Legend has it that there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, just waiting to be found. Those crafty leprechauns hid their treasure there, knowing that it would be safe, since we mere mortals can never actually find a rainbow’s end. (If this were a science tale, I’d maybe tell you about refraction, water droplets, angle of the sun, and various other reasons for the impossibility, but that’s not this tale. Google it. Google knows everything.) Recently, however, some in the business world have come to recognize that while they can’t grab that legendary pot of gold, they can do the next best thing… and it also involves a rainbow!
Businesses around the country are seeing the power of the LGBT dollar. Aside from the stereotypical image of more disposable income, there is a tendency to brand loyalty by LGBT shoppers to companies that cater to, and respect, them. Positive ratings by national groups, gay support groups in their offices, equality policies, advertising that is directed at our market, and word-of-mouth, all lead LGBT shoppers to certain businesses.
Visalia businesses are also seeing the power of the LGBT dollar, and are more than happy to be rainbow friendly.
About four years ago, the local LGBT community started weekly “Meet and Greets” at a local restaurant. The owner was happy to host the crowds that showed up, and his cash register sang that happy little song that cash registers sing when you feed them. Unfortunately, a new owner came onto the scene suddenly, and discontinued the arrangement. With the weekly gathering told to go elsewhere, that cash register’s song took on a fainter tone. The rainbow was no longer welcome.
The group has now evolved into the Tuesday Evening Dining Group, TEDG for short, and visits a different restaurant each week. Eateries in Visalia, Tulare, Hanford, Dinuba, Porterville, and Exeter have hosted the group, which turns out 10 to 30 diners on a regular basis. A crowd of that size can have a huge effect on a slow night’s bottom line, and local businesses are keen to have the group visit.
Aside from the first location’s termination of the weekly arrangement, the group has never been refused a reservation, and has never been asked not to return. Last night we had a special event, hosted by one of Visalia’s finest restaurants. The dinner was an evening of excellent service, wonderful food, and a desert that had us all feeling like royalty. Topped off by a very reasonable price (especially for this particular establishment), the owner himself came into the dining room (several times) and spoke with us, asking us how the dinner was, and inviting us to return. This was our third event at this restaurant, and our tradition will now be to return twice a year. Our group was welcome, and invited back.
Dining Out For Equality is another local group that does lunch at various locations around Tulare and Kings Counties. Showing up with a group of 10-20 people decked out in equality t-shirts, lunch counter cash registers start to sing, and owners sport big smiles. This group is also courted by business, and welcomed each time they visit.
National, as well as local, businesses have come to support LGBT causes, instituted non-discrimination employment policies, made donations to local and national charitable groups, and urged their employees and customers to respect all they come into contact with. Some have been the victims of “boycotts”, called for by fringe groups who are mostly trying to gain attention. Called by people upset with “the gay agenda”, email blasts and blog posts urge readers to boycott the LGBT friendly business of the moment. No boycott, from the ones against Disney from years ago, to recent attempts at action against Home Depot, Starbucks, J.C. Penny, and other ubiquitous brands across American store shelves, has ever resulted in a change in the policies of a major corporation. They recognize the power of the LGBT dollar, as well as the simple truth that treating all their customers with respect and dignity is the right thing to do.
Ten years ago, the school district in Visalia had to be sued to stop anti-gay harassment at one of it’s high schools. Today, the LGBT community is courted by businesses, proclaimed by city government, and host to ground-breaking and history-making organizations.
The pot of gold really is at the end of the rainbow, and for those willing to make the effort the rewards are there for the taking. Welcoming the rainbow makes your cash registers sing. (and it can’t be bad for your karma, either!)