Have you heard about what happened at Barneys department store in NY? According to the reports, a young black male bought a belt at the store earlier this year using his bank debit card. It was allegedly reported as a fraudulent transaction by the sales person who assisted him and a block or two from the store, he was stopped and subsequently arrested by plain-clothed officers. He was held for a few hours while the whole thing was sorted out after the police verified his banking information, the transaction, and his receipt. Now, the young man is suing the company. You can read more details about the story here and a similar situation here.
I was extremely pissed off about this situation, if it happened the way they say it did. But this isn't about me, it's about business.
Jay-Z recently inked a deal with Barneys for a Holiday Season collaboration. Proceeds from the deal are slated to go to the Shawn Carter Foundation, which provides scholarships for people with difficult socio-economic backgrounds so they can further their education.
People have taken to various forms of social media to state their displeasure in Jay-Z, who is black, doing a deal with Barneys, a corporation that possibly practices racism towards people of color.
At the time that everything broke, Jay-Z was away on tour in Europe; however, today he's released a statement that I think is very poignant:
"I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven't made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?"Does he have a point or what?
I would venture to say that people are boycotting for the sake of boycotting. Let's face it, there weren't a ton of black people shopping in Barneys in the first place. Someone on Twitter called for people of color to "shut 'em down" but that's just unrealistic.
We live in a society where "outrage" seems to be a hot-button word and everyone wants everyone else to respond IMMEDIATELY to any allegations or conjecture that is brought about regarding someone they they do business with. This is just not smart business! You can't spend all your time jumping to conclusions and jumping on the bandwagon, especially when most people make their judgements on half-cocked information. I'm not, by any means, excusing Barneys for what they've allegedly done. But, what I do know is that people and corporations make mistakes. It's how they clean up those mistakes that's important.
If we're expecting that every business is going to get everything right every time, we have unrealistic expectations for businesses, and, as entrepreneurs, for ourselves. I think Barneys first statement to the press was a load of BS and it did very little to soothe the upset of the people. The CEO, Mark Lee, attempted to rectify that by issuing another statement that seemed a little more sympathetic.
All this said, I believe that there's a lot to learn from this:
- Make business decisions based on facts, not emotions, even if that means you have to wait.
- Don't allow pressure from society (mainly people who probably don't do business with you anyway) to influence your decisions.
- We make mistakes. Don't beat yourself up. Apologize and course correct ASAP!
- Don't respond to legitimate concerns with fluff written by suits. It's not authentic and it's insulting to your consumers/clients.
- Do what you can and consult/hire whomever you need to in order to get yourself from under the dark cloud as soon as possible.
We can always learn from other people's mistakes. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.