Service with a Smile…Or Refusal to Serve?

Given the news headlines, do you want to just shut off the noise?  I know I do. However, ignoring an issue is rarely the right answer. And, for the people that are the subject of the headline, they have no way to escape life’s challenges.

A few headlines, sometimes getting lost in all the terror and political speak, require additional consideration and perhaps action. In fall 2015 headlines of people refusing to serve police officers in restaurants started popping up. I thought that was puzzling at first, and now, I can recall seven incidents in less than one year in many geographic areas of our country with a similar story. While I’m certain I’ve missed headlines, below are the ones that stick in my mind. Please be aware I have ZERO personal knowledge of any of the following, and therefore have not included the company names. I am just recalling stories from the press.

  •  9/15 Florida. Employee suspended for refusing to serve a police officer.
  • 9/15 Texas. Employee terminated after refusing to serve an officer.
  • 9/15 Philadelphia. Employee refused to give the bathroom key code to an officer. Later a manager said the store policy was only paying customers could use the restroom. That policy has been changed.
  • 7/16 Northern Virginia. Unknown disciplinary action when cook pointed to police officer and said, “You better pull me off the line because I’m not serving that.” A cashier laughed.
  • 7/16 Alabama. Employee terminated when refused to serve an officer.
  • 7/16 Texas. Employee fired when refused to serve police officer.
  • 7/16 Washington. Owner requested officers discontinue patronage. Apologies and officers now welcomed.

The trend is disturbing. On the surface it appears as if both the citizens and officers need to develop better relationships. But, while having conversations with our family and friends, we need to remember who we ask to protect our democracy. For those of us who can’t imagine treating an officer in this manner, what can we do?

  • Show support. Thank officers when you see them. Wave at officers when you drive by. Stop by with food at your local station. Place blue/gold ribbon on your front door or in your yard.
  • Donate to local police officer (and all first responder) funds (verified to be the real deal).
  • Champion the cause to support first responders within your neighborhood.

For those angry at police, I’m not the best person to give advice. However, I can’t think of a time in our history that blaming a group of people for a few bad actors has helped resolve an issue. In fact, millions of Americans for generations have been working to discourage this exact behavior. Democracy works when we respect each other.

For employees, as a practical matter, are you in a position to risk your future employment for a one-time display of anger at a person you don't even know?

For employers, remember to continue your training on customer service, harassment and discrimination.

For all of us, support our officers and be open to listening to differing views.

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