I Want To Support Black Businesses, But Some Of Them Need To Get Their Sh-t Together First

July 18, 2016  |  

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For many people, the answer to curbing a lot of the social injustices that we as Black folks face has been to put money back into the community. I’ve been sent messages about it, seen it on social media, and read about the lengths that we should go to build ourselves up. Boycott mainstream businesses, back Black businesses. I couldn’t knock the idea because, to be honest, I didn’t have a better plan of action to offer. So I tried it. And if I’m being honest, I’ve been a bit disappointed.

I think it’s nice that we encourage one another to help Black businesses grow, but someone needs to tell a few of these business owners to help their customers out, too.

Just this morning I lugged my heavy bicycle, which needed new inner tubes for both wheels, about 15 minutes to a Black-owned bike shop (that also doubles as a West Indian record shop). It was supposed to be open at 10 a.m., but when I got there close to 11 a.m., lo and behold, the gate was down and there were no signs of life. For a minute there, I assumed they had closed down long ago and maybe I had just missed the memo. But when I called the number on the business’ sign, the owner picked up.

“Hello?” he said in the flattest way possible.

“Uh, is this the bicycle shop?” I asked.

“Yeah. I’m running a little late,” he said in response, already sounding exasperated.

“Oh, okay. So you’re on your way now?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll be there in like 15 minutes.”

“Fifteen minutes?!”

I hung up. I ended up looking at my phone to see if there were any other bike repair shops in the area. No dice. One shop that I saw and knew of, but was a 10-minute train ride away, had been open since 8 a.m. They weren’t Black-owned, but I was sick of standing in the heat and tired of lugging my bike around. The only thing that kept me from seeking out the services of the shop was the fact that UberXL prices would have been too high to get me there. Plus, those prices didn’t include the cost for the two inner tube replacements. So I kept waiting. And waiting. The owner would eventually show up, but he would need to make me wait a bit longer. Why?

“I have to go to the bathroom. I don’t even know if I can make it to the bathroom” he said.

So I waited some more. About 10 minutes later, and after what I assumed was a hearty bowel movement, the owner came back out. Two more customers had approached the shop. He pointed to a man with a specially-made BMX bike. When I stated to the owner that I had been waiting longer, he said, “I don’t know who was waiting first, but he was waiting across the street.”

And the fact that he had no problem with that, that he didn’t at one point ever apologize for his unprofessionalism or offer to let me cool off inside of his shop, irked the hell out of me. It was in those moments, as I stood in the heat with my heavy bike, that I said to myself, “See, this is why people end up avoiding Black businesses.”

Trust me when I say that I’ve tried. I tried with the beautician who asked for a picture of my locs before my appointment. When I got to her shop, she waited for me to get my hair washed and sit in her chair before telling me that my hair was thicker than my picture. Because of that, she would need to charge me more. (Did I also mention that she asked me to let her assistant finish my hair so she could go to bed early?)

I tried multiple times (literally I’ve been left sitting outside) with the smoothie shop that is supposed to be open at 10 a.m. on Sundays but doesn’t open until after 4 p.m.

I tried with the restaurant that charged my debit card twice and then left my food sitting on the ledge for about 10 minutes before my fiancé had to direct someone to get it.

I tried with the necklace maker on Etsy who sent my jewelry late, only for it to break months down the line.

I tried with the hair braider who also had me standing outside in the heat. When she braided my hair, she took breaks to eat potato chips before touching my hair with her greasy hands.

And I tried with the Black MUA who wouldn’t answer my phone calls for a consultation. Funny thing is, she had an attitude when she called me back the next day and I said I was no longer interested in securing an appointment for my upcoming wedding.

I’ve really tried, folks. But I’m getting really tired of the shenanigans.

Don’t get me wrong. There really are great Black businesses and business owners out there. The people at Khamit Kinks who do my hair in Boerum Hill are great. Peaches in Bed-Stuy has some great employees, as does the bar Bed-Vyne Brew. The nail salon I visit every now and then in Stuyvesant Heights (shout out to Very Polished Nail Lounge) is pretty awesome, too. Still, it took me a while to think of those places as opposed to the many places and business owners I’ve dealt with who acted as though they could care less about their customers.

I still believe that it’s important to enrich the communities that we live in. Black folks are truly more powerful than people give us credit for. If we were all to pull together and start buying Black more often, it could be a wake-up call to the world around us. But in order for many of us to feel comfortable moving on from what we’re used to and gleefully start supporting one another, a lot of people need to get their sh-t together.

Open your shops on time. Stop thinking it’s okay to open up late without offering a discount or at least an apology for the time wasted. Stop double booking. Stop hiring people who aren’t serious about doing the job asked of them. Stop doing what you think is best as opposed to what the customer asked for. And most importantly, stop acting as though because you’re Black and I’m Black, I should get over bad business practices and support you no matter what. Trust me when I tell you, ain’t nobody got time (or money) for that.

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