Is it okay for a business to refuse to sell to suspected hoarders?

If I have customers who are spending half of their annual income on my products, and the products really shouldn’t cost more than 5-10% of their annual income tops, can I limit annual spending?

I feel bad when a customer making $60,000 spends $30,000 a year but only needs maybe $6,000 per year buys from me.

Maybe if they want to explain having higher income I could lift that limit?

Are you asking for people’s opinions or legal advice? Either way this might be better for IMHO.

I’m wondering how you know (or suspect) these people are hoarders, and how you know (or suspect) what their income is.

My uninformed, unexpert opinion is that you shouldn’t refuse to sell to them, both because it’s None Of Your Business and that you wouldn’t really be doing them any good. But I’m wondering if there’s some sort of mental health or social agency you can call in.

You can refuse to sell anything to anyone unless you violate laws against discrimination or other laws–for example you can’t refuse to sell to blacks.

If the case you are talking about I expect the person would simply switch to another supplier.

You can refuse to sell to them.

Why would you want to refuse business? If they want to spend their money with you let them.

In this example, I would not suspect hoarding, I’d suspect that my prices were too low and the big spenders were reselling my product.

I would suspect if you quit selling to them, they would just go to the next place selling the same thing.

I agree that this is better for IMHO.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

As has been said, legally you can refuse to sell to anyone for any reason, as long as it’s not on the basis of them belonging to a protected class.

Beyond this, I’m not sure how what they do with their money is your concern. Maybe if you were selling them something addictive (but legal) it could be a moral issue. But if they are hoarding, they can presumably resell the product at some point, and so haven’t lost much (if they can resell it at something close to its purchase price.)

It would help to know what the product is. Is it something like canned food, and the customer is a survivalist? Or is it something that’s not a necessity, like ceramic figurines?

Actually, I believe you can refuse to sell to a person who happens to be black (or other ethnicity), as long as the reason you’re refusing to sell to them is NOTbecause they’re black”. So if you’re refusing them service because they’re not wearing shirt or shoes, it does not matter if they are a member of a protected class. Not wearing shirt or shoes is not a protected class.

But you’d better not sell to a white male who’s not wearing shirt or shoes either.

I am a recovering hoarder type person. It’s a fight everyday. I would just go somewhere else if someone refused to sell me something I really wanted.

Of course. I don’t have to sell to a person who walks into my store naked, screaming and covered in faeces just because his skin is some color!

I thought the hoarder lifestyle developed from people not throwing stuff away as opposed to actively acquiring more stuff.

To the OP - it’s good of you to want to do the right thing here, although I have the same question as others here, how do you really know what’s going on with your customers?

As others have said, you can refuse service to anyone provided your motivation for refusal is not protected class status. The slightly odd thing here is that you cannot discriminate based on disability status, and mental health is a disability. So you cannot refuse to do routine business with someone because they are mentally ill. However, what happens if you are refusing to accommodate the symptoms of their pathology? To take a more extreme example, if someone is suicidal due to mental illness, it’s clearly preposterous to suggest that you cannot refuse to sell them materials that you reasonably suspect may be the means to kill themselves.

OP: suppose you were a travel agent and they were spending $30,000 of their $60,000 income on trips abroad. Would this also bother you–that they have a travel addiction?

Yup, I think this is kind of the issue. If someone has a firm diagnosis of mental illness, and the symptoms of the pathology are directly and obviously harmful, common sense tells you that it would be reasonable not to enable them. But the distinction between “buying a lot of otherwise non-harmful stuff because I like it” and a pathology is not a bright and obvious line.

If you have clear reason to believe that someone buying from you is a pathological hoarder, I tend to think you should get legal advice on your best course of action.

I don’t know the legality, but I can sympathise- even working in a little newsagent that sold lottery tickets, it didn’t take long to work out who was buying them for a bit of a flutter and who was spending more than they could afford on a desperate hope. People who would dither over paying £2.50 for a block of cheese, would pay the minimum off their electricity bills with every scrap of change they could find, but spent £30 a week on tickets and scratchcards.

We were allowed to refuse to sell booze to the local alcoholics, but not tickets to the lottery addicts. It felt pretty horrible, even knowing they’d just go three doors down if I could refuse.

Am I the only one who really, really wants to know what on earth the OP sells?

Might the person be reselling?

I think bartenders have it hard. Knowing the local lush was spending the rent for a few nights of drunkedness. Alcoholism is a disease. So the barman has to judge who has the disease and if he has keys. That’s a big responsibility. IMO.

You have to acquire stuff before you can decide to not throw it away. My sister was a hoarder. She had a room full of boxes of stuff she’d ordered from QVC and never even opened.