benefit of the doubt, sk. Any way you look at it, OP tried to do a nice thing, and the employee/owner did not handle the situation with much tact or grace.

                                                                                            However, there are many more peoples' interest at stake than just the OP and his beneficiary in this equation, and the many more non-homeless, non-mentally ill and/or drug-addicted people whose livelihoods could potentially be affected by the bakery allowing for what the OP did, are just as deserving of empathy and consideration.

                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                              Well, I didn't name the bakery on this thread and I didn't post it on yelp.

                                                                                              Ir was not arizmendi. They don't make birthday cake.

                                                                                              So I purposely didn't yelp theor or here. THe point was not to trash a place but to discuss the right to refuse service.

                                                                                              And I bought the cake despite the unpleasant exchange. It was up to them if they wanted my business on that or not.

                                                                                              Will I stop making my usual stops there like for the holidays. Nope.

                                                                                              BUT ... with all the problems they have had, I was making extra stops to do what I could to support the joint more. Rhe pity stops for them will probably end as a result though.

                                                                                              And though Illinked to this thread on a thread about the place, I posted on an obscure thread few people will read

                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                soupkitten, you are without a doubt one of the most cogent writers I've ever read -- anywhere, whether electronic or printed.

                                                                                                You don't rant or rave -- but you make your opinions crystal-clear...with justification, and in such a way to make people THINK.

                                                                                                If you don't already put food on your table with your written words...the potential is there.

                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                  Unfortunately the opinions are based on conjecture and misreading what is actually written about what I experienced.

                                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                                    but yet if sk were agreeing with you....

                                                                                                    Unfortunately, you don't know the back story for either the woman OR any prior issues between the bakery and this woman. I realize you didn't ask and don't want to ask, but without that information, your assertations are just as much conjecture as anything anyone else has assumed about the situation.

                                                                                                    Was she disheveled looking? To you...to someone else, maybe not.
                                                                                                    Was she indeed homeless? Again...to you...doesn't mean it's so.
                                                                                                    Was she drunk/high/mentally impaired? You said she wasn't...but all that means is that it didn't appear to be the case TO YOU.

                                                                                                    Conjecture without the facts is a particularly fragile glass house from which to lob projectiles.

                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                      It wasn't about the woman. It was about refusing service ... to anyone.

                                                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                                                        but again...you don't know the back story -- you don't know what her state of mental health is, you don't know what her state of sobriety is, you don't know anything about her past dealings with the bakery.

                                                                                                        You are giving us as much conjecture as you're blasting us for giving you.

                                                                                                        You don't know any of the back story, and you didn't ask any questions, so any assumptions you make about anything relating to this woman and this bakery and any possible shared history is purely conjecture.

                                                                                                        I already said that the lady in the bakery didn't handle it as well as she could have, but YES, they have the right to refuse service to anyone, provided it's not against the law in that state.

                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                          It is not about the woman. It is about the issue of refusing service in general. THis was one example. I am not the one doing the blasting.

                                                                                                2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                  sk, I think that you are absolutely correct, and your opinion is not unpopular with me. I'm all for giving food to people who are hungry and need some, but what I have done in similar situations is to go into the shop, buy something for the needy person along with my shopping, and give it to them on my way out of the deli, in my case. I have never felt the need to discomfit my fellow shoppers, upset the purveyor nor parade my good intentions. Whether or not an establishment wants that person inside their store is irrelevant. I just do what I'm going to do, and go on my way, no trumpets required.

                                                                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                    Well, the actual facts are that no other customer so much as glanced at the woman, so no one was discomforted.

                                                                                                    Only the bakery worker and woman knew I was paying.

                                                                                                    And if you misinterpret my post like soupkitten, the point of the post was not about buying the woman food.

                                                                                                    I don't think I could be any clearer than putting the point of the topic as the title.

                                                                                                    It was about reasons for refusing to serve a customer.

                                                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                                                      I just want to make sure I read your post correctly, rwo. In the end, they did not refuse to serve you, right?

                                                                                                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                        Yes they served me. However, that one woman didn't know I was with her and told her to leave. So she would have been refused service otherwise.

                                                                                                      2. re: rworange

                                                                                                        I don't think it is possible for you to know how the other customers felt, and whether they looked at her or not, unless you were watching them the entire time you were in the store.

                                                                                                        As far as refusing to serve a customer, you, not she, was the customer, and as far as I can tell from what you have written, you were not refused service. The fact that you took this woman into the store does not make her the customer unless SHE was ordering and paying.

                                                                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                          Maybe I was watching them. Maybe I asked everyone if she bothered them. Again, conclusions not based on being there or the facts presented.

                                                                                                          No, as I said to someone else. When they thought she was the customer she was refused service.

                                                                                                          Lots of hate for the poor and people who don't want to allow them in the stores with them. Are there special poor stores they should be restricted to? Should the only restaurants they eat in be missions and soup kitchens to shield them from ... um ... "polite" society.

                                                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                                                            This has nothing to do with polite society, but you seem to want to make it about that. This had to do with a business deciding who they would like to have as customers, and whether or not this conforms to your idea of whom they should or should not serve is largely irrelevent. At the end of the day, it's not your decision, it's the bakery's. Moreover, if this woman was hungry, there are many organizations, not to mention government agencies, that are designed to help people in need and help to point them to a long-term solution. I highly doubt that either your outrage or your coffee and danish did much to assuage the woman's situation.

                                                                                                            Your post asked "what do you think?" and this is what I think.

                                                                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                              OP seems conflicted as to the main point. Sometimes it's whether the business has the right to toss the woman out of their store, sometimes it's whether they should have been more polite in dealing with OP. Answer to latter is, of course everyone should be polite, but there's no way to enforce it. Answer to former is a legal issue which is not based on whether anyone likes it or not.

                                                                                                              1. re: roxlet


                                                                                                                As I've written a number of times, I wasn't out to change a life, only buy someone some food they asked for.

                                                                                                                For those who eschew shopping with the mentally ill, if this woman had that problem then she would have a lawsuit according to the original link I posted

                                                                                                                "The right of public accommodation is also guaranteed to disabled citizens under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which precludes discrimination by businesses on the basis of disability."

                                                                                                                This happened in California and they might have also violated this law

                                                                                                                "For example, California's Unruh Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals based on unconventional dress or sexual preference"

                                                                                                                Tho whether dressing in shabby clothes might be covered by that ... don't know.

                                                                                                                They ended "For the most part, courts have decided that the constitutional interest in providing equal access to public accommodations outweighs the individual liberties involved"

                                                                                                                So that pretty much makes that phrase null and void, IMO. And for the people who don't want to patronize a business unless it only has customers like them ... can't do it.

                                                                                                                God bless the constitution.

                                                                                                                I just keep thinking that that policy should only be reserved for someone who is causing problems, not someone standing quietly with a coffee cup in hand. Or the
                                                                                                                - no shirt
                                                                                                                - no shoes
                                                                                                                - no service group.

                                                                                                                A business can be suied if a shoeless person steps on something in a store and gets injured.

                                                                                                                On your other comment ... tho this post has always been about service and not the homeless ..

                                                                                                                You would think there are organizations and agencies to feed people. I worked with the homeless many years. A friend gave me the food programs available. It was a stunning surprise and once I unpack in my new house I can post it. One day you can get a ham sandsich at one end of town, another day soup somewhere at the other end. There was no daily food program. Some were every third thursday ... and so it went. When someone asks for something to eat, I usually give it to them.

                                                                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                  You want to have it both ways. That's fine, but don't expect that not to get a reaction based on your inconsistencies. To reiterate, you asked, "what do you think?", and this is what I think. Clearly you are not willing to hear opinions counter to what YOU think, so you continue to post screeds, and my only reaction to these further polemics is "whatever."

                                                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                    +1 on the point about agencies to feed people. I do some volunteer work where I live in the area of feeding the homeless and otherwise needy. It is not an easy thing to get a free meal in many cases. There are issues of transportation, timing, etc., as rworange pointed out. I don't know about the rest of you, but my stomach doesn't always complain that it is empty according to a schedule that is convenient to the rest of the world. Likewise, when I have a headache that only caffeine can kill, it is hard to schedule around community supper schedules.

                                                                                                                    Don't get me wrong--the organizations that feed the hungry do heroic things with the resources they have. And as pointed out repeatedly in this thread, the clients they serve are not always easy to deal with. But there aren't enough organizations to feed everyone who is truly needy and hungry and they definitely aren't open 24/7.

                                                                                                                    There will always be lots of reasons, many of which are legitimate, for not helping someone who seems in need. There will also be lots of people who have great needs which we can't even begin to fathom because we don't have the backstory. I would rather err on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt to someone than to be cynical and hardened to the suffering of others. And I would rather give my business to people who do the same.

                                                                                                                2. re: rworange

                                                                                                                  I empathize with you and might have done the same thing. It was a gut instinct to do something kind. At the same time, others have made some good points here.

                                                                                                                  "Again, conclusions not based on being there or the facts presented."

                                                                                                                  That's exactly what you've done to the store. You don't know what has happened in the past, if there was a problem w/ homeless bothering customers outside, whether customers have complained in the past, whether this particular person has been a problem, etc. You're judging the store based on one incident that you're aware of. Other posters weren't there to see what transpired with your incident so are trying to come to conclusions just as you don't know what has transpired that you're not aware of and have come to your conclusions. This might not be about the store, for no good reason, not wanting homeless in their store as you've presented. We don't know. If you do want the other view, maybe you could contact the store and get the full story, instead of presenting your (one sided) conclusion here? Or, was your point to get people outraged by your conclusion?

                                                                                                                  Rudeness isn't called for and I think they could have pulled you aside and politely asked you not to do what you did. But, refusing service to someone is a store's right.

                                                                                                        2. I am fascinated by the replies, and yet all I could think about was the homeless woman. As I continue to read the comments there is an underlying theme that this was an act of kindness. I can probably write a thesis on why this isn't so, but I really do believe from the very bottom of my heart that your intentions were benevolent and you never ever meant to hurt anyone.

                                                                                                          I'll try to express what I've felt from the inception of this thread, that bringing her inside probably reduced her even more, and clearly she was brought into a situation where she needn't be reminded that her reality is world's apart from yours, the owners, and the patrons of the bakery. She might have felt embarrassed; the homeless suffer from enough humiliation. I think if you had only one second of clarity before entering the bakery, you might have picked up an extra danish and a cup of coffee for her while she waited outside. Maybe you feel that this is not relevant to the actual question, but on this particular thread you can't speak of one thing without the other, and I am definitely not judging you if it seems that way, especially when there are posters that really need to get their heads examined…and most definitely so! (not this thread just to be clear).

                                                                                                          I think the bakery owners/workers have the right to act in the best interest of their patrons - even at your expense- since this is exactly the sort of thing that can drive customers away and they don't deserve that. And I guess the real bottom line is this, I don't think that this helped her feel a bit more human either, but that's just my guess.

                                                                                                          I was reminded of what my family used to do during the xmas holidays years ago; cook, drive around, and pass out plates with food to anyone in the city that was homeless and outside in the cold and some responses were "Do you have any steak?" or "I can't eat this without ketchup." It puts a smile on my face to think of their responses, yet makes me wanna cry :)

                                                                                                          1. I just read every single post and I still can't figure out how everyone knows for a fact that the lady is homeless. She has been called homeless many times, but since nobody asked her, or got the back story, how does anyone know where she lives or doesn't?

                                                                                                            Seems like her living situation or lack of one is a glaring example of the theme of this thread. Assumptions..

                                                                                                            The only thing that we do know is that the bakery could have handled this better. In this economy, buisnesses are more than ever under the consumers thumb. It is back to the customer is always right, and if they can't adapt to this simple idea then they will suffer. Good customer relations in the past will always ease the reprecussions if there is ever a poorly done cake in the future. Scolding a customer is just plain stupid. Nobody likes to be scolded and they certainly don't like to hand over money while it is happening. Awful way to treat a customer.

                                                                                                            If the customer is right concept doesn't agree with them, another career may be in order.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: Robinez

                                                                                                              :>>> The only thing that we do know is that the bakery could have handled this better. In ... Scolding a customer is just plain stupid. Nobody likes to be scolded and they certainly don't like to hand over money while it is happening. Awful way to treat a customer

                                                                                                              Thank you. Another major reason for posting ... as in, "does this seem acceptable".

                                                                                                            2. Can we reset the discussion a bit here?

                                                                                                              Here are the facts as presented by the OP:

                                                                                                              *rworange decides to buy something for his guest at a bakery

                                                                                                              *rworange was buying a cake at the bakery

                                                                                                              *rworange's guest was asked to leave

                                                                                                              *rworange was irked by the bakery's behavior towards his guest

                                                                                                              rworange's question: "Does the signage 'we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone' mean what it literally says"?

                                                                                                              The answer is "YES".

                                                                                                              End of discussion.

                                                                                                              The answer to the OP is not any of the following:

                                                                                                              - The bakery should've been nicer
                                                                                                              - The bakery was trying to keep riffraff out of its store
                                                                                                              - The bakery made a bad business or moral decision
                                                                                                              - rworange did a nice thing and got nothing but a smack-down form the bakery
                                                                                                              - rworange should be commended for his good deed

                                                                                                              None of those apply here. If we want to talk about any of those, we should start a new thread.

                                                                                                              Indeed, this whole discussion really has nothing to do with what rworange did.

                                                                                                              Perhaps buying something for a complete stranger (who appeared homeless) is a good gesture (debatable), but it has nothing to do with what a restaurant is allowed to do in this instance -- be it good business, moral or social judgment, or anything else of a normative nature.

                                                                                                              Probably 95% of the responses here are more properly directed to a question such as "Should a business be allowed to refuse service to anyone (not based on some protected class like race, gender, ethnicity, etc.)?"

                                                                                                              If that's what we want to discuss, so be it. But let's do it on another, appropriate titled, thread.

                                                                                                              Conflating what one "can" do with what one "ought" to do leads to muddled thinking.

                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                ipse, the way I read the OP was that the question was, verbatim:

                                                                                                                "So what do you think..."

                                                                                                                ...about a number of facts that were presented after that original question?

                                                                                                                In which case, I would have to say all of the answers you said were not answers to OP's original question really were.

                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                  In fact, by federal law, restaurants do not have the right to refuse service to anyone. And in California, the The Unruh Civil Rights Act (76), or Unruh Act, applies to bars and restaurants, among many other places. It prohibits all types of arbitrary discrimination,based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability or medical condition as well as personal characteristics, geographical origin, physical attributes, and individual beliefs. Paraphrased from http://ag.ca.gov/publications/civilri.... So, at least in California, you can't just refuse service to someone you don't like the look of.

                                                                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                    I mentioned up above that the caveat is with protected classes.


                                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                      Except that the "protected classes" at this point, in the vast majority of states, include EVERYBODY. If you are a provider of food, shelter, and other necessities, you can't refuse service unless you can prove that a would-be customer negatively affects your business, no matter what your sign says. The sign might mean 'we WISH VERY MUCH we could reserve the right to refuse service to anyone", but in application, legally, it can only mean what the OP originally thought it meant.


                                                                                                                      1. re: ninrn

                                                                                                                        Based on my encounters with homeless people in San Francisco, I would say that the vast majority of them would be very ineffective as witnesses in a hypothetical trial involving a small business owner and the issue of whether the presence of the homeless person negatively affected the business. In other words, such laws don't mean much in practice when it comes to people who, because of mental health or drug issues, are uncompelling witnesses and the defendant lacks deep pockets and is likely to be more coherent than the homeless person.

                                                                                                                        1. re: ninrn

                                                                                                                          If you are a provider of food, shelter, and other necessities, you can't refuse service unless you can prove that a would-be customer negatively affects your business, no matter what your sign says


                                                                                                                  2. I knew the minute I saw this topic what bakery it was. I admire the OP for not outing them from the get go. Also for helping someone (even a little) on her birthday-I used to do that when I had the means.

                                                                                                                    1. According to Oakland Municipal Code 9.08.240 Food and drink establishments solicitation and annoyance of customers prohibited. Boils down to: can't ask someone to buy you food or drink in or around a place where such is sold. This is part of section 9, Public Peace, Morals! and Welfare.

                                                                                                                    There was a woman slumped in the doorway of the bakery in question (biq,hereafter for convenience) last time I went by. If I had been a prospective customer then this would have factored into my decision in the "no" column and is also prohibited by the OMC cited above.

                                                                                                                    2. The biq went collective in the last several years. Before that I spent 10 years happily eating their products which were always excellent. I didn't know about their prices or customer service because my Danish boss always picked up the baked goods and the tab. My experience since their ownership change is limited because of their high (for my means) prices and truly terrible customer service.

                                                                                                                    3. Granted that good customer service is a dying if not dead art, the employee/owners of this bakery really take the cake :). My experience there is either being pounced on the instant I walk through the door or being totally ignored for long stretches of time. Neither of these are good customer service.

                                                                                                                    As for the counterperson involved in the OP's interaction possibly being new and/or clueless, it could be both considering that they have a "help wanted" sign up again. However, it is just as likely that they are a clueless old hand given that I've never seen ANYONE get what I would consider good CS there and I've had plenty of time to observe while being ignored.

                                                                                                                    I was still willing to support the biq despite their obvious issues until I made the mistake of trying to apply for a job the last time they had a sign up in the window. I showed up clean and well-dressed with a great resume in hand (including collective and bakery experience) and was sneered at and treated like dirt. They can kiss my underemployed Chowhound behind.

                                                                                                                    1. Sometimes the tables get turned. I had lost my wallet and had no money and my car was out of gas. I had to bum some money. I asked a guy if he could give me $5 for some gas, he gave me a $20. I asked him for his address so I could repay him and he said just pass on the favor someday. About a month later I was working near a shelter for homeless families. I saw a mom, dad and 2 kids outside waiting for them to open up. I wanted to give them some money but all I had was a Fifty, I gave it to them. Still feels right today 10 years later.

                                                                                                                      1. It seems like everything there is to be said on this subject has already been said, and now the conversation is just going in circles, and growing increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock it now.