The Cost of Refusing Business

A couple of weeks ago the Skepticon (free-thinkers) Convention rolled into Springfield, MO. But they’re coming caused a rucus that reverberated not only through our fair city, but also through the internet. Really, though, it was not the fault of the Skepticon attendees. They were just having a discussion outside of a local shop about their views. Could they have been nicer and a little less judgemental? Possibly. But the patron of the shop didn’t have to do what he did. Lost yet? Let me explain.

On Saturday, the 19th of November, a group of Skepticon attendees were standing outside of Gelato Mio, a local italian ice-cream shop just off the square. The owner of Gelato Mio, Andy Drennan, stepped outside to learn more about the group. They had been coming into his shop all evening and he was curious about them, as they had seemed like very nice people.

What he found was not what he expected. He thought the convention was about UFOs, not non-believers and free-thinkers. When he encountered someone giving a mock sermon with the bible, he was incensed and immediately turned around and marched back to his shop. When he got there, he found the first piece of paper and pen he could grab and wrote this note:

An unwelcoming sign briefly taped to Gelato Mio's front door Saturday night by owner Andy Drennen targeted Skepticon. photo courtesy of pixelstampede.wordpress.com

It took about ten minutes for Andy to cool down. Once he did, he realized he had a made a mistake and took the sign down, but not before someone took a picture and posted it on the internet. Since the incident Andy has endured ridicule and then forgiveness (after he posted a public apology).

Now, you may ask, why is what Andy did wrong? Well, other than the fact that it violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it also caused an internet sensation (and not in a good way). As a local business, we find this news troubling.

Does it hurt us when our beliefs are taunted and ridiculed? Of course it does, but as a business you don’t have the right to refuse a person business based on the fact that their beliefs are different than yours (no matter how rude they are).

The apology Andy Drennan offered, to all of his customers and the Skeptic community, was very heart-felt and seems to have done the job. And we want him and everyone else to know that we’re not writing this blog post to condemn what he did. He made a mistake (granted is was a pretty big mistake that could have been avoided with some cooling-off time) and we’re all human. We can all relate in some way. What we are writing this for is to warn other business owners. There will be many times at work, and other places where we will encounter those whose beliefs are not as our own or whose words cut us to the bone. These times are tough and not always handled well. Even I have succummed to doing something irrational in the heat of the moment. But it is at these times when we need to try and remember that our actions have consequences. We should practice at all times discretion, for it will serve us better than emotion in most cases.

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