“My people perish for a lack of knowledge.”—HOSEA 4:6
In a show of solidarity, I often patronize Black businesses and service providers in my neighboring areas. Though I am certainly not obligated to, economically speaking, it just makes good business sense.
When Blacks collectively support one another and share our wealth, it keeps money, resources and job opportunities in our communities.
Allowing us to be more self-sustaining, empowered and frankly, to survive.
There is great truth to the adage, “There is strength in numbers.”
Don’t believe the hype: we’re not All on welfare. As a race, we definitely have financial “swagger.”
( In fact, a recent Nielsen Report puts Black spending power at about 1.2 Trillion).
Which is why I am saddened that my allegiance of support is too often short-circuited, and I find that I must “shop til I drop” where I get the most value, (as opposed to where I might prefer to spend my loot) for a laundry list of cardinal sins that include:
- Operating on “C.P.” time–Stores that open later than the designated signage time
- Crappy customer service–More “attitude” than gratitude by owners and disgruntled employees
- Marketing materials that force me to play “Hide and Go Seek” (for lack of contact number, hours, prices, website, etc.)
- Prices so high that it can trigger nose-bleed
- And a general lack of respect for my time, loyalty and hard-earned cash
All of this serving as contributing factors for why I am forced to frequent Arab-owned, Mexican managed, Caucasian created or, “fill in the blank” establishments to supply my varying needs or either go without.
It also should be mentioned, that if I want to be ignored, challenged, harassed or stressed, I can get that kind of treatment from home for free–thank you.
Here’s a case in point. About two months ago, a young man rang my doorbell to offer his local grass cutting/yard maintenance service.
Though I already had a lawn care service provider, I respected his “hustle” and decided that I could use him for additional work. He seemed eager and enterprising.
We communicated by phone and text for a few days to iron out the relevant details to seal the deal.
The day he was supposed to arrive, I hadn’t seen nor heard from him at the expected time. 30 minutes later, I decided to call him to find out what was causing the delay. The phone rang about four times. On the 5th ring he picked up. After I identified myself, he said: “Ooh snap, thanks for waking me up this morning, I overslept!” “Did you still want me to come through and do that yard?” Frustrated and frazzled, I said to him, “How much longer before I can expect you?” (Reminding him that he was already behind schedule).
He nonchalantly responded: “Well, I need to take a shower, eat breakfast and then take my medication. Then I should be okay to come.”
Reluctantly, I agreed to wait (since I had already lost part of the day).
Two hours later, still a no-show, I called him back again. He told me that, “What had happened was… he was tied up still because he unexpectedly had to babysit.”
That was the last time we spoke.
In another “Ripley’s-believe-it-or-not” installment of Why Patronizing Black Businesses Makes me Blue, I met a Black baker at a local Farmer’s Market. Of about a dozen tables, there were only two Black females represented.
To be inclusive, as I walked around, I bought several items from my shopping list (regardless of the vendor’s color): tomatoes, hot peppers, fruits, honey, etc.
Being a “foodie” I couldn’t leave without scoring some desserts.
Near the exit, there was a Nubian sister who wore a big smile despite the downpour of rain that day. I was impressed with her visual display, her professionalism, and her very reasonable prices.
And it didn’t end there: once I tasted her Red Velvet cupcakes, “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill!”
When I arrived home later, I decided I would contact this baker to place an order for more cupcakes for an upcoming literary event I would be hosting. It would be a win/win for both of us.
I reached in my bag to retrieve the business card she had given me earlier.
Excited to connect, my enthusiasm was short-lived.
I couldn’t believe what I discovered. There was no contact number provided anywhere.
Instead, her business card reflected her business name and a message that stated:“ Visit us on Facebook!”
Newsflash: not everybody is on Facebook nor has the desire to research “and connect” via social media channels. Especially those of us who are “old school.” This practice and approach makes doing business today more time consuming and more complicated than it really needs to be. Unfortunately, she lost a potential sale.
And I’m willing to bet, not just mine.
Just so we’re clear here, this is not an indictment against all Black businesses.
Thank God, I know of quite a few restaurants, book stores, beauty shops and other institutions that provide exemplary services and positive role modeling.
But, lately they have been more the exception than the rule.
And the sobering reality is this: with all the negative media, misconceptions and mistrust that abounds, good Black businesses simply can’t afford to be in the minority.
JENNIFER BROWN BANKS is a veteran freelance writer, award-winning blogger, student of life, columnist and chocolate enthusiast.
She has published 800+ articles, essays, columns and commentary pieces online and in print publications.
She resides in Illinois.