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Is the lack of values Black business’ biggest problem?

November 11, 2010

Now, I don’t want you to think I am casting a wide net and say all black business have poor values. However, what I do want to examine is, there is an underlying common denominator that hinders the majority of black businesses from growing and prospering.

In Georgia, there’s an emission testing requirement for cars to pass before it can be cleared for inspection renewal. For this purpose, there are emission stations all over the state. They are independently own and ran. This leads to stations being owned by a diverse group of owners; White, Black, young, old, etc. In addition, your tag renewal is connected to the car’s registered owner’s birthday. With this being the case, and my birthday falling in November I decided to have my emissions inspection done today. I often seek out black businesses to give my dollars to whenever it wouldn’t pose a significant inconvenience. This day, I found an inspection station on Campbellton road in Atlanta, Georgia before heading out of state.

As I pulled in, I was greeted cordially by 3 black males. I thought to myself, “okay, this may turn out to be a great experience.” I spoke with one of guys, who primarily helped me, and he explained that he owned the place. I felt proud of him. Well, that turned out to be the final leg in what I view as a sane business exchange. As he handed me my “passed” printout for my emissions test and I paid him his $25, he proceeded to ask me if I enjoy movies. I responded with, “sure.” He then offered to sell me bootleg DVDs. I now felt ashamed of this guy; not only did he not accept my disdain for supporting bootleg anything, one of his sidekicks then chimed in to ask me if I enjoy “flicks”. I said, “huh, isn’t that the same thing?” They both went into full salesman mode to educate me on the difference and began trying to now sell me, x-rated DVDs. Their senseless justification was they were not bootlegs and I can get 3 for $5.00! Could you believe this?

I looked at them both shaking my head. I didn’t know what to educate them on: them selling bootlegs out of an official business (something many Blacks in these dismal economic times would love to have), his assumptions that I am black translates to me supporting the cutting of corners in life (buying bootlegs), or that I am not a fan of porn (not even in my worst days did porn intrigue me). To think, this guy using bootlegs and porn as a cross-selling item for his business. Why not try to sell me valve caps, air fresheners, or some good legal and profitable product that is affiliated with his product line? The epitome of this situation was in the attitude I received when I told him I wasn’t interested. Add insult to injury, to think about it I sometimes see school-aged girls hanging around that business. Are we that stupid or are we just so attached to devilistic ways that we must promote these items no matter where we are? We find the bootleg grind at colleges, on public transit, in barbershops, conventions, and now we see, even in legitimate places from the owner. Then we wonder why our businesses fail! All Blacks don’t endorse rubbish.

I immediately thought about my book and my 24-hour quest to help rebuild the black infrastructure. Am I pushing the support of an infrastructure that can be funding poisonous activities? Sure, this can be true for any infrastructure and that brings me a little grief. But I also know there are hard working people out there who simply need a chance and I must remain willing to risk some ignorant people reaping some crumbs of benefits from my journey. I think a simple upgrade in our values and destruction of the deeply entrenched societal stereotypes of who we are will lead to the resurrection of our lives. This cripples us more than any outside influence.

What do you think? Do you think I am overreacting or his he simply a savvy entrepreneur? (Cause I’ve been known to overreact a time or two…)

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. Shawna Hull permalink
    November 11, 2010 4:31 pm

    I don’t think you overeacted. I don’t believe in buying bootleg either. As far as the “flicks” well thats a matter of choice that you don’t watch them.

  2. Angela Rashed permalink
    November 11, 2010 4:50 pm

    Sorry Devon but it is true to some. A lot of Black owned businesses are becoming doomed. I owe a used car lot and Income Tax Service and every year I get mess!! I have decided to get into something else like a franchise business. They don’t respect you and they come in and try to talk your prices down. But will go to H R Block and get cheated. Or to Drive Time and get a horrible interest rate o a used car. You can give them the best service ever and still have problems!!!!!!Yes Devon owning your own business as an African American right now sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. p.foxx permalink
    November 11, 2010 5:16 pm

    Devin,
    Iwouldn’t say that you’re ‘overreacting’-you’re just sick and tired of ‘us’ not keeping it as professional as we should when it comes to running a business. Sometimes those side hustles CAN deteriorate a business-but then you also have to think about the location. . .I somewhat agree wit you, but there are times where I would buy a bootleg movie or two, depending on if I really want to see that movie when I go home, then there are times where I don’t want to be bothered with the bootleg crap. So, that’s one to think about!

  4. Bennett Hepburn permalink
    November 11, 2010 5:35 pm

    Did you get a copy of you book from the car and hand it to them? That could have had an impact on at lest one of them.

  5. Nicole permalink
    November 11, 2010 5:38 pm

    I would say he is savvy because obviously he is a risk taker, if he can only channel that skill he has in selling other products (think outside of the box). The thing is people open up businesses for the wrong reasons. They sometimes do it as fronts to do illegal activities. They are smart, savvy and quite capable in running a business, but their intentions are not in the right place. They want to make quick bucks and sometimes that may mean doing illegal things. They know what products they can use to do so because they know their market, the reason why they try to sell to you. If they are able to get away with it and make profit out of it, then they will continue to do. I hate to judge people’s actions unless I know the reason why they do. If this man business is struggling and he has a family and he finds that this is his way of making additional money, I won’t judge because it seems to be an act of desperation. People are always in survival mode. He sells to someone, they have the option to say yes or no. Rather there are people out there being robbed with no choice. Basically, it is not only the business owner it is the customers that support his actions. This business owner will pay his consequences if caught, he knows the risks. Remember, this business owner knows his market. Devin you are not his majority.

  6. Judy Cunningham permalink
    November 11, 2010 5:47 pm

    No! I think you’re dead on point. How would he feel if somebody could duplicate his passed print out for $5.00 and everybody stopped using his establishment. I think he would understand then.

  7. Rich Waugh permalink
    November 11, 2010 6:27 pm

    You’re dead on, Devon.

    I’m fairly sure that if you had bitten on the illegal movies and/or porn the next offer may have been even more illegal. Once a person tosses away his scruples for one thing, the next bigger illegal enterprise looks even more profitable. Drugs, prostitution, stolen goods, you name it. After thirty-plus years as a cop I’ve seen this happen time and time again, regardless of race, creed, color or gender.

    In the final analysis, crooked is crooked. Doesn’t matter how thin you slice4 it it is still crooked. And only when people refuse to trade with such establishments and publicly denounce them will this practice be eliminated.

    Rich

  8. Robert permalink
    November 11, 2010 7:41 pm

    I believe you entitled to your opinion if you were offended. However, I think it could have been a teachable moment. Usually when someone offers me a bootleg, I tell them no and keep it moving. Depending on how what I had going on myself that day, maybe I would have told the owner that his service was good, however, I can’t send some him referrals, etc…..The positive to all of this, was that you had an African American business, with three brothers working.

  9. Donald permalink
    November 11, 2010 7:52 pm

    I have had my product knocked off and resold commercially and I can tell you first hand that it is devastating. Your reaction to being offered to purchase a bootleg product was correct. You did not buy so they did not sell. Wrong product for the wrong person, and wrong salesman for the product. However with the next customer it maybe the right product for the right person, and the right salesman. My Barber sells these bootleg movies, and believes that its “OK”. His clients are now hibitual repeat buyers. No he is not right for selling the bootleg movies, but the person who buys is really the criminal which prepetuates the ongoing problem in our community.

    • Lydia permalink
      November 12, 2010 3:17 pm

      The seller and the buyer are equally criminal. If people did not sell illegal products, there would be no one to buy them. Of course, it goes full circle – the seller sells, the buyer buys and comes back for more, and the seller buys more illegal products and the buyer buys …. No one is right in this situation. It’s easy money. That’s why people sell these kinds of things. And the buy gets a desired item cheap. It may “seem” like a good thing for both, but Devin is right. It’s an indication of society’s moral values – no matter what race. It happens in most communities, whether black, white, Asian or any ethnic group. Who does it hurt most? The hard working people (not just highly paid actors) whose income goes down because someone sold their products illegally.

  10. Leado Gray permalink
    November 11, 2010 8:07 pm

    I am sorry you had to go through that experience ! There is so much that is wrong about this situation such as the assumptions about the boot leg tapes, the familiarity of the black experience etc I can go on but I want to focus on the business operation aspect. As a business management consultant I have been priviledged to have evaluated and consulted with black and white operated businesses. There is a distinct line drawn between the two. In many of cases we (blacks) continue to believe our business is a hustle and all rules apply for the hustle. So whatever seems to be able to put some additional dollars in the pocket its OK to do disregarding the factors that are involve in operating a legitimate establishment. Such as professionalism , branding, customer service and all the other functions that keeps the business lasting for a lifetime. Whereas the white business owner understands the business enterprise they have and channels all their energy to maximizing returns on it. Then they start expanding the brand from the loyalty that was built from their existing customers and creates an entire new enterpise. Two totally different approaches to the same situation. One is immediate gratification with no future. The other is a well orchestrated plan to earn some revenue now and build wealth way into the future. We need to stop having such a shallow vision and realize where we can go if we applied the rules correctly and stayed the course. The situation you experienced happens way to often in our business establishments and it don’t have to be that way.

  11. K. Jones permalink
    November 11, 2010 10:56 pm

    Devon, you’ve discovered what I have: that many Black people are the reason for their own failures due to having no ethics or low morals. No more excuses. If you had been a woman I bet one of them would have said something sexually inappropriate to you on top of it.

  12. D. Franklin permalink
    November 12, 2010 1:10 am

    I have purchased duplicates once in my life-time, and for some reason I did not feel comfortable after doing it. I think it does cheat hard working, talented, individuals out of their hard earned money. I love the response Judy Cunningham offered. It make perfect sense! Would you as a individual be happy about being ripped off ! I wouldn’t. Think about it!

  13. Alicia permalink
    November 12, 2010 2:27 am

    No, I don’t believe that you’re overreacting. I recently decided not to buy bootlegs myself and I am often being critisized by my friends and called all high and mighty because I choose not to support that. . . . felt like I was the only one until I read your post.

  14. P.C. permalink
    November 12, 2010 2:42 am

    Professor you are absolutely correct in your judgement of this particular business. Until we as a ppl start holding ourselves accountable for our own actions & raising our standards & expectations, you’re always going to come across businesses such as this one. But it’s up to you & I to decide if we’re going to continue to put up with this ignorance or not. I feel if we stop supporting certain establishments, it may send the message that we’re not going to accept medicore service from anyone, rather they look like us or not.

  15. November 12, 2010 3:46 am

    My people. Can we please make sure that we check our grammer and spelling before we post comments? You know they think we are stupid anyway.

  16. Kevin R. permalink
    November 12, 2010 4:14 am

    You make an interesting point. I have to agree that black businesses need to step it up in terms of their professionalism. On the other hand, blacks are extremely resilient and continue to find creative ways to create cash flow in the form of multiple streams of income. Nothing inherently wrong with that. I would however argue that the challenge is for the consumer who is interested in supporting black business to allow black businesses the same room that we do for other concerns. People of color spend millions of dollars every year with people who have no concern or consideration for using those dollars to remotely assist the communities from whence those dollars come. Why are we so “discerning” when we are looking at another person of color trying to make a go of their business. Strange thing indeed….

  17. Judge and Jury permalink
    November 12, 2010 4:22 am

    Well Devon I have decided to let you know that there are all types of wrongs going on
    in the world and for some one trying to make a few extra bucks does not have to be
    judged so harshly. I’m not saying I condone this action but to read the responses
    from people who probably call themselves Christians makes me sick. Other races steal from you everyday and the only difference is they make
    their crimes legal most of the time. What about the injustice in the beauty industry
    and yes I think you are being too harsh and need to understand that even you have done things coming up the ladder that today you are not proud of. I take this quote from Mr. Malcolm X! “By any means necessary” but for me not killing.

    • November 28, 2010 4:04 am

      I think Professor’s point was that the black business owner felt like there was nothing wrong in selling bootleg DVD’s from his legitimate business establishment. Selling bootleg DVD’s is illegal…HELLO!

  18. November 12, 2010 9:28 am

    Break down the slave system

    Its going to be very difficult for us to start doing things like working together in harmony, take back our Black hair industry, respecting each other etc etc, if we don’t first create an atmosphere that speaks to all these conditions. That’s what using the words Slave System mean and will create.

    “Stop calling our fore father and mothers Slaves.” Just tell everyone our fore fathers and mothers were placed in the Slave System and that’s the way you are saying it from now on (Calling it by its rightful name). Calling them SLAVES
    is a prim example of the slave system? Don’t try to explain it just make the statement. (Most people will understand because the statement speaks for itself.) It is not good to explain the Slave System but you can point to the things that most of us complain about, that’s the slave system working in full bloom. If someone pushes you to explain tell them to go to my website http://www.kakakiki.com and they will find more information in my newsletter. The slave system teaches us to always explain everything. When you explain everything it gives the Slave System information to make you sound like you don’t know what you are talking about. We don’t need words we need action. So don’t explain just keep saying you know longer accept the words SLAVE or SLAVERY anymore.

    Pass this message on to all that you know and to Facebook, BlackPlanet, Twitter etc. The more you make people talk about it the more it breaks down the Slave System.

  19. c.hipp permalink
    February 22, 2011 8:08 am

    sounds like that was a real eye opener for you,that situation caught you off guard sir.as i look at all the important issues of the world,aides,rape,murder..a bootleg dvd holds no more weight to me than a real dvd,its not as if when im dead and trying to get into heaven bootleg dvd’s or real dvd’s will be a issue.we expect everyone to live a honest straight life on one hand but on the other hand except and embrace lies.that mans thinking like that did not start that day u came to his shop he always thought like that.example u teach a child from day one about Christmas which is a lie ,the kid does not no that.gets older realizes it was a lie,but everybody is gaining from this lie so it doesnt hurt anybody.in life you cant say im going to be honest in one area but not another area.so if you celebrate christmas point the finger at yourself first before you become mr on point man.if you dont ,forget my last line

  20. c.hipp permalink
    February 22, 2011 8:25 am

    it might seem as if i went off the mark a little with bringing the CREATOR into the picture.we are talking about business.business should be conducted a proper way but are thinking should also be conducted and trained in a proper way.we put to much value on things that have no value.a movie has no real value its just something made to keep ur attention away from the real issues,if i can get u to watch a movie thats 2hours, i dont have to worry about u trying to figure out how 40 different pharmaceutical drugs are in the drinking water.u have big business destroying families and making the blueprint to put people in jail and homeless.dvd’s should be the last thing on the list

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