*I go out of my way to support black businesses because I refuse to give up on us. That was tested, however, when I made a recent trip to a Black-owned nail salon not far from home.
Taking advantage of a Groupon my girlfriend suggested, I decided to treat myself to a mani/pedi and eyebrow wax in hopes of becoming a repeat customer to this rare establishment. Since there was no website to prep me for my visit, I decided to keep a positive attitude as I made my way to their storefront. Approaching the front door, I was excited about seeing what they had to offer, but my hopes were soon dashed the moment I crossed the threshold.
In order to keep this post from becoming a dissertation, I will briefly outline–in no particular order–the positives and negatives that took place. Positive: The staff was really nice. My digits looked pretty good when all was said and done. Negatives: The owner politely asking my girlfriend if she would wait a moment so she could finish her chicken wangz at a table that sat in direct view of customers. The jambalaya of low-end costume jewelry and knock-off handbags stuffed in the front window, and a bundle of shawls (in June) dangling in the back of the salon…all for sale. The disappointing selection of nail polish sitting in utter chaos on the shelves. The cluttered wax and eyelash stations featuring unsanitary utensils and crockpots coated with wax. The surcharge fee I incurred having to go next door to the local bodega because of the inconvenient ‘Cash Only’ policy. My nail tech offering another nail tech her “welfare card” (her words, not my assumption) to go buy snacks for the shop at the same bodega. Lastly, the THA-REE HOURS that transpired from start to finish during my visit, with an honorable mention to the other customer who was there before and after I came and went. Ridiculous!
I was livid when I left. Not because of the poor customer service. Not because of the lack of cleanliness or product. I was frustrated because it didn’t have to be this way. Someone asked me why didn’t I complain to the owner. After thinking for a moment, I concluded that I honestly felt it was going to fall on deaf ears. I just don’t believe they knew any better. The owner was present during my entire visit, and either witnessed or committed the infractions listed above. Yet…I feel I failed THEM. I feel anyone who doesn’t lovingly call them on their lack of professionalism is condoning the downfall of another small business owned and operated by African-Americans. Many of our startups are not getting up because they lack the resources, wisdom and support, and although it’s easy to vow to never return, perhaps going out of our way to let a business owner know when they have missed the mark will inspire them to do better the next day. Maybe not. Either way, I refuse to give up on us, but tolerating subpar service is no longer an option.
Tanya Tatum is the outstpoken host of “The Tatum Talks,” a live Blog Talk Radio show focusing on African-American interests. Check out this episode of The Tatum Talks focusing on black businesses: The Top Ten Things That Will Make Your Business Succeed at www.blogtalkradio.com/thetatumtalks. You can also join her for a daily discussion on Facebook and follow her @TheTatumTalks on Twitter.