Some of my followers on Twitter may know that this subject has been on my mind for a while, so a blog post about it is long overdue.
This morning, I was sent an article from Jack and Jill Politics about a Black couple who have started something called The Ebony Experiment. They will patronize only black owned businesses for all of 2009. I honestly believe that it is a good idea in theory, I really do. But the reality is this: there aren’t as many quality Black-owned businesses as their should be. And for real, when was the last time you saw a large black-owned grocery store? Even in Chocolate City, this Ebony Experiment would be rendered impossible.
I read this article at a very interesting time actually. It came through my Twitter feed at a time when I was doing a search of Black spas in the DC area. I am actually looking for a place to buy a couples spa package for V-Day Weekend.
There is a black owned spa not too far from my alma mater, GW. I used to go there when the Black Student Union would have parties or formals for a nice pedicure and manicure. They are a great place, good services, nice people, great environment. I also know that they have some wonderful couples packages.
The problem arose when I was trying to find their website. Google search after Google search, they came up missing. I did find their phone number. Now the first few times I could not even get an answer on their line. This time I did, however, and they directed me to their website.
Firstly, I really shouldn’t have to call you to find your website. Secondly, when I went to the website, it was poorly done and some of the links didn’t work. Thirdly, your domain name should NEVER be that long. victoriannailandskincare.com? give me a break.
In addition, I was referred by a friend to a directory of Black -owned spas in the country. I scrolled down to Maryland. Out of 6 or 7 listed, there were only 3 who had a website attached to their listing. Why does this happen?
Seems to me that there really are a few good Black businesses out there, but somehow when it comes to marketing themselves, it is an epic fail. I understand that advertising takes money. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that I can’t even get to the information I need on your tiny website. If you don’t market your product properly, you can’t be mad that people don’t know about the business or don’t patronize your business. Black businesses as a whole have to do a better job of marketing and advertising if they want new and returning customers.
Then there’s the issue of customer service. I speak as a woman who once waited 3 hours for her hairdresser to even show up. I’ve even had a hairdresser be a no show–two different hairdressers, actually. Sometimes when going to Black restaurants I have been made to feel as though they are doing me a favor, have been treated rudely, etc.
How can you expect me to conduct the Ebony Experiment when black businesses are either seemingly invisible or don’t know how to treat me as a customer? That’s all I’m saying. This isn’t meant to bash black businesses at all, but I just need to understand why we don’t strive to be better than we are more often.
PS–and so that you know that I’m not totally harsh: I am going to Victorian Nail and Skin Care to get my feet done today. Consider it my contribution to the Ebony Experiment…No Korean nail shops in 2009.