CN: Ableism, capitalism
Businesses these days are highly dependent on good reviews. A positive score on Yelp, Amazon, or Trip Advisor can make or break a small business. For service industry businesses like restaurants, retail, and hospitality this can create some unique conflicts. Specifically, not everything people include in their reviews is easy for the business to control, and customers interactions with other customers can have an unexpectedly large impact on review scores.
When customers hold a business accountable for the behavior of other customers, this can have good impacts. It can help encourage a bar to kick out men who are overly creepy to women, or give a reason for a hotel to ask a very loud party group to be quiet or leave. When customer reviews help keep businesses from participating in oppression, or help them to keep rude people in check, this is great!
However, the expectations of customers can also carry bigotry of their own. Customers can, and do, let their own prejudices influence their view of a business, and can bring down the rating of businesses because the perceive them as having too many people of color, or too many queer people, or too many poor people. This can put pressure on a business to be more oppressive, rather than less.
This problem becomes particularly stark when businesses deal with customers who are disabled in various ways, especially those with mental illness or disabilities that make people behave in strange ways. As a result of cultural ableism, many people become incredibly uncomfortable when they encounter someone behaving strangely. If they check into a hotel, and there is someone pacing and talking to themselves, the customer’s whole experience is influenced by the discomfort they have with the possibly mentally ill person. When an autistic child makes noise in a theater, the rest of the audience has reactions to that, and most of those reactions are bad.
Different, disabled, and ill people should have access to businesses and experiences just like everyone else. That child has a right to attend the theater and the person talking to themselves has a right to stay in a hotel. If the general public becomes less ableist and more understanding of all disabilities, but especially those that are related to the kinds of behaviors that make neurotypical people uncomfortable, this will mean businesses will not suffer when they serve disabled customers. Businesses have a responsibility to serve all customers equally, and those that do so will be more successful when their customers recognize that.
I encourage service industry businesses to strive to serve disabled customers well, and also to work with disabled communities to decrease ableism in the general culture. It will help those businesses in the long run when all of their customers understand that we all have rights, even when our behavior may seem strange.