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Great Customer Service? NYC Orthodox Jews at B&H

I’m not big on being politically correct “just because”. In fact, while there are places where PC behavior is important (no sexual harassment, please!), shaking things up every now and then is a good thing. It’s how business change gets started.

That said, I’ll point out the life preserver here: I’m a New York Jew, so I get something of a pass both for using the phrase and for discussing the stereotypes that both New York City people in general and Jews from this city get thrown at them. I’m not Orthodox, though, so if I’ve offended you by adding that one to this discussion, well, you know where to find me.

Orthodox Jews in New York City aren’t known as the most forgiving, friendly, or forward-thinking people. Customer Service? Ha!

So why is B&H Photo so good at customer service? Because in a world undergoing constant business change, you can use business change and customer service to make more money.

I visited B&H a few years ago, and was instantly impressed. Customer service was on full display. You could ask as many questions as you liked and not feel as though you were bothering the experts employed in each department to help you out sell you stuff. And when you bought something it was delivered to the pick-up point from a back-end warehouse on a system of overhead conveyor belts that would make airport baggage handling systems designers jealous. And is fun to watch.

And while I was there for a camera, B&H Photo sells pretty much any electronic thing you can think of.

Now remember, this was years ago. There was no Twitter. Social Networking wasn’t even an idea yet. But fast-forward to now, and B&H is there, too, and in a big way.

None of these business changes are easy. Deciding what matters, how and when to do it, and putting together plans to enact business change look like challenges under the best of circumstances. And while that conveyor belt system at B&H also brings productivity gains and reduces disappearing inventory make no mistake that it represents a commitment to excellent customer service. And this from a group of people who, as I explained before, are more often associated with awful customer service.

Remember how important customer service is. And if you’re in New York City and want to be wowed by a model of efficiency, service, and the embracing of change, visit B&H Photo. But not on Saturday. That’s a change you won’t be seeing.


  1. Thanks for this post. It’s very gratifying and we appreciate it. I should point out though that many of us at B&H Photo are not orthodox Jews. Some of us are quite a bit less observant and we have numerous non-Jews working here too. B&H’s staff is as diverse as New York City itself.

    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video

    • Hi, Henry.

      I hope you (and anyone, who reads this stuff!) understands that in a few hundred words the amount of information I can get across is . . . limited. With that said, I really appreciate you engaging, and this is probably an even better place to address your point, anyway.

      Conversely, I imagine that very few people understand the proscription in the Jewish faith against working on the Sabbath and that it gets extended to a rule against causing others to work on the Sabbath, as well. But that said, it’s generally (only) the Orthodox who observe that second clause.

      For the record: I was never suggesting that B&H is staffed exclusively by Orthodox Jews. And I hope that readers understand that the reference was meant as a parable against discrimination, and certainly not as disrespectful in any way.

      And my goodness it’s great to see that you saw this and responded so quickly, which is the real point of writing about B&H and business change!


  2. Thanks so much. As I said we’re very gratified about your post here and appreciate it. Particularly this time of year I find I have to post “Leviticus 16:29 says, ‘…you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you…’ That covers everyone here whether the individual is Jewish or not.” frequently.

    BTW, in your “related to this” section, you might consider including This New York Times article about which I am very proud.

    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video

    • Henry, I’m pretty sure that’s the first Old Testament reference anyone’s ever slipped in here; I appreciate that little piece of diversity (and the specifics of your clarification!).

      As for your suggestion that we seed the “related” section to include the article from last week’s NY Times . . . I wish I could help you but the software that generates our related posts has a mind of its own (by design). So it seems that because the article was “about” customer service those were the relateds that got included. On the other hand, your link back to the article, the one that was in my original piece, and this one might well alter the weightings . . .



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