Why I Hate the Hook-Up

Alfred Edmond Jr., Black Enterprise, December 3, 2009

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Richard, a black comedian calls his white friend: “Hey, Chad. Just wanted to let you know: I’ll be in town next week to do a show. Hope you can make it.”

Chad: “Really? That’s great! What night is it? I’ll call all of my friends and we’ll pack the house! It’ll be a blast!”

“Thanks, Chad!,” says Richard. “It’s on Thursday night. I’ll see you then!”

Richard hangs up, excited about the prospect of a big night at the comedy club, which means more gigs. He then he calls his boy, Lamont. (What? You know he’s black. How many white, Asian or Latino guys named Lamont do you know? Try to keep up, okay? Anyway . . . )

Richard: “Monty-Mont! Whassup? It’s ya boy, Richy-Rich! Just hollerin’ atcha to let you know that I got a gig in town next Thursday. You coming, right?”

Lamont: “Hell, yes, I’m coming! You funny as a mug! Shoot, I’ll bring my girl, and tell her to bring her girls, and I’ll get Antonio and Big Rob and Lisa to come and get the word out to their peeps, too!”

“Cool!,” says Richard. He holds his breath. He knows it’s coming.

“You gonna hook us all up, right?,” says Lamont.

One of the biggest drags on black entrepreneurial growth and profitability is the “hook-up”: black people expecting other black people to provide them with free goods and services just because they’re black. We need to stop it. Today. NOW.

No, she can’t hook you up with a few press releases and some public relations for your event.

No, he can’t hook you up with a few signed copies of his book.

No, he can’t hook you up with a quick shape-up so you can look fly at the club tonight.

No, she can’t hook you and your momma and aunties up with free tickets to the fashion show.

No, she can’t hook up a business plan for you real quick.

No, she can’t deliver the dinner keynote without an honorarium, in return for two tickets at the head table for food she won’t get to eat. Because she’ll be speaking during the dinner.

No, they can’t wash your car, pull your teeth, do your hair, fix your computer, edit your manuscript, paint your house, build your web site, etc. for free! Discount? Maybe. Complimentary services for referring new–paying–customers? Okay. An occasional freebie for long-time, loyal customers who always pay? Sure. Barter my goods or services for yours? We might be able to work something out. But, FREE? NO!

Hello? The point of being in business is to make money! How can entrepreneurs, and black business owners in particular, make money, if they’re expected to give their products and services–which costs them money to create, develop, market and deliver–away for free? If you don’t spend money with them, they can’t spend their money with you. If you won’t pay for your haircut, your barber can’t pay to eat at your restaurant. If Leslie the auto dealer won’t pay a competitive rate for wedding planning, Lisa the wedding planner can’t afford to buy a car from Leslie. Money has to circulate in order for economic empowerment to happen and for black entrepreneurs to have a chance to compete and thrive. You don’t support black entrepreneurs by showing up for the hook-up. You support black business by paying up.

When I find a black entrepreneur or professional who provides goods and services I like, I pay for those goods and services–period. I know that there are costs associated with providing a service and making a product, a cost they can only recoup by selling at a profit. I don’t want them to hook me up with free stuff. I want to hook them up with my spending, because then they can really hook me up, by creating jobs, growing the local tax base, supporting community organizations, doing business with other black entrepreneurs and professionals–or just having enough money and a predisposition to reciprocate, to buy goods and services (like subscriptions to Black Enterprise) from me and mine. I want black enterpreneurs to make money. I want them to succeed. I want them to get more than rich. I want to see as many wealthy black entrepreneurs, families and communities as possible. So if I like what they’re selling, I’m more than happy–I’m thrilled–to pay for it, and to tell all of my family, friends and associates how great they are.

Do you really want to support black entrepreneurs and black professionals? Stop hitting them up for freebies. If you believe in their products and services, pay for them, as you would for the products and services of any other business. If what they’re selling doesn’t merit that, why are you patronizing them in the first place? Do you really think you’re doing them–or yourself–a favor?

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