Put on Blast: Harlem’s chain stores vs. small businesses

Over the past 3 years, Uptownflavor has been about promoting and highlighting small businesses in Harlem. As Harlem becomes more “mainstream” and more chain stores and big box businesses are opening up in our community, UF is considering adding a new section called “Put on Blast.” A few readers suggested that we add this feature years ago, but we have aways hesistated because we don’t like putting a negative spin on Harlem; primarily because Harlem already gets such a bad rap in the media.

Today convinced us that there is a need for someone to put a number of Harlem businesses on blast. I had 3 negative experiences today in Harlem that I’m sure others could easily relate to — two in national chain stores in Harlem and one on the city bus. While these incidents could just as well happen outside of Harlem, they didn’t. They were (in my mind) uniquely Harlem experiences and they need to aired. Again, our focus is not on blasting small businesses, but poor customer service, security guard following you around stores, and shoddiness in general is not going to be tolerated as Harlem residents have more choices. As we all know, all chain drug stores and Starbucks are not created equally. Be on notice managers and business owners. The bar continues to be raised in Harlem.


2 thoughts on “Put on Blast: Harlem’s chain stores vs. small businesses

  1. I think “Put on Blast” is a good idea only if you will be focusing on bad customer service experiences or establishments that should be cleaner and more customer-friendly. But please, please do not focus on purported racial profiling in retails. You are then treading into a very explosive territory that I don’ t feel fits in with the overall tone of this site in general.

    Also, if you’re going to do something like this, make sure it covers all sorts of retails in Harlem, whether they be a national chain or a mom-and-pop store (I get from your post that you will be doing this but am not sure). Because let me tell you, the majority of my bad customer-service experiences in Harlem have been at these mom-and-pops, where they treat their customers like crap and a nuisance.

    Lastly, I’m curious to see what you define by “uniquely Harlem experiences.” As someone who grew up in the Bronx in the ’70s and subsequently lived in Queens and the UES, I have yet to experience anything in Harlem that I would categorize as “uniquely Harlem” (I assume by your post that you mean uniquely *negative* Harlem experiences). I remember my friends and I being followed by security guards in the Queen Shopping Mall when I was younger. Rude, inconsiderate, nasty people and places are everywhere in this city, regardless of where you live. But the upside to that is that so are nice and considerate people and places.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. I own a Harlem based small business and bank at Citibank @ 144th & 7th. I coincidentally also use Citibank for my credit card needs & use, it works well, I can pay my Citibank Credit card bill in person @ a Citibank bank on the day it’s due. Once on the day my credit card payment was due I was on 125th & Lenox, walked up to Citibank on 125th & 7t Ave. to pay my credit card bill in full, in person, at Citibank on the corner. The amount due was $5,200. At the counter of Citibank I signed the simple withdrawal & payment forms to orchestrate the transaction and payment. This involved zero cash being handed over to me in my pocket, simply moving (on computers) cash from a Citibank checking account to pay the Citibank credit card. The entire transaction took place within “Citibank”, I’ve done this type of transaction and payment dozens and dozens of times at Citibanks all over Manhattan.
    While at the counter after submitting the paper work for this transaction to be performed…I noticed it was taking unusually long (minutes). Generally this takes about 1 minute tops, there is a check to see if my checking account has the cleared funds to transfer the money, if it does, the transaction is done.

    Well that simple process was not good enough for Citibank at 125th & 7th Ave. When I asked the bank teller if there was a problem, she replied saying, “She has to check 1 more month of checks”. “What The F?”. What happened? I was “PROFILED” in my own bank for “BANKING WHILE BLACK”, in Harlem, at a major chain bank, Citibank. It was not satisfactory or enough for the Bank Teller to look up my account and see sufficient cleared funds. That universal Citibank standard and policy was not sufficient for the Citibank branch at 125th & 7th. The Bank Teller researched all my check deposits for the last 2 months to verify a second time, manually, that none of my deposited checks bounced or was rejected for some reason, and she was working on a 3rd month when after 10 minutes I asked if there was a problem. WTF?

    I was outraged, furious, if you bank there, you know a 30 something young Black woman named “Susan” (I will leave her last name out of this) was the manager there for a number of years, she has since left to another branch. The branch Manager “Susan” pleaded with me to calm down, sat me at her desk, and proceeded to explain to me that Citibank @ 125th & 7th has to operate “differently” than what you can expect at Citibanks elsewhere, due to the attempts of fraudulent activities at that particular branch. I was still furious and outraged, within 1 week closed my account with Citibank, including credit card accounts and wrote the CEO of Citiabank about how I was profiled and suspect for “Banking While Black”.
    If you are @ Citibank @ 125th & 7th, there is a threshold, a “wire you can trip” to where due to being at that Citibank and moving certain amounts of cash, you are profiled, suspect, reseached and verified beyond how you are at any other Citibank. There is a second standard you are not subjected to at any other Citibank. This was literally broken down to me by Susan the brank manager, and she tried to say it in as graceful as a manner as possible, but the bottom line is that you are “suspect” for banking activities that his a certain threshold.

    Keep this in mind, none of this invovled me walking out of the bank with my own money, this was a simple transfer of cash within Citibank (checking account to credit card services payment) and even that required an investigation of the legitimacy of me having $5000 for real. Susan/ Citibank actually wrote me a letter of apology about this incident as well.

    I doubt Citibank is alone and I doubt most people even know it, but you can be profiled, targeted, subject to all sorts of standards, etc. for “Banking in Harlem” or “Banking While Black” that you are not subjected to with the same bank outside of Harlem. If you think after a check has cleared – it’s a done deal and unquestionably your money, you are WRONG (in Harlem). No majority White community in Long Island for example would tolerate having to face a higher bar, a second standard that others do not have to deal with.

    These Chains in Harlem apply all sorts of “second standards” that don’t apply to their other locations. If you are not respected and treated equal to their other locations, end the relationship, do not cater these chains that apply a “Harlem Policy” to their operating.

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