|My sweet brother and father|
ra·cial pro·fil·ing Noun: The practice of substituting skin color for evidence as grounds for suspicion.
This morning my brother and my father visited High Point Furniture Market to shop for additions to my online retail shop, Society Social. Unable to attend due to obligations in NYC, I had emailed them earlier in the week with a list of lines that I would love to support and carry, MADE GOODS being one of them. Their mirrors are unique and I thought would be a beautiful addition to my shop. Upon entering the showroom, my brother is given a mere 10 seconds. It went like this:
Oscar: Hello, what do you do?
Lawrence: My name is Lawrence. I’m with an online retailer, Society Social. We warehouse and ship out of North Carolina.
Oscar: MADE GOODS does not do business with online retailers.
After not even being allowed into the MADE GOODS showroom, my brother immediately calls to tell me the company I had asked him to visit was very short, very rude and that unfortunately I would not be able to shop their line. I was surprised by his account of the short visit so I called their California office to confirm the facts. I spoke to Lauren who verified, despite what Oscar had communicated, that yes in fact, they are open to working with online retailers as long as the company stocks/warehouses the items, which my brother disclosed right away, we could do. My suspicions verified, I told her the entire story and asked her why she might think we were not even permitted to enter. She was as apologetic as could be and asked for the name of the individual who turned us away.
I told Lauren that I would call her right back, "my brother and my father were so promptly dismissed they could not even get a name." Thus I asked Lawrence to return and he was not even able to get a word in edgewise; Oscar immediately turns aggressive.
“Who are you really? You are not an online retailer. I don’t believe you. I don’t like the way you are walking, the way you look, it’s not right. Why are you trying to knock us off?” He then proceeds to grab Lawrence by the arm to try and throw him out of the showroom causing a scene.
Now having recounted the full story, here are my main issues and concerns:
• Oscar saw something in my brother’s appearance that he “did not like,” something that made him suspicious and thus my brother was not even given the chance to enter, much less show business credentials. This is called racial profiling.
• Oscar seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding about how to treat human beings. Judging someone by the color of his or her skin is no way to conduct yourself or your business. This is called racism.
Sadly enough, Oscar turns out to be one of the founders of MADE GOODS, which I will now never support. MADE GOODS, I urge you to contemplate a few things:
• In a soft economy and shrinking industry, it’s paramount to network, support each other, and to build strong business relationships. Do you think it’s beneficial to your business to treat peers in this manner especially when the furniture industry, like many, is a tight knit, “everyone knows everyone” community? (Do you think, especially as a new business owner, I’m stupid enough to build that kind of name for myself?)
• Considering the fast-paced nature of social media sharing, proof is in this very blog post, it’s even more important to take control of what you are putting out there for the world to see. Is this how you want to present your brand? Its values? Its ethical standings? Think twice because people will find out and they will find out at the lightning speed of the www no less.
• Being a participator in the furniture industry for almost the entirety of my life and having been knocked off myself just this summer, I’ve learned that unfortunately it is bound to happen. It sucks. Trust me I cried, but it’s the nature of the beast. The key to being on top is to keep innovating, to keep pushing your design, and most importantly to build a brand name so strong that people will look at the copy cats and say, I don’t want the knock off, I want the real thing. Are people going to have any kind of loyalty to MADE GOODS knowing how management treats real people? I guarantee you that your behavior was not a brand strengthening exercise.
• And besides, if we had really visited you just to knock you off, don’t you think we could’ve just visited your website? Your twitter feed? Viewed pictures posted on Instagram? Even more so, your actions were for nothing. Maybe you could’ve considered this before hurting your business anyways.
And lastly, yes Oscar, Society Social is a real business, with a real storefront, despite what you think the color of my family’s skin or their walk was telling you. Within one year, it has been recognized by House Beautiful, HGTV, Southern Living, Daily Candy, and Real Simple to name a few. I may still be small, but I’m smart enough to know that I did not get here by behaving badly and treating people like trash. Your behavior is disgusting, saddening, and completely unacceptable. You have hurt real people and you have hurt your business.