The Anatomy of and Idea: Black Benefit Index
Blacks as consumers contribute almost a trillion dollars to the United States economy, but all we get in return are the satisfaction from purchasing the products. There are no lasting benefits such as philanthropic spending by most of these companies or local businesses. Personal satisfaction should not be the only yardstick by which we use to judge why we buy products and services. Other communities get additional benefits other than personal satisfaction. We purchase billions of necessary items from faceless corporations, but we also buy from local businesses such as laundry mats, nail salons and other shops. They must be held up to higher standards and not at the end of the day leave communities much richer than they came. Most of the people who have businesses in our communities do not live there, so they have no inclination to invest in our communities. To most of them we are just ways of making a profit and has no connection to the communities in which they conduct businesses. We must held their feet to the fire and demand benefits beyond product satisfaction.
As in politics, we are taken for granted because most of us do not demand to be treated with respect. Some of us feel powerless because we are poor and think we deserve what happens to us. The fact we as consumers should stand up and be counted because we are spending our money. We are spending money, whether given or earned. Collectively, our consumption spending surpasses most countries in the developed world. We must make sure we are counted as consumers. Just as with other races, there is a mixture of earners and those on welfare. More American whites are on welfare than blacks, but the percentage are higher among blacks relative to the population. When these statistics are quoted, the numbers are not brought up, only the percentage.
Corporations and small businesses need to return some of the money they take from us and invest into the communities in which they operate. It is a compelling case to be made when other communities are revived with parks and recreation. Some of the businesses such as beauty shops, nail salons and liquor stores are notorious for bleeding our communities. As a personal experience, a beauty shop opened in our community within the last two years. The owners live about 60 miles away and are late some times in opening the stores. They offer no apologies when they are late, because most of the black patrons stand quietly and does not demand an explanation. These people have no alternative beyond the Walmart next door, which does not carry the extensive brands of this store. My experience extends to trying to sell a soap that smooth callus and rough heal local nail salons. It was a tough sell because most of the local nail salons are owned by Vietnamese who do not buy from outside suppliers. During one sales call I was told with a shop full of black patrons that they do not buy from people other than their own. Upon hearing this, no customer left the salon.
Most of us work at menial jobs and at the end of the day or on weekend we go shopping, spending our earnings without regard to who had a hand in making the product or where it comes from. I work in a warehouse lifting boxes off conveyors, stocking them on pallets, scanning them and putting them in packing hold until it is time for shipment to distributors. At the end of the day I struggle to my car and make it home to eat and sleep and start it all over again the next day. Most of the workers in this warehouse are black and Hispanics, but most of management are white and they are located in the front office.
One day I wondered if any of these people ever thought of the products they purchased. Most people purchase the goods and services they want or needed without a though behind who produce the goods. Did they ever thought of the process the goods went through for them to consume the items.
When they bought a Toyota or a Ford, do they think about the people who produce the items. Where they black, white or Japanese. When they buy an Apple Ipod, did they know that it is made in China by hundreds of thousands of Chinese, without any blacks getting jobs in the contribution of making the product, or that Apple employs a minimal amount of black employees. Where are the benefits for black people beyond listening to good music. Thus, most of the benefit goes to Apple shareholders and the Chinese employees.
My mind got to wondering of how can I measure the benefits each person get from the purchases they make. Where would I start?. It took me a couple of days but I started with the proportion of blacks in the whole economy. I thought of using the percentage of blacks in the United States would be the standard by all measurements would be judged. Next I had to think about the components that would go into the Black Benefit Index (BBI). The first thing that came to mind was jobs. A job is the most important, because without a job a person will not have any money to buy goods and services needed to sustain life and keep the economy expanding. I thought this over and rationalized that the quality of job does not matter. Blacks on average hold jobs that are in the lower socio-economic sphere, so the quality of the job is not relevant.
This is the reason why value of purchase is an important and everyone should make sure they receive value for money, and they should also make sure when it counts that their fellow blacks people benefit with each purchase. There should be a conscience thought to each significant purchase. There should be a conscience thought to whether you buy a Toyota or a Ford, buy groceries at Walmart or Publix, buy a refrigerate from GE or Whirlpool. Jobs should be the largest component of the index, but should not over shadow the whole index.
I believe a business should give back to the community in which it operates. Sadly, most business owners just extract money from the communities in which they operate. Black consumers should hold business feet to the fire to give back to the community that they operate in their neighborhood. Large faceless corporation should give back to causes in which they have interest, benefit their customers beyond personal satisfaction of purchasing their products.
In the black community the standard should be for corporations to give back 14.3 percent of their philanthropic spending. It is only fair that the companies spending money on philanthropic black causes should be supported. This should be reflective of black causes and not the whole philanthropic spending by any company. Some corporations will be naturally excluded from this obligation because their focus is not necessary on the black community, but blacks in their need to crave upscale products will gravitate to these brands whether they offer any comprehensive benefit or the companies are grateful for their purchases. These companies focus are not on the black community. Blacks in their need to put themselves apart or to feel better about themselves seek out these brands. It gives them a sense of exclusivity, but the products utility are just the same as mid price products. Companies such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry center of operation lies outside of the United States and thus their core of philanthropy lies in their own country or in exclusively upscale areas of the United States. There should be found substitute items that are just as good or better in their utility, and by companies that take an interest in the black community.
Corporate representation is the catalyst by which philanthropic efforts are focused on the black community and causes. Corporations with black representation should look out for black causes while serving the good of their shareholders. Not many corporations in the United States have blacks on their board of directors, so unless the company depends on blacks for their economic survival, not much money will flow directly into the black community. On this basis I reason that any company with at least one black representation should have a weighting representative of the black population. It is assumed that this person(s) will look out for the interest of the black community while serving the needs of the shareholders. While this assumption is presumed, it does not always happen. My assumption is to think counter to this and respond that on some level this person will subconsciously think about their origin, even how minor their thought. Black representing 14.3 percent of the population is not large when it comes to corporation having a lot of board members, if their products are distributed in the black community. For small companies this weighting is a lot larger because they have smaller boards. If their business revenues constitute are large part of black customers, then we should be represented. There are certain causes that effect the whole population and thus the lack of support in the black community cannot come to bear in our criticism. Cancer of various forms affects every creed and races. Having thought through black board representation, I next turned to product quality.
In the pass and certain instances in the present, manufacturers could sell the black community products of dubious quality at higher retail prices. Times and people have changed, where not there are more choices and place to buy these products. The community through the use of multiple outlets are more in tune to the offerings available in other areas. Previously companies could sell products at substandard quality because they were cheap. Many reputable corporations have risen on the backs of the black consumers, including Hyundai, Boost Mobile, Metro PCS, KIA, Tommy Hilfiger and a host of others. We are sometimes the dumping ground for items that do not make in the wider marketplace. For example, companies usually ship clothes to Africa that does not sell in the develop world. The general perception is that those of us in the lower middle class and poor will buy anything at the right price. This is the same as dumping products in Africa when they are outdated in the developed world. I used to find is strange to see people in Africa wearing shirts that does not state the reality of the events outcome, such as team winning championships when the final outcome is that they lost. This is the mentality that blacks will accept any quality at the price point they can afford. In any sector of business product quality is clustered in the group that has the same price point. On average, the higher the quality the higher the price. Although there are exceptions, the general understanding is that you pay for what you get, and trying to find bargains means that there are some illegal activity associated with obtaining the products. These two criterias are built in the Black Benefit Index, that quality and price goes together and complements each other.
My reasoning for making this weighting less than jobs and corporate philanthropy is over time people will come to realize that if a manufacturer sell them a goods or services, unless the price point is below the quality and acceptance of such quality out weights the prices to continue usage, then people will discontinue usage of the products or services. Price and quality in the mainstream are competitive in the United States. Companies get at the price difference of the competition because they do not want to lose customers if the quality of the goods and services are the same. The Black Benefit Index takes this into account and treat it as a constant between companies unless the quality are the same and there is price difference either way. It makes compensation for the assumed ghetto tax, as it is called in most communities. This is when the prices of products are higher in the black community, due to higher rate of insurance and theft. This will be taken into account, because some merchant create the opportunity to charge higher prices when no threat exist. Public perception weights on a company when they are perceived as being unfair to some of their customers.
Perceptions of black consumers in the media is important, and this is the last matrix that will be measured. Sometime blacks are treated with bias in the general media, whether in commercials or companies spoke people talking out of turn or simply ignoring us as a consumer class. These situations are taken into account and can bring a company’s score up or down, depending on the incidents. Some companies are insensitive to our feelings as consumers of their products, but they act as if we should not complain over the injustice.
The intent of this index is to reveal and expose for consumers those companies that treat black people without regards as consumers of their product and services. This is why black people should have stopped buying Toyota when the chairman did not acknowledge us on the many occasions that he was given. The company thanked others, but they are following the model of others in ignoring us. The quality of any product or service should not trump our respectability. Once the product and price is comparable, we should not hesitate to let the company know of our displeasure by voting with our feet and finding substitute products and services. One thing is clear in this country, there are always choices.
The Black Benefit Index measures media respectability in trying to reach the black community through different media outlets including print, online, TV, etc. Disrespecting the black community will mean deductions in points that can result in a meaningful down grade of the corporation after weighting is taken into account. Since we do not own or have the activity to provide goods and services, we do have the ability to weigh our purchase decisions. It is our money and we have the right to spend it however we please, but we should spend it with those who care about us. There should be a benefit attached to most purchases, and should not be taken lightly. BBI help in the process of making this decision by researching companies that offer benefit with each purchase.