First there was Black Friday, then the unfortunately named Cyber Monday and now American Express is pushing the idea of “Small Business Saturday.” Now in its second year, the effort is worthy if not entirely sincere on the part of Amex. The pitch is: shop small businesses on November 26 because that helps local communities.
The statement is correct; however there’s something distasteful to me about Amex being the sponsor of the whole thing. Eager to present itself as the champion of SMBs the financial services company is also involving Foursquare to promote the day:
On Saturday, November 26, spend $25 at one of hundreds of thousands of local merchants across the US, and you’ll get $25. For free. Seriously
To participate users must sync their Foursquare accounts with their Amex cards. Then on Saturday Foursquare will expose where the local deals are through the “Explore” tab. After a check-in you can load the deal on to the card. When you spend more than $25 you get the benefit of the $25 rebate without having to show a coupon or otherwise interact with the register clerk.
This check-in/instant-rebate model will be in widespread use in a year or so: take some sort of action (visit a store) and get the deal automatically on your card, without having to show a coupon or your phone to the clerk.
I think we should all support independent local businesses. I also think the Foursquare tie-in is compelling (and so will be the metrics it throws off). However I’m not a big fan of Amex as you might be able to tell.
There’s a kind of opportunism and even exploitation in them championing “Small Business Saturday.” If we’re really going to change people’s collective behavior and wean them away from big boxes, we need something more regular and sustained than a once a year promotion that is mostly about offering a perk to cardholders and trying to provide a reason for SMBs to continue accepting the Amex card.
I suppose it’s a start.