Records’ Ace Hardware of Raton, New Mexico, or Any Business, Have a Right to Refuse Service to Anyone?

Can Records’ Ace Hardware deny service? In theory, the answer is yes. But, yes is almost always the wrong answer.

In practice, the correct answer is usually, no. Every publicly accessed business, such as a retailer, needs to be extremely careful about denying access to customers. A business shouldn’t refuse service except under very narrow, reasonable, consistently applied, and easily defensible reasons.

In my case, I was thrown off Records’ Ace Hardware’s property because they refused to serve me, and I refused to leave until they did. The main reason they refused to serve me is probably both simple and stupid. They do not like my contractor. And by extension or association or projection, they do not like me.

I believe there are also other possible, more subtle, but no less insidious, reasons that Marty and Jeff Record “don’t like me”. It’s my opinion that these arrogant people had it in for me, and were just looking for any excuse to harm me and to interfere with my business.

Let’s start with most obvious reason, my contractor.

Can there be any legally defensible justification for The Record Family to cause me (“the son”) to pay for the sins of my contractor (“the father”)? Simply stated, no.

Whatever happened on that day when my contractor brought back the faulty hopper, I had no hand in it. I was not there, and I cannot be held responsible for the actions of others. If Jeffrey or Martin Records has an issue with my contractor, then they have every right to litigate that matter against him.

On October 9, I made a clear and specific statement to Raton Record’s Ace Hardware staff and owners that my contractor would not be using the trencher. I was paying for it, so I would be responsible for it. As far as The Records Boys knew, I would be using the trencher on a job unrelated to the one on which my contractor was stationed.

Which leads us to query, is there any way to conclude that Records’ Ace Hardware is acting in a reasonable or consistent manner, by refusing to rent me the trencher, just because they don’t like my contractor? Does Records’ Raton Ace even have a reasonable and defensible written policy, one that is consistently applied and enforced, stating they won’t rent equipment under some clearly defined circumstances — ones that might be interpreted to include our situation? Could any rental-related rules logically say something like “we won’t rent equipment to anyone associated in any way with someone else that we don’t like or with whom we’ve had issues”? In my judgment, that policy would be struck down by any competent court as ridiculous and discriminatory. And, if they had (and enforced) such a policy, they wouldn’t be doing many rentals to anyone.

At our October 9 meeting, Jeffrey Record, and a woman I took to be his wife, also went further, grasping for straws as it were, by profiling me and then refusing to rent me the trencher. Paraphrasing, they said I was too old and frail and could not handle the great big $20,000 piece of construction equipment. And, if they would not rent the trencher to their mother, they would not rent it to me. Well, I am a bit on the older side (62 years old, which puts me in a protected age class, by the way). But I am six feet two, 190 pounds, of average strength, and in good health. Unless Raton Records Ace Hardware has appointed itself my primary care physician, then those Record Folks have no expertise or basis to profile me and reach that conclusion.

So far, we’ve covered ageism and “we don’t like the people you associate with”. Now, let’s consider some other discriminatory factors that The Records Gang may be applying in their quest to deny service to their (de)valued customers.

  • Religion (protected class). It is possible they don’t like (what they guess to be) my religious affiliation, or they feel competitive or disdainful because they “see themselves in me” as reflects how they act under their religion or their philosophical ethics.
  • Gender (protected class). Men are competitive by nature. The Men of Records Ace may be envious of me, or feel they have to diminish me, for their dark and selfish reasons.
  • Color/national origin. I am a White guy in a predominantly Hispanic area. There is an undertone of anti-White sentiment in this area. This also checks the “You’re not from around these parts” box, which is another reason that I think also stokes Records’ bad attitudes.
  • We Just Don’t Like You. The Raton Ace Hardware store “is the place with the least helpful (most hateful) hardware folks”. There are many 1-star Google reviews that highlight this retailer’s rude and disinterested service. Record’s Ace and its staff are not helpful or friendly. It may be that they just don’t like much of anybody, that it’s not just me. But, seems like every time I went in there, I got the “stink eye” or “side eye”. I felt my business wasn’t appreciated, no help was offered, and my person was treated to scornful and contemptuous looks.

In any case, I don’t believe Records’ Ace Hardware of Raton, NM could legally defend any of these reasons to discriminate or to refuse service in a civil court action.

Here are some links to good articles on civil rights violations, stemming from refusal of service:

https://www.insureon.com/blog/can-you-legally-refuse-to-serve-your-customers

https://www.insidetucsonbusiness.com/news/when-is-refusing-service-legal-and-when-is-it-discrimination/article_305de452-a55b-11e3-8245-001a4bcf887a.html

https://www.business2community.com/trends-news/right-refuse-service-businesses-discrimination-0766551

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