"We Reserve the Right"
September 29, 2012 7:30 AM   Subscribe

In public businesses one frequently sees those signs reading: "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone," or something like that. Have you seen this principle applied in real life? I'd like to hear about it.
posted by mr. digits to Society & Culture (81 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Well, a common example is drunk people being refused service at a bar.
posted by sweetkid at 7:40 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you got me there. I was picturing more... colorful examples, I guess.
posted by mr. digits at 7:41 AM on September 29, 2012

One famous example is Shopsin's restaurant in New York. The owner is legendary for kicking people out for wearing ties, talking on cell phones, not having their whole party there when waiting to be seated, etc. Or just being objectionable in some unspoken way.

I haven't personally seen it happen, and I have my own speculations that, at this point, it's more part of their brand and probably doesn't happen as often. (Shopsin also famously refuses to talk to the media or have his restaurant reviewed, and yet, there's that NY Times article. He also put out a cookbook a couple years ago, which is just so not a Kenny Shopsin thing to do.)
posted by Sara C. at 7:44 AM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

The only time I see it used, other than for drunks, is a blanket policy against people in sports jerseys, hats and bandanas.
posted by zephyr_words at 7:46 AM on September 29, 2012

There are customers that are really annoying. Non-stop questions and then non-stop complaints after a purchase and finally a refund just to get them to shut up about it. I have seen a business owner flat out say, "No, I'm not dealing with you." to such a customer.
posted by ODiV at 7:47 AM on September 29, 2012

Ali "Al" Yeganeh was the basis of the Seinfeld episode "The Soup Nazi." From the Wikipedia link:
It is in this episode where Yeganeh is fictionally portrayed as the tyrannical purveyor of his soups, making all of his customers follow a strict set of rules if they wish to successfully procure a bowl of one of his coveted soups.

According to writer Spike Feresten, Jerry Seinfeld and several members of the production team went to Soup Kitchen International for lunch weeks after "The Soup Nazi" aired. Upon recognizing Seinfeld, Yeganeh went into a profanity-filled rant about how the show had "ruined" his business and demanded an apology. Seinfeld allegedly gave what Feresten describes as "the most insincere, sarcastic apology ever given". Obviously having seen the episode, Yeganeh then bellowed, "No soup for you!" and ejected them from the restaurant.
posted by John Cohen at 7:49 AM on September 29, 2012 [16 favorites]

That sometimes means 'if you're being an asshole, you'll be asked to leave'. If you read Not Always Right, you'll find lots of instances of customers abusing employees or otherwise being jerks and being asked by managers to leave.

Some recent ones: 1 2 3

It would also apply to things like dress codes, age-limits other than 'over-21', etc. These kinds of things have to be careful not to discriminate on the basis of a protected class -- there's some argument that rules against baggy jeans or ball caps are meant to keep out black people, for example -- but lots of businesses have rules you have to follow to be served.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:50 AM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I worked at a used bookstore for ~5 years, and we would routinely refuse to deal with, or try to throw out (occasionally with some scuffling or payback vandalism), known book thieves*. Some of the more menacing and malodorous of our many crazy customers also got this treatment.

We had the sign, meant it, and a few of us got punched (and in one case, ended up in court for) enforcing it. The necessity of it was a big reason for my getting out of retail.

*This was the 90s, when it was actually possible to live a bottom-feeder existence stealing and reselling books for cash.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:57 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I own a specialty retail shop. We have fired two people as customers: one for a history of sexual harassment (of me, when I worked elsewhere) and one for demanding huge discounts and then badmouthing us online and IRL when we don't give them to him. No amount of profit from these two people would make doing business with them worthwhile.
posted by workerant at 8:01 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the sign is confrontational and unnecessary; it's a matter of common law that public-facing businesses have a right to refuse service, BUT NOT if because of a variety of protected cases (famously race, religion, etc.).

I think they get put up when an owner deals with one too many customer, patron, or shopper who is rude to their staff, wastes staff time and doesn't buy anything, annoys other customers by being smelly, staying there all day, or what-have-you.

I myself have "fired" customers because we're not making meaningful progress toward getting anything accomplished that we can get paid for, or because their actions convince me that the order they do with me (I do screenprint, embroidery, etc.) is bound to get returned for some unavoidable reason or another.

If you're looking for a colorful example - I had a customer call me about buying some more baseball hats. He last purchased a dozen hats about 3 years ago, and he was ready to take the plunge for a dozen more. I come to his business, and he pulls out 6 dusty baseball caps that we did last time, and proceeded to tell me "now we won't ask for a refund because it was so long ago, but these caps..." and he proceeded to tell me what was wrong with every one of them. For the most part, it was microscopic alignment issues and the failure of each hat to be consistent with each other hat as to where the seam hit, how level the logo was against the bill, etc." And he made it clear that he expected the next order to be PERFECT... We're talking custom embroidery done on a multi-head machine using cheap mass-produced baseball caps that are themselves slightly inconsistent as to how well they're manufactured, and I knew from experience that my best operator (or I myself) couldn't hoop the caps and operate the machine in such a way that we could satisfy his requirements.

I drove back to my office and gave it a good think. I thought about the Chinese proverb "only a fool looks at the back of a piece of embroidery." And I wrote him a letter wishing him luck and enclosed his embroidery design file on a disk. Probably would have been more satisfying to say "no embroidery for you!" and make a scene, but I've got to live in this town.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:03 AM on September 29, 2012 [18 favorites]

When I worked in a small restaurant, our manager told a table to shut up or get out when they yelled at a waiter for refusing to comp their (expensive) drinks because they didn't like the appetiser.
posted by jacalata at 8:04 AM on September 29, 2012

I should add, as in ryanshepherd's case, that sometimes a sign does seem to be the solution when you're having to deal with combative jerks all the time, and I do sympathize with people who feel the need to put them up. I was just saying they're unnecessary at law, and if I were in a business that ended up needing one I think I'd get out, as he did.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:06 AM on September 29, 2012

I used to work at a small-town-style general store and we refused to serve people who'd shoplifted from us before and people who'd bounced checks with us. The manager would just ask them to leave.

Such policies are sometimes erroneously (in most states) enforced against breastfeeding women, who generally cannot be thrown out of "places of public accommodation" (stores, movie theaters, etc.) for breastfeeding. Sometimes there'll be a conversation like, "You have to leave, you can't breastfeed in here," "You can't throw me out for breastfeeding," "Then you have to leave because I don't like your shoes." The store will lose the resultant lawsuit, since you can't PRETEND you're throwing someone out for X when you're actually throwing them out for being a member of a legally-protected class of patrons. I've had a couple of friends asked to leave places locally (notably a ballpark) for breastfeeding. It basically always results in massive negative media coverage and some kind of boob-in.

One of my friends who had a premature infant on a portable heart monitor who could only take a bottle actually got thrown out of the library for bottlefeeding her infant. She took her two older kids to get books not long after the baby got out of the NICU, trying to maintain some semblance of family normalcy, the baby started crying, she got out a bottle (in the children's section, well away from the actual books, over by the tables and puzzles and reading chairs), and the librarian threw her out. My friend was like, "Would you throw me out if I was breastfeeding?" The librarian said, "No, because that would be illegal. But you can't have food or drinks in the library and that bottle is both." (Anyway, massive local media furor, and the upshot is, the library now allows you to bottle feed infants in lounge areas in the children's section. But technically, yes, under the law in my state, you are allowed to breastfeed in places you would not be allowed to bottle feed. Because nobody really contemplated being throw out of places for bottles!)

People with service animals, especially if they are not blind (but rather have, say, a seizure dog), are sometimes refused service for similarly poor understandings of the law or ignorance about service animals beyond seeing eye dogs.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:07 AM on September 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

In my hometown the local collector's store (coins and comics downstairs, Warcraft figurines and Magic the Gathering cards upstairs) had a more detailed sign up saying essentially, "If you look like you are 17 or younger, and it's a school day, we will kick you out."

The shop owner once told me that the sign was more for parents than for the kids themselves, but they did occasionally eject truant teens.
posted by muddgirl at 8:13 AM on September 29, 2012

A couple of times I've seen a shouting match between the staff at a hospital emergency room and a guy who appeared to be a drug-seeker who was refusing to leave.
posted by XMLicious at 8:18 AM on September 29, 2012

I waitressed at a Thai restaurant run by a family with the owner and cook being one in the same. At the time, it was the only Thai restaurant in the state. Although Thai food is delicious, it has very different flavors than Chinese food or Korean food or Indian food. So sometimes customers were disappointed - they wanted to eat Chicken Korma or finish with a fortune cookie.

One time a table sent back the appetizers, with the reason being they did not like them. When I told the owner's wife and acting manager, she made up the bill for the appetizers. I was told to take the bill to them and ask the customers to leave. The customers were shocked. And asked to speak to the manager. So, I went to the back with the appetizers. And I was instructed to say, "The manager does not speak English. But if you did not like the appetizers how can we be sure you will like the main course." And I was reminded, "Mutt, smile. Thai people were never conquered and we always smile."
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 8:19 AM on September 29, 2012 [45 favorites]

Here's an example:

Bistro at the Bijou Owner Boots and Bans State Senator

After which the senator cried that his civil rights were being violated. Bahaha.
posted by natteringnabob at 8:25 AM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I once had to kick out a group of missionaries who had bought one small item and then tried to proselytize inside the store to me and the customers. They would not leave until I picked up the phone to call security.
posted by winna at 8:33 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Convenience stores near schools will often have "no more than 2 students at a time" signs posted.
posted by not that girl at 8:33 AM on September 29, 2012

We had a client show up at our t-shirt shop one time to pick up a batch of shirts he hadn't ordered. 2 weeks previous, he'd sent a piece of art to our designer with a quick note that he was ready to order shirts, but he never called to tell us how many, what color, etc. I guess we were supposed to just intuit that somehow. He got belligerent with the office staff, & they came in the back to get me, so in my attempt to defuse the situation & to try to figure out if perhaps we were in the wrong, I asked him to sit down & tell me what exactly had transpired. He threw himself into my desk chair, & turned my desk lamp right into his face & shouted "Go ahead! Interrogate me!" (and tossed in a Nazi reference for good measure) when the stench of whatever he'd been drinking wafted across the room on his paranoid breath, I decided I'd had enough, & I stood up, pointed at the door & said "Out." he said one more thing, I forget what, and I told him "Off the property before I call the police," and I followed him out the door.

Our office staff, both smallish women (the guy was about 6'2" & 250 lbs.) had been terrorized by the guy. I was a little worried myself, but figured out that he was so drunk as to likely be be slow enough to avoid if he attempted violence. He shouted all the way down the hall & out the door about how he was going to ruin me with letters to the editor & the Better Business Bureau, but I figure he didn't even remember it the next morning. I did a little cheer when his mediocre "Texas Cookin'" restaurant went under a few months later.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:35 AM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I recently witnessed a man thrown out of a bar, movie-style by both arms. There was only one bartender so he asked a guy sitting at the bar to help him. It was because he was being creepy and hovering near a group of women and refused to stop or leave, as far as I could tell. I didn't know that happened in real life.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:40 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

One good one I saw on Not Always Right (website link above) was an instance where the clerk was waiting on two men who were obviously a couple, and a woman in line behind them interrupted and asked the clerk, "Do you have the right to refuse service to people?"

"Yes?" said the confused clerk.

"Then refuse these homos service," the woman said.

The clerk instead refused the woman service because "as you said, I have the right to refuse service to anyone."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on September 29, 2012 [48 favorites]

A local restauranteur famously refused to serve OJ Simpson at his steakhouse.
posted by mmascolino at 8:49 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wrote him a letter wishing him luck and enclosed his embroidery design file on a disk. Probably would have been more satisfying to say "no embroidery for you!" and make a scene, but I've got to live in this town.

I had a similar situation with an un-pleasable client. I'm an accomplished process screen printer, have won national awards for my 4-color work, and that's why they came to me to begin with. Small 4-color process design from an actual Polaroid photo, and after the third revision of the film & screens, and during the third multiple-hour press check, with them just refusing everything "we want the sky more blue, but the purples more magenta," etc. I finally just gave up and said "I really don't think I'm going to be able to meet your standards - there are inherent limitations with what you're asking me to do." (72 piece order,can't the didn't want to pay for extra bump plates, and had already questioned the expense as it was)

They attempted to protest "but we understand you're the best!" but I burned 'em a cd with all the iterations we'd been through & wished 'em luck.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:52 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

DR, I also did something like that. In my case, the art just kept - changing. Not iterations, but just kept altogether changing his mind. First clowns on bicycles, now it's fish playing volleyball, now it's a clown riding a pig.* I got up to about $150 in art time with no progress being made, and then I burned a CD with his work in progress (all the versions) so he couldn't accuse ME of wasting HIS time. Handed it to him the next time he showed up for another "meeting about the art" ...

and ended up having to call the police to get him to leave.

*no, those weren't the actual art ideas...
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:57 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

The grocery store I worked at in the 90's would not let World Junior Welterweight Champion Aaron Pryor in because he had been caught shoplifting so many times (including the time we tackled him and I sat on his chest until the cops showed up).

Later he cleaned up (and is currently doing great things for underprivileged children in Cincinnati) and was allowed back on the store.
posted by Mick at 9:02 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

In summer, men are regularly told to put tops on or leave certain shops, particularly supermarkets. No tshirt means no service.
posted by Jehan at 9:03 AM on September 29, 2012

When I was in university, I worked at one of those mega gas stations (Sheetz for the mid-Atlantians) that sold fast food, groceries and lottery tickets. Anyone who has ever worked a lotto machine knows how annoying lottery customers are.

I was working my shift with a high school student, barely 17, and she was waiting on a lotto customer. He had filled out the lotto slips with the wrong kind of pencil and the machine wouldn't scan them, so my co-worker had to punch them in by hand. Being 17, she didn't know how to read a lotto card and put the numbers in backward.

He flipped. Starting screaming and berating her. She was crying. I told her to hop on my register and I'd take care of the lottery. He continued his nastiness, only escalating it by using racial slurs against the other cashier. I mustered up every bit of indignant courage I had in my 20 year old self and told him to "get out and don't ever step foot in this store again. Get your fucking lottery tickets somewhere else."

He left in a huff, while I'm standing there stunned and sure I was going to be fired. I didn't even get a reprimand for dropping the F-bomb. A few days later, he came in again and I pointed him out to the manager, who promptly invited him to leave. "When this young woman told you to not come back, it wasn't a suggestion."

Never saw him again!
posted by peacrow at 9:10 AM on September 29, 2012 [45 favorites]

It was because he was being creepy and hovering near a group of women and refused to stop or leave, as far as I could tell. I didn't know that happened in real life.

It does. I bartended in an upscale cocktail lounge with a very low-key atmosphere. I ejected two people in my tenure there, both for being extremely creepy to female employees and customers at the bar. In both instances, it was pointed out by the women involved that it was happening.

It's tough to gauge as a bartending fly on the wall what's actually happening without being told. In both instances, the men returned while another bartender was working and I was at the bar, were denied service and never came back.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 9:14 AM on September 29, 2012

I remember places where if you wrote a check and it bounced the business would hang it up to shame you into not coming in there again and they wouldn't accept your business anymore because you burned them once. But that was years ago though, when people wrote checks.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:16 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh and there was the English Sign Controversy at Geno's Steaks in Philly. Although no one was actually refused service, it did create a stir.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:19 AM on September 29, 2012

My dad ran a car repair business and there were people he would not deal with. I don't remember most of the specifics, but I don't think he ever had to ask anyone to leave more than once.

One of them was a guy who insisted that I, who was running the counter at the time, had told him something totally crazy (you'll get that flush and fill for free!) and my dad was like, look, that's my kid. And I know that she knows that costs $69.95 or whatever, so you need to pay whatever you owe and it's best you find another place for your service in the future.

I'm sure he was less politic than that, but I think this particular guy had been really squirrely about paying anyway and as a small biz you can't really afford a bunch of people with payment issues.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:23 AM on September 29, 2012

Theres a famous pub in Edinburgh 'The Canny Mans' where they regularly eject people for having mobile phones, cameras, backpacks, looking scruffy or studentish - reviews
posted by Lanark at 9:34 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

The guy who killed four people at Cafe Racer in Seattle, including an old friend of mine, was a patron who had been given the boot some considerable time before the murders, and was refused service again the day of the shootings, though they did give him a free coffee as they showed him the door.
posted by jamjam at 9:39 AM on September 29, 2012

[Folks, stop talking about Shopsin or take it to email please.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:40 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I worked the door in a bar once where a group of young 'uns came in (of age) and they're not ordering much, couple of waters, maybe a beer, and there's like five of them. Now, this joint has a very cozy pub-like atmosphere, but it's still a bar.

After a few minutes, one of the guys comes to the bartender with his own tea-bag, asking if he can have some hot water. Oh, and this place also sells tea. No, he wasn't offering to buy a mug of tea, no thank you on the bag, I brought my own. No, he just wanted a free mug of hot water.

Get the fuck out. Dude was actually surprised at the reaction he got.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:51 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's another interesting one: two black men thrown out of an Atlanta restaurant/bar for refusing to give up their seats to white women customers. 2006, not 1906. The suit failed, IIRC.
posted by LonnieK at 9:53 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

There is a bar on Weed Street in Chicago that refuses to let anyone with a grill inside - the teeth kind, not the cooking kind. It's part of their dress code, which also includes hooded sweatshirts and sports hats. It's quite possibly the strangest dress code requirement I've ever seen.
posted by youngergirl44 at 9:55 AM on September 29, 2012

I was once asked to take my business elsewhere by a Lexus dealership.

I had just bought my first nice-ish car, a 10 year old Lexus, from what turned or to be a scam artist. He said it was his dead wife's car and they were the original owners - it had been sold 7 times and had the odometer rolled back.

After I had owned the car for a couple of weeks the check engine light came on and I took it to the dealership. They diagnosed it as a broken part and fixed it. I got about five minutes away from the dealership when the check engine light went back on. I took it back in, obviously, and when they called me the next day they claimed that their original diagnosis had been correct but another, different part in the same system needed to be replaced. I told them that they had obviously diagnosed the problem wrong and I would pay for the part they'd put in but I didn't want to pay for the labor. They called me back and said they were refunding all of my money and they needed to have a level of trust with their customers that they didn't have with me.

I considered writing a letter to Lexus and complaining but I was too lazy.

The car eventually got fixed by my original cheap and honest mechanic and luckily for me was a great car for a long time.
posted by bq at 10:11 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to work in a used book store. We would get some regular book dealers who would bring in barcode scanners and who would scan a bunch of books to see if they could get make a profit if they bought the books at our prices and resold them on Amazon of something (I think--I never really learned how those things worked). Anyway, we had to ban one book dealer for price switching. That is, he would peel off the price sticker from a cheaper book and apply it to a more expensive book.

We also had to ban some people who would steal books from our store and then try to sell them back to us. The weird thing was in that case, the manager had to get their signature on a document where they agreed that they'd never come back. It was an awkward situation all around. I was actually surprised that they signed it, but I guess they were embarrassed, and probably too stunned or nervous to refuse. They could have just walked out the store without signing anything and there was really nothing our store could have done. It's not like we had a security guard or a loss control specialist on staff to prevent them from leaving.
posted by mcmile at 10:14 AM on September 29, 2012

I worked in a now-deceased chain of bookstores and we'd occasionally bounce customers.

The most immediate one that comes to mind was one of those guys who'd camp out in the cafe with his laptop every day, never buying anything, and using us as a reference library, which I think was Strike 1 in the staff's mind. Strike 2 was his habit of wearing bicycle shorts every day with nothing on top and dude didn't ride a bicycle, so we collectively got tired of seeing his junk for the sake of fashion.

Strike 3 was when one of the managers asked him to please not have his laptop cord in the middle of the walkway because staff kept tripping over it and dude unleashed a profanity-laden rant about how he had a right to be there and we'd sorely regret it if we lost his business. Our normally mild mannered manager exploded, "OH, SO WE'D LOSE YOUR ZERO DOLLARS? THAT'S TERRIBLE, BUT LOOK HERE IN MY POCKET, I HAVE A FISTFUL OF ZERO DOLLARS!" Whereupon she tossed both hands in the air in the classic make it rain gesture. "NOW GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY STORE! AND PUT SOME GODDAMN PANTS ON!" Sufficiently shamed, he fled.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:16 AM on September 29, 2012 [90 favorites]

Sushi Nozawa is famed in LA for being home to the "Sushi Nazi". Legend has it that he has thrown out a patron who ordered California rolls and another who didn't want rice because she was on Atkins.
posted by ikaruga at 10:28 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and this place also sells tea. No, he wasn't offering to buy a mug of tea, no thank you on the bag, I brought my own. No, he just wanted a free mug of hot water.

The cafe/bar I frequent has to kick people out for this stuff all the time.

The most hilarious is when people bring their own beer. And sit in the very well lit cafe/bar drinking a brand the bar doesn't actually sell. Duh.
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 AM on September 29, 2012

A pizza joint we frequent has a "wall of shame" pinned with printouts of grainy CCTV footage of customers who behaved badly. One of them has multiple pictures from an encounter, from the woman being rude to the staff to her male friend intervening, culminating in the manager tearing up the receipt. I love that the management looks out for their workers--few things are better than having supportive, understanding bosses.
posted by peripathetic at 10:54 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Acts of Gord is the website which is now dormant, but "Gord" was the owner/manager of a video game sales/rental company in ...Vancouver?

His tales of ejecting customers include customers who refuse to meet their ID requirements for membership, thieving, reselling games and rented systems and claiming them as stolen, etc. are pretty amusing. Lots of entitled idiots out there. You can read it through in a day.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:24 AM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

One time I went to a bar and saw a sign that said "No colors". I had to ask what it meant.

It meant that bikers couldn't wear their gang colors in the bar. I gather there were two reasons for that. One was that if bikers from competing gangs showed up at the same time, they could cause trouble. The other was the fear by the owner that the bikers would drive away everyone else, and convert the place into a biker bar.

So bikers were welcome, but only in civvies.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:26 AM on September 29, 2012

The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin is quite liberal about throwing people out for talking or texting during their movies. Sometimes people don't take that super well and leave messages about it. The Alamo might then use that phone message as a hilarious, but serious, warning to others.

I mean if you want "colorful" examples.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:40 AM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

In my drinking days, I managed to get myself barred from a hotel (for uh cavorting in the hallway), a bar (can't remember), and The Jockey Club (I bid on the auctioneer.) My husband was in an Irish bar in Chicago around '95 when the bartender bodily threw out someone rattling a can for NORAID.

I remain an aficionado of the hotel bar and the most routine barring I observe tends to be very discreet, so if you're not good at spotting who's on the game, you might not notice: house security exceedingly politely removing working girls from the bar, often with a "Madam, you have a phone call in the lobby."
posted by DarlingBri at 11:44 AM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Umpty-thousand years ago, when I was young and working in retail, a woman brought in a kid's bicycle: she claimed the frame on this "brand new" bicycle had just (somehow, magically I guess) broken in half..... I refused to refund or exchange it because of strict store policy requiring receipts for ALL refunds or exchanges, nevermind the fact that the whole 'new' bike was also a mass of rust, coated in mud, and the tires were bald from wear. The woman started swearing and yelling and threaqtening me, at which point the manager showed up and ordered her off the premises, permanently. ("And take your damn bike with you!")
posted by easily confused at 11:51 AM on September 29, 2012

My dad used to patronize a junkyard that had a resident cat. One day, he was shooting the shit with the owner in the office (you know, typical junkyard 'office' - long counter, everything vaguely dirty, coffee pot in corner, etc...), and a customer came in.

The cat walked toward the customer to greet him, and the man kicked the cat out of the way - fairly hard, from what my dad said. He then proceeded up to the counter and said something about wanting some part or the other.

The owner said nothing at first, just reached beneath the counter and came up with a wicked looking breaker bar. He set it on the counter, and then said "Get the fuck out of here while you can still make it out on your own. And don't come back."

The dude left. Pretty quickly.
posted by HopperFan at 11:58 AM on September 29, 2012 [26 favorites]

I was a shift supervisor at a drug store and regularly turned away customers attempting to buy large amounts of cigarettes or other tobacco products, cold medication (this was in the early 90's, before everyone knew that meth was cooked from OTC cold pills), or perfume with checks.
posted by xyzzy at 12:16 PM on September 29, 2012

Here in Florida a business owner may order anyone to leave, as long as the decision is not made on: race, gender, age or sexual preference. This information came from the county sheriff.
posted by misspat at 12:18 PM on September 29, 2012

Many years ago, I was refused a room at a motel somewhere in Virginia because I was a backpacker hiking the Appalachian Trail. The sign that they reserved the right to refuse service to anyone was called to my attention.

I guess the owner had some bad experiences with single hiker taking a room and then packing it with people. And while I remember doing that at least once on that trip, it was not my intention at that particular motel on that particular day.
posted by maurice at 12:31 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I remain an aficionado of the hotel bar and the most routine barring I observe tends to be very discreet, so if you're not good at spotting who's on the game, you might not notice: house security exceedingly politely removing working girls from the bar, often with a "Madam, you have a phone call in the lobby."

Ah, hotel bars. I haven't seen that but I have seen the converse--men being kicked out for offering to pay women for sex. Generally, a manager comes by and asks if he's a guest in the hotel. If not, they ask him to step into the lobby or to a quiet corner and ask him to leave. I've never seen anyone refuse, they're generally too embarrassed. If he is a guest of the hotel, they offer to have a free X sent up to his room with the strong hint that his time in the bar is done. If that doesn't work they get security to "help" them to their room. The manager then proceeds to apologize to the lady in question and offer her a free drink/whatever.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:49 PM on September 29, 2012

There is a late night restaurant near my friend's former college campus that regularly ejects patrons for swearing. One warning, then you're out. It's a small place, so they can pretty much hear you all the time unless you are literally whispering. They don't care what you look like or how you live your life, just as long as your language is clean.
posted by trivia genius at 1:01 PM on September 29, 2012

Our beloved governor Scott Walker was asked to leave a Capitol-area bar during the height of the Wisconsin protests because his presence was disturbing the other patrons. The patrons applauded, and the bar owner then got phoned-in death threats.

A couple of months ago, a critic was eating in g.e.b. in Chicago and tweeting shit about the meal. Graham Elliot Bowles himself saw the tweets, called the restaurant and told them to throw the guy out mid-meal.
posted by Madamina at 1:09 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I used to manage a plasma donation center in a seedy part of the L.A. area. Reasons I've kicked people out include:

Smoking illegal drugs in the smoking room
Tagging the bathroom
Bringing a gun to shoot me
Not surrendering their knives to me upon request
Putting their hands on me or my employees
Screaming obscenities at me or my employees
Selling drugs on the property
Stealing from fellow donors

It was a Very Interesting Place to work.
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:17 PM on September 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

You folks prove that the world is a better place than when I was younger (say in the 1960's US South). In almost all of the cases you mentioned, the reason for banning was behavior of the individual (or his/her gang).

In the 1960's and earlier (and perhaps later) in the US South, that phrase usually meant "no blacks."

Wow, I'm glad that nobody even could remember or knew of that ignorant crap.
posted by mbarryf at 1:33 PM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sadly mbarryf, some of us do, quite well. In fact I wonder if the rise of we-refuse-the-right signs was a direct outgrowth of that era. Here's what it looked like back then.
posted by LonnieK at 1:49 PM on September 29, 2012

* not the origin of the signs, but the seeming proliferation in the years since the civil rights movement.
posted by LonnieK at 1:57 PM on September 29, 2012

The cat walked toward the customer to greet him, and the man kicked the cat out of the way - fairly hard, from what my dad said. He then proceeded up to the counter and said something about wanting some part or the other.

That is awful. The closest I have come to that is once while I was a block or so from my workplace, Random Guy walked up to me and asked directions to my workplace. I didn't mention my connection to the place, but directed him to it.

He set off briskly toward it and arrived before I did. From my vantage point thirty seconds behind him I saw him arrive at the front door, check that this was the address, the toss his half-full takeout coffee cup onto the sidewalk and walk in. I picked it up as I walked in, shaking my head sadly at the occasional cretin to be found in our customer base. When I entered, I saw Random Guy standing at the front counter and one of my employees looking up and saying, "Oh, here is Mr. Biscuit now." The guy was there because he was applying for a job. I handed his discarded coffee cup to him and told him to leave his resumé and I would be in touch.

As to the main topic, I imagine the reasoning behind it is having to throw out some asshole who demanded to see something in writing as to why he (I know it was a he) was being refused service. I rarely see anyone tossed -- I live among polite Canadians, y'know -- but I see variations on the sign with greater or lesser degrees of specificity. Several stores I visit regularly have strict no-cell-phone policies, and a games store I shop at (mindful of its clientele) requires a degree of personal hygiene and control of afflatus.

The first such sign I ever saw was at a bar in the town where I grew up that had sign out front in the eighties which read "proper dress and personality required." I always used to imagine the Friday night line-up frowning down at Rorschach inkblot tests.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:00 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's a bar in L.A. called the Tikki Ti run by one old guy and his son, I think. He will supposedly kick couples out for kissing or any display of physical affection.

For some reason it's always played up as cute- "Ha ha ha! Extreme ignorance, Puritanism, and contempt for your customers!"
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:04 PM on September 29, 2012

A more upscale version of this practiced in the toolier "upscale" clubs of L.A. and I'm sure other big cities is:

"Are you on the list?"

Said by a bouncer in a black suit carrying a clipboard. There may actually be a few people on the "list," or it may be his grocery shopping for all I know. But what it is is a way to turn away anyone they don't like the look us because of how they're dressed, their race, having too many men in their group, or whatever other terrible door policy they might have.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:08 PM on September 29, 2012

No one's mentioned Bruno, the late martini guy in the Haight?
posted by tangerine at 4:03 PM on September 29, 2012

I worked retail and we had a guy who would come in and just hang out. He was skeevy and liked one of the girls there a little too much.

Our manager told him he was being irritating and inappropriate, to leave and never come back. She told him (with a very large employee standing right next to her) that he would be forcibly removed if he didn't vacate the premises immediately and every employee would have instructions to call the police if he ever came back.

He tried to pull the "you're just being a bitch, I'm not doing anything wrong" card and she told him he was harassing employees and that she would personally file loitering charges against him.

She then said he had 30 seconds before he would be carried out.

He left and never came back.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:15 PM on September 29, 2012

I, uh, got kicked out of a bar for being dressed like a cat. I was trying to drum up business for a theatrical sort of Queen for a Day. Everyone else in the area was so very receptive and then I decided to take a break.

Little did I know that my nemesis, the Asshole from No Tomorrow, was seated next to me. The chair was empty. Then he came back from his personal Hellhole and started to talk to his Clan, who then proceeded to stand next to me and then, when I went outside for a smoke, the owner came out and said, "I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

I was like WTF? Because I wasn't drunk. The middle of the day, I had had one drink. I knew the bartender, she was all so hep on me and like, "cool, let me take your business card and put it on the board!"

But I'd seen this guy before and he was indeed an asshole with a capital "A".

Later met a theater friend of mine and he said, "oh, a private club that disguises itself as a bar." Pretty much so, even tho' it's a restaurant too. I can't count the number of times I'd been there, hanging with people, dancing to the music, the owner coming up and patting me on the back, etc. So I had no qualms about going in there with a bit of make-up during the daytime hours.

I guess that asshole must spend a fuckton of money there, because I am never giving them my business again, nor will I recommend them to anyone. Pricks. They must be dog lovers.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:23 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seattle's "Frontier Room" used to be very rough, a few decades ago-- it was the only bar in town at the time with a pool table, that being a violation of the city's ridiculously restrictive liquor licenses at that era. Word had it that both the police and liquor control board wouldn't send anyone in there, as it would be a risk to their lives.

My friend, a small guy who picks fights with larger guys becasue he always has big friends, and who has been starting barfights since he turned 17, went in for one of Frontier's notoriously strong drinks. At the bar, he caught the bartenders eye with a wave, but the bartender was conversing with a customer. He knew just to wait it out-- the bartender wasn't going to be his friend. Right next to him, though, came another customer who bellowed for the bartender and started to loudly demand immediate service. The bartender evidently signaled someone, and suddenly the loud man was hauled backwards by a bouncer so forcefully that his legs whipped up and his toes kicked the bar, which startled my friend, who then watched them man get thrown out on his ass.

It's still a place for the strongest drink in town, and you still have to respect the bartenders.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:27 PM on September 29, 2012

Mr. Purenitrous' uncle has been banned from the huge local hardware store and a tire shop for being unpleasant, forceful and overly....creative in his interpretation of their "we'll match anyone's prices" and "satisfaction guaranteed" policies.
posted by purenitrous at 5:00 PM on September 29, 2012

I know a few couples who have been denied accommodation at B&Bs and smaller road-side motels in Australia. The only thing they have in common is that they were all same-sex couples.
posted by MT at 5:25 PM on September 29, 2012

For many years, I used to sport a 5-inch tall green mohawk and wear ankle-length skirts (I'm a dude). I have been denied service at no end of establishments.
posted by 256 at 5:37 PM on September 29, 2012

Thank you tangerine for mentioning the Aub Zam Zam. That place was famous. Or infamous.
posted by ambrosia at 6:01 PM on September 29, 2012

At my previous job (retail) I had to kick people out at least once a day. The reasons usually being:

---panhandling (by far the most common)
---cruising in the men's room
---phony pitchmen for fake causes/other scam artists
---pissing on the bathroom floor/shitting on the bathroom floor
---known and proven previous shoplifting
---stalking an employee
posted by Violet Hour at 6:22 PM on September 29, 2012

Chicago's Holiday club was originally in Wicker Park. I was there on a quiet night playing pool with friends. We heard some shouting in the front of the bar but didn't think much of it; it sounded a little too forceful to be an upset sports fan, but it was over quickly. About fifteen minutes later a van drove into the front windows, backed up, and came through again at full force. I ran for the back door thinking the driver might have a gun, but he backed out again and sped off. Amazingly, no one was hurt. He had a little trouble getting over the curb and that gave time for the people sitting at the windows to move. I remember seeing one of the bartenders pulling a woman off her seat and over the bar as everyone scattered. We tried to find out what had just happened but the staff understandably wanted everyone out.

Later I read in the paper that the driver had been kicked out of the bar because he'd been pestering all the women in the bar and insisting that they take his business card. He'd had the foresight to remove the license plates from his van before his rampage, but the police just went to the address on his card to arrest him.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:52 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

We had no such sign, but when I worked for a flag manufacturer we regularly made, among other flags (there are thousands), historical flags for collectors, museums, and film studios. We discussed a well known controversial flag with a walk-in customer to whom we provided a quote for 10 3x5' replicas.

A followup confirmation on letterhead with a check from an organization we dislike arrived a week later. We returned the check with a letter advising that our production schedule didn't permit accepting the order.
posted by lathrop at 7:28 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Similar to lathrop's employer quoting for a controversial item, then refusing to produce it, a company in Lexington, KY quoted the printing of t-shirts for a Gay Pride parade, then refused to honor the order. They caught hell over that.
posted by skypieces at 8:26 PM on September 29, 2012

In the early 80's, I played in a punk band called The Whores. I went into a offset & engraving shop to have our logo made into a rubber stamp, and the guy refused because it was profane. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was premiering 2 blocks down the street at the Paramount Theater and I reckoned with him that he'd probably not refuse service to Burt Reynolds, but I failed to sway him with my rapier-like logic and wit.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:33 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ah, that reminds me of the New Mexico photography company that engaged a customer for wedding photos, only to back out when they discovered that the wedding featured two brides, no groom.

The court, followed by the NM Appeals Court, ruled that NM's definition of "public accommodation" includes photography studios (hmm, so maybe the brides-to-be wanted studio photos-- that wasn't clear), and thus they couldn't refuse the job as it was discrimination.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:01 PM on September 29, 2012

I worked for a small electronics distributor. By small I mean I was one of two people who worked there, including the owner. Very small. But at the time we were the primary distributor in town of TV components and integrated circuits.

A regular came in to buy a few parts and I started pulling the order from the shelves. Both my both and I were straight up hippies and looked the part. The customer started talking about his trip to New Orleans and then quickly started talking about how it wasn't "that bad" and "those blacks sure like to complain". My boss and I were fully aware that this guy didn't step out of the french quarter while he was there, but I digress.

I brought the paper bag with the parts to the counter, and my boss intercepted it and told the guy to get the hell out and come back another day when he decided to "shut [his] fucking mouth". The guy tried to apologize but my boss wouldn't let him, letting him know that he could pick up and pay for the parts tomorrow, which he did. And he indeed, kept his mouth shut.

The guy continued to be a regular, but I never heard him say anything except "please" and "thank you" after that point.

Seriously gratifying.
posted by triceryclops at 12:39 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I worked at a bar in a college town, the manager kicked some guys I was waiting on out because they made racist remarks (the manager, the patrons and I were all white, the comments were made against black people in general).
posted by Pax at 12:27 PM on October 1, 2012

Thanks to everyone who participated. You provided a lot of interesting tales.
posted by mr. digits at 4:38 PM on November 6, 2012

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