I have learned that one’s commitment will be tested in unexpected ways. As a Nationalist who believes in practicing what he preaches to others, I often go to extreme ends to ‘circulate my dollar within my community’. It is this desire, which many have termed an obsession, which leads me to continually search for any African-American business that I could patronize. For example, I take great pride in relating that my insurance agent is African-American, my favorite bakery is African-American owned, my favorite bookstore is African-American owned, I am certain that you get the picture. Even the place where I take my family’s vehicles to get an oil change is, you guessed it, a Black-owned business.
Now I do not want you to think that I am patronizing these businesses solely because they are Black-owned, trust me when I say that the service provided by the people that are employed in these businesses as well as the products that they offer are first-rate.
It is this history of impeccable service and product offerings that caused me to be thrown for a loop this weekend when I took my wife’s vehicle in for an oil change; apparently she finally noticed the blazing red icon that was pleading with her to ‘change oil soon’.
To be honest with you, one of the best things about patronizing Black-owned businesses is that it gives one an opportunity to meet absolute strangers who gradually transform into like-minded friends. So as I traveled to get the aforementioned oil change, I prepared myself for a bit of teasing regarding the fact that I spend so much time immersed in words, thinking, and writing by the owner a thirty-something year old brother named Brian who operates what can be only termed a bustling business that is patronized by a wide-swath of our community.
Unfortunately, when I pulled the vehicle into the bay doors, Brian was no where to be seen and I was approached by a ‘brother’ that I had never met before. Considering that I have patronized this business for the past four years, I must honestly state that I was a bit taken aback when this new employee addressed me through a thick-southern drawl with the words, “What you want?” After relating that I wanted a simple oil-change, things took a definite turn for the worse when the new technician raised the hood and shocked me by saying.
“Man, this is a new car. The way they are making them now we can only put synthetic oil in them. That’s going to run you around $120.00.”
I responded with the fact that, “number one this isn’t a new car. Number two, I want the same oil change that I always get. The one that is on the sign out front, $29.99.”
His response to my refusal to pay his exorbitant price was, “Well look here Chief. I done told you I need $120.00 to do this for you. If you don’t like it you can keep pushin, bruh.”
As I am certain that you can imagine, I left this Black-owned business with a sense of not only disbelief, but also with thoughts racing through my mind that denigrated down to, ‘you see, that’s why you can’t do business with Black folk’. It was a combination of anger and disappointment that swiftly moved me down a familiar well-traveled, yet regrettable, path of grouping together all of the Black businesses that I do business with after this one negative experience. Put simply, a negative experience with one Black business so often leads to all Black businesses becoming ‘collateral damage’.
Even after ultimately deciding to spend my money at another oil change shop, the disturbing after-effects of my negative experience continued to resonate within my soul. This issue was so unsettling that I eventually placed a call into Brian to inform him about my most unfortunate experience. Undoubtedly, my desire to reach out to Brian was most certainly the ‘circulate your dollar within your own community’ portion of my being that wanted to give one of the few Black-owned businesses in our community ample opportunity to win me back as a customer.
After a brief conversation with Brian, I learned that his ‘new employee’ had been released from his duties for repeating the very shenanigans that he attempted to engage me in with several other customers who also complained about his strong-arm economic tactics. I came to understand that he was charging customers exorbitant amounts for a ‘synthetic oil change’, providing conventional oil, and pocketing the difference in price.
I am certain that Brian was happy to hear me say that I would continue to patronize his business; however, I am absolutely certain that he has no idea of how committed I am to patronizing businesses such as his that offer impeccable service and superior products; it being a Black-owned business is an added plus. Considering the stony road that African-Americans have had to travel over, it only makes sense that we will support one another in every worthwhile endeavor.
When you really think about it, we truly are all that we’ve got.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016