When I visit a Starbucks and a Black barista sloppily makes my drink, doesn’t close my lid all of the way, it is spilling down the sides, and the drink does not taste like it normally should taste, I feel upset. However, when she/he doesn’t do any this to the White woman customer behind me, laughs and banters with this customer, and creates her drink properly, I feel rage. (This is not an “example”…this actually has happened more than once.)
I am a paying customer, using the same currency as everyone else and I am polite—I deserve the same level of excellent serivce.
I have received poor service from Black employees of various restaurants and businesses and watched these same ones give superior service to White customers. Don’t even get me started on the service that I receive from White employees of the same businessnes. I have had to file so many corporate complaints and received many apologies and gift cards etc. from corporate, but it really doesn’t change how I feel about what happens.
Both Black and White employees at many businesses give me poor service while the White customer in front of me or behind me gets excellent service. This occurs even when a tip is not involved. I know the myth that since Black people “never tip” (LIE), we do not deserve good service. Even if this were true, explain bad service at some Starbucks branches or Barnes and Noble? The supermarket? A shoe store? A branch of White House Black Market? These are not tip-oriented businesses. (I do understand how first-world privilege is tied into this particular complaint, but I mention it specifically because of the racial issues.)
I have seen White customers leave a large tip after being utterly dreadful for an hour or so. Snapping fingers at the waiter. Yelling. Returning food. Disturbing other patrons. They were horrible customers but because they have the disposable income to leave a large tip, all is forgiven? (I mention income since the income inequality and accumulated wealth gaps between White and Black families are astronomical now.)
Do Black customers expect poor service, act rudely because of this expectation, so then Black customers receive the poor service and don’t leave a large tip? Are the few Black customers who may leave no tip the guide for how to treat every Black customer in the future? Are White people who don’t leave tips easily forgotten since the self-fulfilling prophecy of Black people not tipping means when it occurs it will be easily remembered?
Truthfully, the service always precedes the tip. Thus, the onus is on the person delivering the service to deliver quality service since that occurs BEFORE the tip and payment is made. They cannot deliver poor service then claim they did it since the person they did it to “might” not leave a tip.
The only time I consistently get great service is from small businesses (with any race of owner/employees) that are not chains. (With chains, it completely varies.) I guess they have too much at stake to give me bad service and lose me as a customer. A small business cannot afford a bad Yelp review or getting blasted on Twitter. (Even some large businesses such as Comcast and GoDaddy are very active on Twitter trying to control the perception of their business.)
This isn’t to say that “all” branches of any of the businesses that I mentioned are “all” bad. It is to say that if Black employees view Black customers as less important or less worthly of respect (due to internalized White supremacy and tip myths) and also pick up these cues from their managers, who are often White, the service relationship between Black employees of businesses and Black customers will always feel strained. It’s very frustrating.
I worked in retail and did call center customer service over a decade ago when I was in undergrad. Thus, I do understand some of the stressors that make providing good service a challenge. However, not once did I decide that a customer was not worth my time because of race. As a photographer, I talk to potential clients with the same level of respect across the board. Once a client individually becomes one I don’t want to work with (behaviorally of course, not anything demographic), I end that relationship. Though certain cultural norms affect how people perceive me as a photographer (some think my work should be free, cheaper, discount, some think I should never charge as much as a White male photographer charges etc..—-this could be its own blog), overall, I try to approach each potential client and client with respect.
Anytime I do get great service from anyone of any race, I make sure to thank them, let them know that they are appreciated and smile. I try to be a good customer so that when poor service comes, I know what the deal is either way. Sure, a person could be having a bad day that day, but the reaction to having a bad day shouldn’t alter the level of service that each customer receives based on race, no? A bad day = ALL customers got bad service that day. Working in service industries is hard work but customers cannot be deemed worthy and unworthy based on race. Businesses need to do better. People need to do better.
Certainly, the non-critical thinking victim-blaming police will say “well shop somewhere else” versus “how can we challenge the notion that Black customers deserve less respect, even when the tip myth is not a factor?”