One Simple Thing

The Social Invention Blog

Small Business Saturday

Perhaps you’ve seen the promotions to Shop Small this Saturday, November 30. Also known as Small Business Saturday, it has the honor (or is it ignominy?) of following Black Friday.

Two years ago in this blog, I posted some reasons why this was a good idea. In fact, I thought my idea was better: simply to promote “Buy Local.” I thought so because shopping small one day a year may raise awareness, but I feared then—as I do now—that it’s too little too late.

First, cards on the table: American Express card, that is. It’s their promotion, and while small businesses will benefit so will American Express. (At least they used their own name, instead of spinning it off as Downhome Slow Pokes.)

Second, I wish to repeat my primary argument (which American Express does emphasize) that says the money you spend at these small businesses stays local. That means jobs, spending, and especially taxes.

Finally, this is a fight we’re losing, big time. And by big time, I mean we’re losing it to big time corporations. The global giants have figured out how to cook the books to pay fewer taxes.

That may not sound like news to you, but I just saw it on the PBS World News. What these giants are doing is shifting numbers so their largest profits appear in those countries (and counties and cities, I presume) that have the lowest taxes.

Now you may not think of Starbucks as a big global giant (worth approx. 15B), but their outlets in Morocco (and dozens of other small countries) surely pay lower taxes than the stores in New York City. It just takes a little creative accounting (and clever computers) to shift those NYC profits to where it will hurt Starbucks the least.

The problem is, it also hurts New York City (which could really use those tax dollars). And it hurts you and I wherever we live. To put it bluntly, the Globals aren’t paying their fair share for where they do business. They’ll take our money, but they won’t pay their share for the roads we use to get to them or the schools that train their employees or—hell, you can fill in the rest.

So, Small Business Saturday is a nice gesture, but largely empty (except for the good will it buys American Express). Unless we buy local—as often as we can afford to—every Saturday and Sunday and Monday, etc., small businesses can expect to go the way of the buggy whip.

And the global giants? Well, they’re getting richer, but for how long? If they keep this up, roads will collapse and schools will close. Then, one day soon—maybe on a Saturday—no one will be able to afford their products. Then what?


Why Buy Local?

Yesterday was Small Business Saturday. If you didn’t know . . .

“The 2nd annual Small Business Saturday® is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

On November 26, we’re asking millions of people to Shop Smallsm at their favorite local stores and help fuel the economy. When we all shop small, it will be huge.” —

Sounds nice, eh? Kinda makes you feel warm and fuzzy? Well, that seems to be all they’re aiming at. What’s the likelihood that lots of people—on Black Friday weekend when so many go bargain-crazy—will actually take the time to Shop Small? And, for another, far more important question, just how much good will it do if it’s just the Saturday after Black Friday?

If we, in this country, want to get serious about ways our individual shopping can help our economy, we need more powerful, more persuasive, and more persistent appeals to reason. Emotion is fine in its place, but it won’t open your pocketbook when it’s attacked by a bad economy.

Small Business Saturday isn’t even a drop in the bucket. We should buy local to help our local economies, but we need strong hardheaded economic reasons as to why we should. We need to move beyond patronizing local businesses just because we like them and want to keep them in business. That’s a good reason, but we need better reasons because we need to do more.

So step back and look at the big picture. What happens to those dollars you spend locally? Beyond local profits, they go to local salaries. And those dollars? We may not know how many will be spent locally, but we know it’s more than if we didn’t buy local. We know some portion of those local salaries will end up paying local rents and local property taxes. And the portion that is spent locally will not only find its way into other local salaries, it will also pay local sales taxes, just like your locally spent dollars did in the first place.

Local tax dollars will come out of your local buying. How much? Hard to say, but obviously more than if you didn’t buy local. And if other people are paying local taxes with money you spent locally, then that’s less tax money you have to pay.

So is it worth it to buy local if you can save 50% buying online? Obviously not. But what if the difference is only 5%? How about 1%? Can you really say it’s worth it to save such small amounts for your pocket when the whole purchase could go into the local economy, helping workers, businesses, and contributing to local tax revenues?

One simple thing to make a big difference: Buy Local.

New Blog!

Welcome to a new  blog from New Lamp Press.

Under the umbrella of social invention, we will be posting (and YouTubing) ideas for simple social progress aka One Simple Thing.

Look for something by this Saturday (11/26/11).

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