After the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Black businesses experienced a dramatic upswing of business. It happens whenever a high profile display of racism happens. Black owned pancake companies received a boost over the past week as a result of the Aunt Jemima controversy, in fact. These sudden, dramatic spikes in business sound great on the surface but they can actually be harmful. Businesses accustomed to selling 40 units each week simply can’t handle 400 next week, without preparation. The end result can be a less than ideal experience for the customer and the business and undoubtedly, consumers will blame the business when they should really blame themselves. Purell still doesn’t have hand sanitizers in stores and people are okay but when Black businesses are overwhelmed, it’s a problem.
Businesses operate to make a profit. If they normally sell 40 units each week, they optimize operations to sell 40 units: staffing, inventory and technology investments are made to handle 40. It wouldn’t make sense for that business to purchase 400 units of inventory because it costs money to buy the inventory, store it and if the items don’t have a long shelf life, they’ll go bad. When a business is suddenly faced with a sudden onslaught, of course they’ll sell out quickly. Further, they simply don’t have the manpower to service 400 customers, if their staff is optimized to service 40. Long lines and long waits for shipments are inevitable. Individual circumstances might vary but it may not be that easy to quickly expand and accommodate 400 customers each week. It takes time to recruit, interview and onboard new staff, while trying to fulfill the sudden surge of orders and replenish inventory. When it all goes bad, of course, customers will say, “That’s why I don’t deal with Black businesses, they never have stuff together!”
It’s simply not fair. The sudden surge of focus on Black owned businesses is appreciated but in some ways, frustrating: all of those new customers could’ve been supporting all along. The criticisms and critiques are hurtful, especially considering that those same critics have never been supportive in the past but if they had been, the businesses they’re complaining about would absolutely be in position to meet the demand. It’s not that “Black businesses never have it together,” it’s more so that Black consumers only pay them attention when someone is shot and that’s what is broken here, not the businesses. Those who criticize Black companies who struggle to handle “viral” moments are simply ignorant to how business is done and rather than critique the businesses, they should ask themselves why they just came late to the party
Dramatic surges in business certainly are appreciated but businesses, as a rule, fare better with steady growth. Investments in staffing, inventory and other infrastructure follow the pace of business, over time. When a new surge of customers comes, entrepreneurs do the best they can, with their existing capacity and supply lines, to service them. It’s simply far too difficult to expand staffing or even inventory, when it’s not clear how long the surge will last. New customers came when Trayvon died but most didn’t stay. More came after Michael Brown but they didn’t stay. Today, many consumers are complaining about Black businesses but in fact, many of them won’t be around next week and they’ll blame the business, rather than taking a hard look at themselves.