Does ‘the customer is always right’ mean ignoring racism?

August 18, 2020, 2:53 PM UTC

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You’ve most certainly heard this motto: “The customer is always right.” Heck, startups have taken the practice to even greater heights.

But what’s a company to do when a customer behaves in a way that is racist—for example, applying blackface with makeup while in store?

In the case of Glossier, the $1.2 billion makeup startup, former employees are now speaking out and accusing the company of not doing enough to address such racial microaggressions from customers. They told my colleague Emma Hinchliffe that the business created “a culture of deference to the customer at the cost of all else.”

In the blackface incident, managers did not confront the customers directly, but later told Black associates to “take a break,” according to employees interviewed by Emma. That incident is among multiple examples of racial microaggression that a number of ex-employees say they experienced at the hands of customers, but allege management never addressed directly with them. 

Racial inequality has been front and center in recent months, with many companies acknowledging that current standards are inadequate. Glossier too joined in on the chorus, committing $1 million to support causes related to racial justice. But the former employees say they hope to see changes in-house first before the startup looks outside. “We’re not trying to cancel Glossier,” they said.

Glossier, for its part, apologized on Instagram yesterday, and released new policies it plans to enact following an open letter from over 50 ex-employees who were laid off after Glossier closed its physical stores. Read more.

BIG BIG TECH NEWS: is in “preliminary talks” to invest in Rackspace Technology, a cloud services provider, per sources cited by Reuters. Rackspace, which trades on the Nasdaq and is backed by Apollo Global Management, is currently valued at about $3.8 billion. Read more.

The news comes after Google invested in another Apollo-backed company, home security firm ADT, earlier this month. 

Meanwhile, although Microsoft is the frontrunner to acquire the U.S. operations of social media company TikTok, Oracle has reportedly also thrown its name into the ring

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda


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