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The ‘Black Tax’: Corporation Exploits Black Spending Dollars at HBCU Basketball Tournament

ciaareceiptThe C.I.A.A. Basketball Tournament, featuring schools from 11 historically Black colleges, attracts tens of thousands of “fans” to Charlotte and brings in $30 million in revenue, the city says. Wonder if it includes the blatant, unexplained price-gouging of the Ritz Carlton.

Visitors to the luxury hotel’s lobby and lounge during the tournament were astounded when they noticed a 15 percent “CIAA service charge” to all checks.

“We thought, ‘That’s interesting,’” said Patrice Wright to Charlotte’s WBTV. She said she and her husband who enjoyed sweet potato fries and two drinks each. When the bill came, it included a charge of $10.20 for “CIAA service charge” in addition to the price of the items and sales tax. “We have frequented the establishment several times and never had any surcharge that was associated with any organization that was in town.”

This “Black tax” is the kind of systemic racism that plagues the Black community across the country and shows up incrementally on occasions where African-Americans are gathered in large numbers. It is powered by the pervasive notion that Black people don’t tip—or tip in accepted percentages. So in comes the “CIAA service charge,” which supports the racist view at the expense of paying Black consumers.

The television station contacted the Ritz-Carlton about the strange “CIAA service charge.”

In an email to WBTV, the hotel said: “Due to the size of the CIAA event, we instituted a modest 15% service charge for our lobby beverage servers, on whom the event places significant demands throughout the weekend.”

Charlotte hosts the ACC Tournament, NASCAR events and other major conventions. Wright said she’s never incurred an extra service charge specific to those events. “Is there an ACC championship surcharge?” she asked. “Is there a Speed Street surcharge? Is there a Belk Bowl surcharge?”

The station asked the Ritz Carlton those questions. The Ritz Carlton did not respond.

“I was shocked,” Wright said. “I was disturbed because I thought that kind of price gouging had been addressed in previous years.”

Tom Murray, chief executive officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, wanted no part of the controversy. “That’s not our decision,” he said to the Charlotte Observer. “Certainly it is their decision to defend whether they thought it was the right thing to do or not. I know it’s common practice in the industry for some restaurants to charge an automatic gratuity for large parties or special circumstances, and that’s what they may have done.”

Murray said private businesses have the option to alter prices if they choose. He said the CRVA was not aware of the CIAA service charge until the network brought it to its attention.

Murray tried to defend it, saying: “I think what it really. . . was an automatic gratuity. . . It certainly wasn’t a CIAA surcharge—that was misleading, and I think that was problematic.”

Patrice Wright said no Ritz employees told her or her husband about the CIAA service charge or automatic gratuity before or after the bill arrived.

“We left a gratuity in addition to the CIAA surcharge,” she said. “I’ve been to several different conventions and conferences, and we went to the Ritz and I’ve never seen that before. And if they had to do it, it should be blanket. It should not be identified by CIAA.”

What people are saying

19 thoughts on “The ‘Black Tax’: Corporation Exploits Black Spending Dollars at HBCU Basketball Tournament

  1. This is so true about this article, its about time people like us realized that most of these business have one thing in common in relations to us, exploitation and pillaging, the same mentality that pervades europeans business dealings with africans and the caribeans.

  2. Hbcu Kidz says:

    SO. DOES IT GO TO COURT or people boycott?

  3. Dennis Cooke says:

    I wonder if the CIAA service charge was for all customers or just Black customers.

  4. James Walker says:

    The disproportional capitalistic system will continue to flourish as long as you continue to feed it. The CIAA has been abound since 1912, but there is no venue large enough or updated enough to hold the tournament. Why? because those that have ran the league for all of these yrs have always look to rent out venues instead of building their "OWN" i.e no vision of the future. Hire some new minds in the marking/promotion arena that has the ability to catch conference up with the rest of the world. How does one let a city reap in almost 10 times what the conference pulls in 2yrs in a row is beyond me. I'm no math major or accountant but I think that is backwards economics. I don't have all the answers or maybe none at all but I do know for HBCU's to survive. the leadership & vision has to change from being dependent on those who continue to exploit you to those wanting to enlist your services & talents at a fair market rate, even if it means going outside the box. Calling all HBCU's alumni theses young people & institutions need us.

  5. James Walker says:

    The disproportional capitalistic system will continue to flourish as long as you continue to feed it. The CIAA has been abound since 1912, but there is no venue large enough or updated enough to hold the tournament. Why? because those that have ran the league for all of these yrs have always look to rent out venues instead of building their "OWN" i.e no vision of the future. Hire some new minds in the marking/promotion arena that has the ability to catch conference up with the rest of the world. How does one let a city reap in almost 10 times what the conference pulls in 2yrs in a row is beyond me. I'm no math major or accountant but I think that is backwards economics. I don't have all the answers or maybe none at all but I do know for HBCU's to survive. the leadership & vision has to change from being dependent on those who continue to exploit you to those wanting to enlist your services & talents at a fair market rate, even if it means going outside the box. Calling all HBCU's alumni theses young people & institutions need us.

  6. But "yall/we" keep going. Smh

  7. Netter Ma At says:

    Ritz was bracing to cover damage expenses in light of the recent trashing of other hotel by Fraternities & Sororities.

  8. Do you really have to wonder ?

  9. No Black fraternities or sororities where invoked with the trashing of the other hotel that you speak of, they were white Greek letter organizations. It was a purely discriminatory action taken by The Ritz-Carlton

  10. I live in Charlotte and have personally boycotted the event since the 2nd year it was here. I attended NCCU and we have since left the conference. This tip issue is just a miniscule part of the issue not being focused on in the article. Not mentioned is the fact that the hotel room rates are double/tripled in cost and requires full payment up front; parking lots charge $60-$100 to park where normally cost $20; and the fact the City garners $30 million plus, but the schools get about $100k each in scholarship dollars. It is robbery in its highest form, but we continue to feed this monster. With the money spent, we can build a CIAA Village and have our own venue, hotels, etc and rent out during the year when not in use for the tournament. There is a closed HBCU named St. Paul's University that is sitting vacant with plenty of land to build this complex. However, I don't see our community having the foresight to make this happen.

  11. I agree with some of what your saying but not totally. The increase in parking and hotel happen when ever a big event is in any city like NBA all-star weekend, NCAA, this is what business do. The major problem is the fact is people do not go to the games any more that is the reason why the school only get 100k. The reason why the city gets 30million is because black people spend their money on parties, and restaurants that have nothing to do with CIAA. The problem people like you have stop supporting. The tax was not just to tax blacks they did the same thing at the NCAA tournament some years back. I hate when black don't full investigate situations.

  12. That would be interesting to know for sure.

  13. I would just like to point out a sad truth that whites do tip a lot better than black people. If you ever worked in bar/resturant work you could agree

  14. Leon Thomas says:

    This is just another way to keep black people down. These major snow storms that we had this winter was nature's "white tax ".

  15. Miles Okeefe says:

    Elmer Doug Ellis it was added to all of the checks. price gouging happens in big cities every time a large event comes to town. when atlanta held the olympics hotels charged 1000 percent higher room rates than normal. and that was for dozens of nationalities and ethnicities. those innkeepers must hate the whole world.

  16. Miles Okeefe says:

    Elmer Doug Ellis the fee was added to all checks.

  17. I live in Charlotte and don't support non official ciaa events that weekend. They make it clear.. they don't want your business, but they'll take your money

  18. Mandy Reed says:

    Miles Okeefe The Olympics? Really? It's the Olympics, of course they're going to capitalize. That's like comparing regular hotel prices in SD to SD hotel prices during Comic-Con weekend. Stop.

  19. Wm HL says:

    NC A&T homecoming. Local bars and restaurants added additional fees also. Unfortunately I left a 20% tip and didn't notice the additional charge until afterwards.

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