Open Thread

by epi on September 12, 2012

Welcome to the Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Just Laura September 12, 2012 at 10:03 am

Good morning, friends,
There are many restaurants/bars near my husband’s business. We like to be friendly and patronize their establishments, and the owners/workers from those places visit Husband’s business as well. One nearby restaurant has a bar in a different space that isn’t accessible to those who would require an elevator. Oh, there’s an elevator, but the public isn’t allowed to use it (I’ve asked the manager how a person in a wheelchair would get to enjoy the bar’s live music… she told me “I’m sorry, I guess they can’t”). Obviously the business is breaking federal law and discriminating against a portion of the public. They get away with it because the owners are wealthy and important around this small town.
As a result, I don’t want to go to this particular bar. Our of respect for the polite face my husband wishes to maintain with other business owners, I keep my mouth firmly shut. Sometimes, though, people invite us over to that establishment. I am extremely uncomfortable patronizing a place that finds it acceptable to discriminate against others. Normally I decline and my husband goes by himself, but that may look odd after a while.
Any suggestions?

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Chocobo September 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

Please, stick to your guns. If there is anything etiquette calls us to do, it is to eschew discrimination and injustice. Let it look odd that you continually go to other businesses except for this one, perhaps someone will catch the hint at some point. What a wonderful way to slowly tell people something is wrong without ranting, by letting them realize: “Gee, Just Laura always comes and has a good time everywhere else. She always seems so pleasant. I wonder why she doesn’t go to XYZ establishment, then.” Instruct your husband to simply say that, sadly, you couldn’t make it, any time the invitation is to this bar.

If someone does catch on and ask about it, surely there is a polite way of saying that you don’t agree with their business practices to not accommodate the handicapped.

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Joanna September 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Ditto. As a disabled young adult myself, who MUST use an elevator to access such businesses, I take offense that someone just blows off the question like that.

Here’s the ADA website – you’ll find everything you need about the laws, including how and where to file a complaint if you choose to do so.

http://www.ada.gov/

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Just Laura September 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I have already filed a formal complaint with the DoJ, citing the exact piece of ADA law. I work in the ADA office of a major university. :) Unfortunately, the DoJ can take a few months to respond.

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Elizabeth September 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I think it is great that you’re doing this. People should comply with the law and not discriminate!

Jerry September 12, 2012 at 8:23 pm

It may be that the management is not aware of the ADA or any similar provision of state law that would require them to accommodate customers with a disability. One of the major issues with small business owners is an occasional ignorance as to their legal obligations. This can be particularly true with the obligations imposed by the ADA. (And speaking of obligations imposed by the ADA, are you sure that the small business owner has a duty to provide accommodations under all of the facts of this case? Remember, the accommodations a small business is expected to make under the ADA will be very different than the accommodations a major university will have to make under the ADA.)

I think you could have done them a great kindness by asking the seemingly innocuous question, “how does your business comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?” as opposed to the narrow question of how someone in a wheelchair might access the facility. It is certainly preferable to try to (politely) alert the management that it is discriminating against the disabled than to lodge an anonymous complaint with the DOJ in the first instance. Government investigations are expensive both for the tax payers and for the target of the investigation, and they leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Elizabeth September 13, 2012 at 12:29 am

If you’ve opened a bar, then you’ve worked with an architect, shown your plans to the city, gotten a liquor license. There is. No excuse for that kind of ignorance!

Clara September 12, 2012 at 10:44 am

I was just having a discussion yesterday with my Dad regarding how many times you can decline an invitation before you are questioned, so I feel that Just Laura’s dilemma ties into that. I told my Dad that my understanding is that, when it comes to etiquette, you never have to explain why you are not coming to something (obviously there may be exceptions…but as a general rule it is believed to be rude to ask why someone has declined an invitation).. I was glad to see Chocobo reinforce this idea with letting it look odd that Just Laura continually goes to other establishments, but not the discriminating one.

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Joanna September 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Yes, that’s my understanding as well — it’s rude to ask why. However, I would imagine a person could get around that by asking something like, “We haven’t seen much of you lately! Is everything ok?” and still be asking basically the same thing but be technically considered merely polite and caring.

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NyLon September 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I’ve read this blog daily and enjoy the questions asked and advice given. But more and more I feel myself annoyed by the self-congratulatory ‘questions’ that have been showing up. These tend to be personal opinions dressed as questions, usually in an effort to fish for compliments or pats on backs: e.g. “am I wrong to think that registeries are tacky?”; “wasn’t it rude that she hosted her own baby shower?”; “Is it OK that I don’t patronise an establishment that doesn’t take disabled rights into consideration?”.

It’s insufferable and entirely avoidable.

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Just Laura September 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I never asked if everyone thought it was okay that I don’t patronize this establishment. I already know that’s acceptable. My question is how should I handle the inevitable questions that will arise from my frequenting every nearby place except this one, and my husband visits it alone.

Some people like to ask questions to feel better about their positions. Why should we be judgmental of that?

What I find insufferable is when someone misquotes me.

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Jody September 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Nylon, I think each of us is entitled to his own opinion. Every once in awhile there’s a question (or, more often, responses) that I don’t enjoy reading — nobody’s forcing me to read them and I just skip over them. I do like to see all types of questions here because I never know what will be something that I’ll be interested in or can answer. I don’t see them all as self-congratulatory, either. I view most of them as “I thought this was correct when I did it but am I wrong” or “I thought this was the etiquette rule but have things changed” type questions.

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Winifred Rosenburg September 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I agree with Jody. I interpret the types of questions you are referring to as a sign of modesty of the questioner that even though they think they know the answer they would like others’ opinions. Even if your view is correct, you are free to correct anything you disagree with about their opinion.

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Elizabeth September 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Just to argue for the usefulness of such questions: I think that people sometimes post questions that seek affirmation because they have been told by one or more people that they are wrong. For example: Perhaps a misguided MIL is urging her DIL to set up a big registry, and the DIL is having a hard time explaining why she’d prefer not to. Asking the question “am I wrong to think that registries are tacky?” is a great way to elicit responses that are reasons why other people agree. Then, this person can turn around and use those reasons during the next conversation with MIL. Put another way, sometimes people feel a certain way but they want to have a better argument. This can be a good place to find it.

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Chocobo September 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm

I went back to read the discussions you’ve brought up, and just as with Just Laura’s question about the ADA non-compliant business, that isn’t what was asked at all. I’m sure next time, we’d all be happy for you to join in the discussions with something constructive to say.

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Alicia September 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Well I think that whatever questions people ask are answered. If you wish to ask a different type of question or to see a different type of question then please ask away.

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Just Laura September 12, 2012 at 8:47 pm

As I feel that brevity is a virtue, I did leave out a few facts that would clear up some of your questions.

Yes, I am aware of how the ADA applies to restaurants/bars/other small businesses (remember, my husband owns a business and I have actually read the 2010 ADA Amendments as I deal with ADA compliance daily). In my DoJ complaint, I cited the exact code by number: Advisory 206.2.5 Restaurants and Cafeterias Exception 2. The inaccessible area has a completely different theme from upstairs (even has a different name), and offers live music. The accessible area does not.
I am not the only person who has asked waitstaff, an owner and a manager how a person might access this inaccessible level. Others from my office have done so, and so have a few members of the community. Our answers range from “Sorry” to “It’s a fire code issue, since elevators can’t be used during fires” (if that’s true, then no buildings would need elevators since most people using wheelchairs can’t use the stairs in the event of fire). My coworker (who recently moved), actually got into a shouting match with some of the employees who were defending the position that a person in a wheelchair could hear the live music drift up the stairs, so isn’t actually missing out on any experience at all. As I prefer to not shout in public, I have been keeping my mouth shut as of late.
In short, no one wants to change anything.
And this saddens me.

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Jerry September 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Oh, I know you’re familiar with the ADA in your compliance role. But my point was that it isn’t fair to call the feds unless you’ve specifically raised the ADA with the offending business owner. If you have, and they don’t understand they have a duty to accommodate, then get the [illegitimate]s.

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Just Laura September 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm

LOL, Jerry, I always welcome your comments.
There are several owners of this business (I am not even certain of all of them), so to my knowledge, it’s only been brought up with one of them. The business has been open over a year, and I waited until last week to file an official complaint, hoping that they were merely getting the kinks worked out. I do believe that I give others the benefit of the doubt; after all, I would want someone to show patience with me.

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Country Girl September 13, 2012 at 6:05 am

Laura, this solution requires a bit more involvement than you were probably asking, but do you happen to know anyone who is disabled and might be willing to help this cause? Someone willing to test the waters and/or prove the point if necessary?

You say the process with the ADA is a somewhat long one. And I could be wrong, but potentially fruitless if the owners fib about the usage of their working elevator? Perhaps a more effective and immediate way to bring the issue to light would be to force the establishment to come literally face-to-face with it. You might invite a disabled friend to join your group gathering to really prove your point, or (since you have already made your feelings known to the owner) you could even choose to distance yourself from the experiment to avoid any potential drama for your family business.

This person will find out how this establishment actually reacts to a disabled patron. When he/she (surrounded by a group of friends/family… all with the ability to spread bad or good word of mouth) asks how to get to the bar and live music upstairs, would the owners really be so bold as to say “Sorry you can’t access the fun upstairs because, you see, we have this arbitrary rule about our elevator.”?… If the owners don’t choose to instantly abort their silly rule in this situation (and I can’t imagine them not), seeing the immediate negative effects of their decision (Ie. a large group of angry, paying customers storming out of their establishment) will probably help change their tune.

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Just Laura September 13, 2012 at 9:17 am

About 6 months ago, a student club from the university went in to this business. One of the members uses a wheelchair. Upon learning they could not get to the other level, the entire group walked out. Nothing has changed.

I have a cousin who uses a wheelchair due to a car accident, but I feel very uncomfortable using him to make this point (and I don’t know that he’d feel so great calling attention to his disability in such a public manner). I prefer to distance myself from that sort of thing.

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