29 CFR § 779.328 - Retail and wholesale distinguished.
(a) The distinction between a retail sale and a wholesale sale is one of fact. Typically, retail sales are made to the general consuming public. The sales are numerous and involve small quantities of goods or services. Wholesale establishments usually exclude the general consuming public as a matter of established business policy and confine their sales to other wholesalers, retailers, and industrial or business purchasers in quantities greater than are normally sold to the general consuming public at retail. What constitutes a small quantity of goods depends, of course, upon the facts in the particular case and the quantity will vary with different commodities and in different trades and industries. Thus, a different quantity would be characteristic of retail sales of canned tomato juice, bed sheets, furniture, coal, etc. The quantity test is a well-recognized business concept. There are reasonably definite limits as to the quantity of a particular commodity which the general consuming public regularly purchases at any given time at retail and businessmen are aware of these buying habits. These buying habits set the standard for the quantity of goods which is recognized in an industry as the subject of a retail sale. Quantities which are materially in excess of such a standard are generally regarded as wholesale and not retail quantities.
(b) The sale of goods or services in a quantity approximating the quantity involved in a normal wholesale transaction and as to which a special discount from the normal retail price is given is generally regarded as a wholesale sale in most industries. Whether the sale of such a quantity must always involve a discount in order to be considered a wholesale sale depends upon industry practice. If the practice in a particular industry is such that a discount from the normal retail price is not regarded in the industry as significant in determining whether the sale of a certain quantity is a wholesale sale, then the question of whether the sale of such a quantity will be considered a wholesale sale would be determined without reference to the price. In some industries, the sale of a small quantity at a discount may also be regarded as a wholesale sale, in which case it will be so treated for purposes of the exemption. Generally, as the Supreme Court has recognized (Wirtz v. Steepleton General Tire Co., 383 U.S. 1900), both the legislative history and common parlance suggest that “the term retail becomes less apt as the quantity and the price discount increases in a particular transaction.”
(c) In some cases, a purchaser contracts for the purchase of a large quantity of goods or services to be delivered or performed in smaller quantities or jobs from time to time as the occasion requires. In other cases, the purchaser instead of entering into a single contract for the entire amount of goods, or services, receives a series of regular deliveries of performances pursuant to a quotation, bid, estimate, or general business arrangement or understanding. In these situations, if the total quantity of goods or services which is sold is materially in excess of the total quantity of goods or services which might reasonably be purchased by a member of the general consuming public during the same period, it will be treated as a wholesale quantity for purposes of the statutory definition of the term “retail or service establishment”, in the absence of clear evidence that under such circumstances such a quantity is recognized as a retail quantity in the particular industry. For example, if a food service firm contracts with a college to provide meals for the latter's boarding students for a term, in consideration of payment by the college of a stipulated sum based on the number of students registered or provided with meals, the services are being sold in a wholesale, rather than a retail quantity. If such a contract is entered into as a result of formal bids, as noted in paragraph (d) of this section, this would be an additional reason for nonrecognition of the transaction as a retail sale of such services.
(d) Sales made pursuant to formal bid procedures, such as those utilized by the agencies of Federal, State, and local governments and oftentimes by commercial and industrial concerns involving the issuance by the buyer of a formal invitation to bid on certain merchandise or services for delivery in accordance with prescribed terms and specifications, are not recognized as retail sales.