According to recent news reports, Black banks are falling on hard times, with many of them struggling to remain relevant. Of course, part of the problem is that the Great Recession has hit the Black community particularly hard.
But as the Huffington Post pointed out this past week, many customers are fleeing to larger banks that offer more services and branches.
And so many Black businesses find themselves in the classic Catch-22. Black businesses often don’t have the resources to provide the most comprehensive services, so they lose customers to businesses that do. But without a strong customer base they’ll never gain the cash flow needed to offer the comprehensive services that attract customers in the first place.
Complicating the situation, one bad experience with a Black-owned business often taints our view of other Black businesses.
As a member of a large African-American student organization, I watched as we decided to use the services of a local Black-owned business to print conference programs for our national convention. This was a critical task as advertisements placed by sponsors in the program helped pay the $100,000+ conference costs.
The final product was riddled with so many spelling mistakes and factual errors that it would have made a second grader blush with embarrassment. The financial ramifications were huge.
I have to admit, my confidence in Black businesses plummeted after that fiasco. But only later did I realize how shortsighted I had been in my assessment. We seem to be one of the few minority groups that will so quickly dismiss all of our businesses because of a few bad apples.
How many times had I put up with incompetence and shoddy service from multinational corporations? My own national bank recently lost $200 from my account, accidently giving it to another customer. Had experiences like that made me vow never to use the services of another large corporation?
For that matter, how often do African-Americans repeatedly shop at businesses in their communities that are owned by people of other ethnicities, even when they charge us sky high prices, offer lousy service, and treat us with frank disrespect?
Yes, my one bad experience had blinded me. Looking back now, I can objectively recount many fine African-American businesses that have offered me exemplary service.
As I’ve matured, I’ve learned to be open to businesses of all sizes, from mom and pop stores to the multinationals, and I patronize businesses owned by anyone, whether they be Asian, Mexican, Italian, or Black.
And since many Black businesses reinvest in their communities with jobs, services, and investment dollars, I am particularly open to trying any Black businesses I come across.
But while Black businesses deserve a shot at our business, I do not necessarily believe they automatically deserve our loyalty. As with any other business, only respect, great customer service, and a good product is deserving of that.
BMWK, do you go out of your way to support African-American businesses? Has a bad experience ever rocked your faith in other Black owned businesses? Would you support a Black business even if it could not provide you with all the services that a large national corporation could?