Story at a glance

  • After George Floyd’s death, many Americans sought to support the black community by donating to small businesses and nonprofits.
  • Some of these organizations lacked the infrastructure to handle the sudden increase in demands on their services.
  • As a result, they are now facing backlash and criticism as they attempt to operate during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the weeks after the police killing of George Floyd, the renewed national conversation around police violence and racism in the United States propelled books on racial discrimination to the top of bestseller lists. Black-owned bookstores and other businesses saw a flood of support from major corporations and patrons. 

Despite the goodwill, some of these small businesses have also faced criticism as they struggle to keep up with the influx of interest. Frugal Bookstore in Boston posted a message on its website apologizing for the delay due to the overwhelming number of orders, many of which are from the same 10 titles that have been sold out across the country. 


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"We are also receiving a number of disheartening emails asking us to cancel orders and refund payments, criticisms about how slow we are and that we have poor customer service because we have not answered an email. We do hope each and every one of you who has shown us support by purchasing through our website believe we are not accepting your money with the intention to keep and not send out your orders," the bookstore said in an email to customers. 

The publishing industry isn’t the only one dealing with delays in shipping and processing during the coronavirus pandemic, however. More Americans are ordering online, but there are less staff working more limited hours to package and distribute these orders. 

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Nonprofit organizations working towards racial justice and equality have faced similar backlash for delays. After tweeting out that they had used $200,000 of recent donations to bail out protesters, the Minnesota Bail Fund was quickly met with criticism that they had not spent more of the $35 million they had raised. 


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The organization, which had three employees in April, responded, saying that they were prepared to pay all protest-related bail, but were also saving funds to support protesters' ongoing legal costs. 

Still, many are grateful for the show of support in recent weeks. 

"I'm afraid to scale too much because you never know if this is going to be a week-long thing or is it going to be a one-day type of thing," Kris Christian, a small-business owner in Chicago told USA TODAY. "But it's my hope that we keep this energy up so that we can create more opportunities, more jobs and more resources for our own communities."


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Published on Jun 24, 2020