Last month I shared an article stressing the importance of supporting Black-owned business (see “Where Do You Spend Your Money?”). Our support is critical to their survival. It is my hope that the article inspired The Lyfe Magazine readers to be more intentional about spending their money with those businesses a little more frequently.
Now, I would like to address the flip side of this. The first article was intended to be an encouragement for shoppers to spend more of their money with Black-owned businesses. This article is a reminder for Black-owned business owners that we don’t have to!
The simple fact of the matter is, in the majority of cases, the masses have to go out of their way to support most Black-owned business. Some of these businesses may not be conveniently located. However, the desire to support allows us to drive out of our way to spend our money with them. There are certain expectations that should be met in return for that effort:
“Thank you” goes a long way. A simple and sincere “thank you for coming in today” at the close of a sale should be an automatic part of the transaction. When not given, the customer is left wondering if their business, and consequently their dollars, matters to the merchant. If their business doesn’t matter the natural inclination is to spend their money elsewhere.
One of my biggest pet peeves when shopping is lack of acknowledgement. At the very minimum it is a realistic expectation to hear “hello, can I help you” when entering a business. If I don’t hear that at some point while browsing, I leave…and likely will not return.
There is a small, Black-owned art shop I visit from time to time. Although I am not what you may consider a connoisseur of art, I heard about the place from a friend and decided to visit simply for support. As I took my first step across the threshold of the door I was greeted with eye contact, a smile, and a hello. Because of the owner’s focus on creating a welcoming environment, I have continued to visit the store, even though I have to go out of my way since it is in another town.
The owner once blessed me with a gift while at the shop. I don’t go back there hoping for or expecting anything free. I go back there because she has a keen sense of customer service.
Not long ago I made plans to meet a friend for dinner. The restaurant we chose was one we have come to truly enjoy. Since my first dining experience there, I have spread the word about the restaurant and driven quite a bit of business to them. The food is organic and fresh, the service impeccable, and the atmosphere elegant. And, it is a Black-owned restaurant. For the entire week, we looked forward to dinner that night because the food is just that good!
Upon arrival, the restaurant was closed. However, this was not one of their published closed days. The sign on the door did not indicate they were closed. While standing outside the locked door, I called to see if they were simply opening a little late. There was no answer. The outgoing message did not indicate they had changed their hours. After ending the call, I used my cell phone to visit their website. It showed they would be open that day.
My friend and I were left with no other option than to dine somewhere else that night.
The End Result
Instead of continuing to sing their praises, I pretty much don’t talk with people about the restaurant anymore. I don’t feel comfortable giving recommendations to a place that is not consistent, whether that consistency is in the arena of service, food quality, or hours of operation. Consistency is a necessity for survival and growth.
The owners of the restaurant have no idea how much business they may have lost because of that night. I’m sure we were not the only ones who stopped by to have dinner that evening, only to find the restaurant closed. Generally speaking, people will spread a negative word about a company or business before saying something good. There is no way to tell what the other would-be diners have told their friends.
My philosophy applies across the board for all businesses, regardless of who owns and operates them. My response to the restaurant incident would not have been any different if it were an Indian, Asian, or Caucasian-owned restaurant. The difference is most small, Black-owned businesses cannot sustain loss of customers the way some others may be able to.
Customers have so many options as to where they can spend their discretionary income. Appreciating your customer base is imperative to ensuring some of it will be deposited into your register!