Yelp is calling out racist businesses

As an Elite member of Yelp, this is applaud-worthy

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Oct 9 · 5 min read
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Photo credit: Clay Banks/Unsplash

MAGA supporters are beside themselves in the comment section of Yelp’s latest tweets. Threats of lawsuits, pulling the race card, uninstalling the mobile app and deleting one’s account are just a few ways that they’re fighting back — against not letting businesses be racist. Sheesh! The audacity! Why can’t this review site that is fully intended to share customer reviews just let businesses be racist and racial profile all day long? It makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The damn politically correct crowds are out of hand, amiright?

Now that you’ve wiped the sarcasm dripping onto your keyboard, let’s continue. On Oct. 8, Yelp tweeted, “Today, we’re announcing a new consumer alert to stand against racism. In the last few months, we’ve seen that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions.”

Merriam Webster defines “racism” as “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” While there are a distinct group of people (usually people of color) who have very strong opinions that minority groups “cannot be racist,” I’m not one of those people. (I understand the argument though.) My bigger issue is if Yelp’s goal is to point out discrimination based on race in any store or business, and a member immediately wants to wipe the program off his/her phone, that pretty much tells you what their state of mind is. At no point did the platform state, “egregious, racially-charged actions to [insert minority group here].” This is a free-for-all where everyone can weigh in.

It’s also a peculiar reason to be outraged, considering Elite Yelp members like me have been calling out racism, racial profiling and horrendous store experiences for years. If anything, Yelp is late to my review party because I’ve been warning people of everything from property managers to banks to retail stores to contractors.

Recommended Read: “When self-checkout feels more like racial profiling ~ Whether working or shopping, everyone black is not a thief

If customers and businesses are more outraged about being called out for racism than handling actual racism in their stores, that saves me a lot of time to know where not to go. But somewhere in these outraged people’s heads, they truly believe that minority groups salivate at the opportunity to be racially profiled. They really think that we’re just happy as hell to point out how racism ruined our day.

I have a bone to pick with people who start sentences off with “Most people” because you don’t know most of the population. But this time I’m fairly confident I’m right. Most people of color — scratch that, no people of color — are smiling ear-to-ear and happy to call out people for disrespecting them based on melanin. No minority group that is often targeted — LGBQTI+ or African-American or Asian or Hispanic or Jewish, et cetera — is just waiting for the moment to be disrespected for something that they absolutely cannot control. So if we’re complaining about a business-to-consumer experience in your facility, trust me on this. We’re more outraged, disappointed, sad, frustrated, near tears and/or overwhelmed than you will ever be while reading a Yelp review. We had to live that experience over and over again.

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Photo credit: (left) Duncan Shaffer/Unsplash, (right) Photo credit: Clay Banks/Unsplash

There have been moments where I just called or emailed a company for pricing, and just the tone in the call made me reevaluate doing business with the company. There have been a handful of times that contractors have shown up and looked bewildered that I was the condo association president or a homeowner. Imagine having to argue with an exterminator (just one example) about getting into your own entrance door and him refusing to identify himself. It is a bizarre experience to see a company going way out of its way to make sure it does not do business with you.

So I applaud Yelp for calling companies out about the behavior of workers in a business or even upper management. As someone who enjoys constructive criticism (clearly I wouldn’t be in a Toastmasters group if I couldn’t handle a critique nor would I have lasted through so many creative writing workshops), Yelp’s business move should be approached with a glass half-full motto. This is an opportunity for companies to really understand where they are going wrong and what they can adjust.

Recommended Read: “Why are you rating black churches on Yelp? ~ Should churches receive travel reviews?

More often than not, customers will quietly walk out of a store and never return. They don’t answer business surveys or create Google and Yelp reviews; they just disappear completely. So if someone took the time to write an actual review or answer survey questions, that person is clearly looking for someone to read it, comprehend it and use it to better the company. If consumers or potential clients say nothing, the business doesn’t have a clue where it went wrong (or is happily discriminatory).

Business owners will have no idea why they’re losing business, why their consumer demographics are suspiciously high in some areas or why they’ve developed such a bad reputation. Just as higher-ups look at business financial documents regarding pricing, warehouse supply chains, locations, travel expenses and any other factor that hurts or helps their businesses, this is an opportunity to look at one more factor — one that will only help your money in the long run. And if the bulk of your customers are furious that racism will be called out in your place of business, you may want to re-evaluate your customer base anyway.

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I Do See Color

“Seeing” color is no more a problem than “seeing” height.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

I Do See Color

We are not ashamed of our melanin, and we know you “see” it. Just don’t discriminate and disrespect us because of it.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

I Do See Color

We are not ashamed of our melanin, and we know you “see” it. Just don’t discriminate and disrespect us because of it.

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