Friends and neighbors, we all know the special relationships we have with the local businesses in our community, from the corner store, to the barber, to cultural eateries and even to nail salons. The consumer- business relationship is often a personal one, because it is in settings like these that stories about one’s life and shared experiences surface, adding to the depth of connections of this nature.
Unfortunately, there are moments where these bonds made over time, can be broken, leaving a deep hurt in the community, like that of Red Apple Nail Salon in East Flatbush where Christina Thomas, 21, was attacked alongside her grandmother with sticks and acetone, due to a disagreement over services rendered. After being subjected to a violent response from the store employees, Christina was charged with misdemeanor assault, harassment, and menacing, and just one salon worker, 32-year-old Huiyue Zheng with misdemeanor assault.
When considering the aforementioned turn of events, safety, is something no customer should question with local businesses, but over the past few months, there have been an increasing number of visible lines crossed in this regard, which must come to an end. We can refer back to the 15-year-old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, dragged and stabbed out of a Bronx Bodega, where no one made a concerted effort to help him. Earlier this year, no one could forget the death of Ralph Nimmons, 51, who died after being tackled by employees at Stop & Shop for shoplifting. Although all businesses are not the same, this does bring to question the idea of cooperative economics.
The underlying thought with all of these occurrences, is that there is a deep-rooted conversation that must happen with honesty, surrounding the relations between the consumer and business owner. Although these negative relations often seem to have a hue, it is pertinent that respect remains paramount for the consumer regardless of their socioeconomic status, or what they paid for. Subsequently, the question remains, if the status of the consumer was different, would the aggressor respond in the same way, regardless of the circumstances?
With this question in mind, it is important to remember that all of the businesses would not be running if it were not for the local residents of the community. There is a well-known sage, that “right is right and wrong is wrong.” The way that Red Apple Nail Salon handled its customers was absolutely wrong. When a customer is not satisfied due to a visible mistake, they could easily say “I’m sorry, this one is on me,” to make amends, but now, a business will remain shut down, over $5, and it is unlikely the community will allow it to open again. Were their action worth it?
I do not support violence, nor do I support any assault or attack, but it is important to note that Christina was defending her grandmother and herself against a clear gang assault. After being subjected to a violent response from the store employees, Christina was charged with misdemeanor charges of assault, harassment, and menacing, and just one salon worker, 32-year-old Huiyue Zheng with felony assault and misdemeanor charges of menacing, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. In lieu of this, it is imperative the charges against her be dropped. Clearly, there must be a larger conversation at hand, and I would like to convey that we have been contacted by numerous officials locally and city wide and that there will be discussions taking place in a solution-oriented approach, to this problem. We must have the uncomfortable conversation about race relations and about business - consumer relations on a local level in our community, because there is power in our economics as a community and if there is no respect, there is no business.
We will shut down any business in the community that may try to replicate a transgression of this nature, because what should be a beautiful experience, should never morph into a disrespectful one.
Assemblymember Diana C. Richardson (D, WFP - 43rd AD), represents the 43rd Assembly District, which covers Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Wingate and East Flatbush.