My Love Hate Relationship: Doing Business In The Black Community

Why its so difficult to patronize you. This blog post is about the difficulties Black consumers have in patronizing some Black businesses due to poor customer service.

My Love Hate Relationship: Doing Business In The Black Community
Photo by Paul Efe from Pexels

Here are just two recent situations that happened to me when attempting to recycle Black dollars. The struggle is REAL.

My Little Haiti Experience, Miami

Just a few days ago, I was in Little Haiti (formerly Lemon City), in Miami, FL in an effort to patronize the Haitian community as they celebrated Haitian Heritage Cultural Month, a huge annual event in the area. I love cultural events, as they are a way for me to learn about different cultures and taste different cuisines.

My family and I drove to Little Haiti, which was nearly 30 minutes from our home in spite of all of the negative reviews about the area on TripAdvisor. I realize that at times, there are truly treasures in Black and Brown communities that are not always found in sanitized, gentrified, and more developed areas. Some people are unable to see the treasures and benefits of diversity and culture when it’s not their own, which is why I have a “go see for yourself” attitude about exploration.

The Little Haiti area isn’t like Little Havana or other surrounding communities which draw tourists in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. You really can’t compare Little Haiti to any of them. What you can compare are the efforts made to not only accommodate, but embrace tourists. These communities recognize they exist in a tourist driven economy. The people in these communities have worked hard to redevelop them in ways which stave off gentrification and support their local economies.

In stark contrast, Little Haiti was pretty much a ghost town for whatever reason. I did not see any reason to ever come back to Little Haiti when I left. There was barely anything there for me to consume.

This was one of the observations in many of the TripAdvisor reviews that was absolutely accurate.

I toured the Caribbean Market Place held at the Haitian Cultural Center. The vendors there were extremely nice, and worked very hard to sell their goods. The facility was large, but vendor participation was minimal. I was saddened by how desolate the place was on a major cultural holiday weekend. We had not received the Haitian experience we anticipated. Our options appeared to be extremely limited, so we decided to find a place to enjoy authentic Haitian food.

I found it. I guess.

The first issue was the Haitian restaurant did not accept debit or credit cards. We had to travel down to Walgreen's to get some.

We got the cash and came back. The only person that greeted us was the guy who held the door open for us to get into the place. I think he must have worked there. The ordering experience was terrible. People were standing around a bar area attempting to make eye contact with women to have their order taken. The women never smiled or greeted patrons. They looked angry like they have grudges with everything and everyone in the world. I politely said “excuse me,” countless times in an effort to place my order. It seemed every time I spoke, I annoyed them. They ignored me more. It wasn’t just me though. These waitresses/hostesses were mean and rude to everyone.

I asked for a menu, which apparently only a tourist would need. It annoyed them more. I got an eye roll in response. I needed five more menus because there were six of us, including four kids. I received more looks of annoyance. Finally, we were ready to place our order, but we had to wait until they were sick of looking at us before they’d take it. The entire ordering experience took about 20 minutes.

We finally got our food, paid for it, then sat down to eat. The food was delicious. The service sucked. To top off the poor service, I went back to the counter to ask for to-go bags for the walk back to my car.

Oh. My. God!

You’d think I had asked for a brand new car. Not only did the hostess in front of me at the counter ignore my request. She stared me in my eyes as if to say “F-off, you’re not speaking Creole, so I’m not helping you.” After about 10 minutes amongst the other patrons fighting to place orders, I’d had enough. We left. We talked about how rude the people were, and the atmosphere in general felt unwelcoming. We left with the mindset that we’d never visit that place again. I had another experience at a different Haitian restaurant on that same day in another county to confirm this was not an isolated incident. It’s a part of the culture.

Rudeness and bad attitudes may be apart of the culture, but I’m not paying for that again. Ever. I work hard for my money. And I’m not settling for anything I wouldn’t take from any other culture or ethnic group.

My Soul Food Experiences, Ft. Lauderdale

My friend and I were out shopping at the local Caribbean grocery store and wanted lunch. We checked out Google to find a nearby soul food restaurant in an effort to recycle Black dollars. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a cheerful cashier/hostess. We smiled thinking we’d hit the jackpot today. We placed our orders feeling good about the decision made. After that, the experience went down hill.

We waited for a long time for food like nearly 30 minutes. This was after we had paid for it. The place doesn’t have a public restroom. The cashier kept apologizing for the wait, and told us they were preparing hot fresh food. Eventually the food order arrived, only half of it being edible. The food was so salty there was no way on earth it could be healthy to consume. I ate what was edible and looked sadly at the rest. I didn’t want to complain about it, and I don’t even know why.

The cashier/hostess came by after about 15 minutes to inquire whether we were okay and if everything was alright. My friend told her she was not satisfied with some of her food because it was entirely too salty. The hostess asked me about mines and I said the same, which was why I hadn’t touched it. What came next was shocking.

The hostess proceeded to inform us the owner was cooking, and that he really wasn’t a cook. The regular cook was no longer employed there, and they had a high kitchen staff turnover rate. She told us that she would call him out of the back so we could tell him we were displeased with our order, but she couldn’t tell him because it wouldn’t be received well. She said she was trying to protect herself, and that she wasn’t in the mood for his attitude. I was amazed that the hostess was so afraid to share customer feedback with her employer, and disgusted that the owner’s pride came before his business.

We told her it was alright, we would just not say anything to prevent a scene. She apologized again for the poor service and food, and attempted to compensate for the owner’s lack. My friend and I left discussing how adamant the hostess was about NOT telling the owner how terrible his food was. Food so bad we were throwing it away. Of course he got our money, but his business will never get anymore of mine. His bad attitude will eventually cost him his business.

I just don’t understand it.

“Why do we walk away feeling unsatisfied and unappreciated when we patronize some Black businesses?

We went to another soul food spot and the hostesses/cashiers were not rude, but not excited about our patronage. It’s a resounding theme, and I’m tired of giving “skinfolk” passes on services and paying for poor quality. Do better!

Black Buying Power

We want to recycle Black dollars in Black communities in the same way that other communities recycle their dollars. According to the 2018 consumer report by Nielsen, Black buying power was $1.7 trillion dollars in 2017. According to the report, Black consumers have notable distinctions from other consumer groups when it comes to buying power. Because our buying power is so essential to American and global economies, it is extremely important to be thoughtful about how and where our hard earned Black dollars are spent.

Because not many Black people own national chains of grocery stores, super centers, dollar stores, drug stores, warehouse clubs, or other mass merchandising industries to patronize, conscientious Black consumers must go into communities where the small Black businesses are located in order to consume. More often than not, it requires a trip into communities of color.

For those of us understanding the value and importance of Black consumption spending, we often have a love hate relationship with the spending piece. Spending money in the Black community is hard and often comes with some emotional abuse, extremely poor customer service, and/or rudeness.

It’s the kind of abuse I wouldn’t put up with from my spouse or partner, but apparently it’s been acceptable when patronizing Black businesses.

I finally came to the realization that I was accepting behavior I wouldn’t tolerate patronizing any other ethnic group. If a Jewish, White, or Asian business treated me the way some African American businesses treat me, I’d file complaints. I’d read them the riot act, and put a bad business review on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and any other place I could. I’d feel the need to warn others looking to patronize those businesses.

But “skinfolk” businesses got a pass.

Well they did, until I had a heart to heart with myself to assess the pain, anger, disrespect I walked away with after patronizing some Black people.

Do Better

Do better Black businesses! It’s like a fight with a boyfriend. I come see you, you mistreat me, then I walk away in my feelings. This behavior is a form of emotional abuse as well as an exploitation of our economic resources whether we realize it or not. I’m so freakin tired of being in my feelings after patronizing some Black businesses.

I have a new one strike rule. The bad first interaction will likely be the last one. Period. These businesses may only have one chance to make a first impression, so they need to make it count.

Thank you for reading! Do you have any history with compromising for Black businesses? Do tell.