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Dear Jido,

I am a happily married 40-year-old woman with four children and a father who only lives a few blocks away from me. While my father is a very honest and respectable man, he is also a very picky and demanding consumer. When he purchases something – whether it be a product, a service, or a meal – he expects it to be 100% worth the money that he paid for it.  When he is unhappy or disappointed with his purchase, he expects that he will be treated respectfully and that the problem will be resolved quickly. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. So, when he feels that a salesperson or store manager has not dealt with him properly, he gets very upset and no longer shops at that store. Not only that, he insists that my family and I no longer shop at the establishment as well. I was able to comply with the first store or two on his ‘No Shop List,’ but lately it has been getting out of hand. He just recently ‘banned’ me from shopping at one of my favorite stores! I really do not want to obey his latest ‘ban’ – but I do not want to be disrespectful either. I know that sooner or later he’d find out that I was still shopping at this store so hiding my patronage is not an option. How do I go about defying my father’s wishes without upsetting him?

Signed,
The Banned Shopper

Dear Banned,

Once upon a time, there was an expression we all held by: “The customer is always right”. Unfortunately, today, customer service isn’t what it used to be. It is not surprising that your father has come across several establishments where the service provided was less than expected – but to prohibit his family (and friends) from patronizing those places of business may actually infringe on several Jewish laws.

The Torah clearly states: “Lo tikom v’lo titor.” Do not take revenge and do not hold a grudge. The store manager or salespeople may have behaved improperly from your father’s point of view, but that is not reason enough for someone to break these two important precepts. If, in fact, the manager had cheated your father or was dishonest, then it’s likely your father would be correct in warning you to be wary of doing business with the establishment. The fact remains, some people choose not to harp upon service, as long as the price and quality of the product is up to par. Preventing others from shopping somewhere for personal reasons might be wrong from a Jewish perspective.

Of course, there is also the question of obeying your father’s wishes. As we know, “Kibud Av v’Em,” – honoring one’s father and mother – is one of the Ten Commandments. There are specific requirements as well as restrictions in this observance. For example, if your parent were to tell you to do something against the Torah, like eat unkosher or profane Shabbat, you would not be obligated to obey them. Your father’s instructions not to patronize these stores might fall under the same category, since by doing so, your father, in effect, would be taking revenge.

Perhaps the best solution would be to help make peace between the storeowner and your father. If you broach the incident with the intent of making peace, there’d be a “to’elet” – a benefit. As a result of this new understanding, the entire family, your father included, could enjoy what the store provides with renewed satisfaction. In the process, you’d also be honoring your father by ensuring that others accord him the respect he is due.

I would also suggest you seek an additional source of guidance from your rabbi.

Sincerely,
Jido