General Question

kritiper's avatar

If a business provided a special free service to one or more customers without offering the same service to all customers, could the business be guilty of violating Federal discrimination laws?

Asked by kritiper (5031 points ) April 3rd, 2014

As stated.

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10 Answers

dappled_leaves's avatar

Doubtful. This is the basis of all customer loyalty programs, for example.

So, what’s the veiled analogy?

kritiper's avatar

@dappled_leaves I don’t offer special custom scheduling for my customers because of the extra costs involved. One of my customers wants me to provide him with a special separate service schedule, not for himself, but for another company, at no cost. I have refused these requests in the past, because my policy has always been that if I can’t offer the service to all, I will offer it to none. To do so would not be cost effective and would put me out of business.

kritiper's avatar

@dappled_leaves Forgot to mention that my work I involves me going to the customer’s house to do the work. I usually start at one customer’s house and work my way across town. It isn’t cost effective to bypass a customer to make a special trip back at an earlier or later time.

Judi's avatar

If it were in housing it would if they were discriminating against a protected class.

pleiades's avatar

@kritiper Or you can use the Wal Mart method. Basically sell service for cheap, word of mouth spreads, and you get more business. Wal Mart method is basically they live off of sheer numbers of massive amounts of people buying stuff, even if they are losing money on one product, they are killing it profit wise with another. A method I can think of for you is to get a pretty good sized deposit, “service fee set up” and that should carry you over initially while the rest of the service the whole year would probably flatten, however, you wouldn’t need to worry about this if you are constantly getting new business. The upkeep and amount of customers may be overwhelming if you gave out such a “sweet deal” but your bank account would rise I would imagine.

Cruiser's avatar

You are not discriminating by equally offering special service to customers that have earned that level of service from you….these are preferred customer or loyal customer rewards type programs that can often offer free “upgrades” to customers that a business offers in the end hope it continues to generate more business from this customer. Airlines and casinos to name just 2 employ this tactic very skillfully.

If you are offering this free service to one person and not the other based on sex, race, (religion…though this is a highly contested slippery slope), sexual orientation, handicap, age etc….you could very well trigger a discrimination law suit.

zenvelo's avatar

Discrimination laws have to do with discrimination based on choosing or selecting based on characteristics that are protected. But we all discriminate on some basis – repeat customers, or price, or convenience, or location, or hours.

Your choice is not about discriminating, but if it is possible to adjust your schedule to satisfy your customer. If you can and that is business you want to keep, great! But if you can’t you have to weigh the benefits and the costs by staying as you are.

ibstubro's avatar

Stick to your guns.

It sounds as if you’re trying to find a legal loophole that will prohibit you from giving in and you don’t need one. Just say no. If you cave word of mouth will spread and you’ii loose customers that you’re not offering the service to.

It’s a can of worms that needs to remain unopened. I have a small, local, privately owned business and I speak from experience.

kritiper's avatar

@ibstubro Thanks, dude!

ibstubro's avatar

I have an auction house and one woman complained every sale that she didn’t have a permanent bid number, @kritiper. I decided to reserve the first 13 numbers to save the 5ยข printing cost. (13 numbers per sign in sheet, and the ‘help’ used about ½ of the first 13). I was excited to finally give her #12. Next sale? She complained bitterly that she didn’t get a bid card because she wouldn’t have anything to write on. Another long-tern bidder quit in a huff, sending (what she thought was anonymously) an email saying if she wasn’t good enough to have a permanent number, her money wasn’t good enough to spend at our auction. People are nuts.

Stick to your guns.

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