What We’re Arguing About

Well someone needed to say something

Dear AmEx,

Without the instantaneousnessness of Twitter how else would have our 140 character verbal stoush been over and done with so quickly. Just as well I say, so we can all go back to our day jobs: you a multinational financial services firm worth US$14.97 billion headquarted in NYC with 63,000 employees worldwide; and me, well I dilly, and I dally, and I potter about in the goldfields of Victoria. I also spot MASSIVE HOLES IN YOUR MARKETING TACTICS, AND PULL YOU UP ABOUT IT, BUT YOU REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN WHAT YOU’RE SAYING AND WHAT YOU’RE DOING. But I’m not worried, business owners will see your con and realise you’re only PRETENDING to care about local businesses just so you get some PR.

Indignant of Castlemaine

What’s that all about?

See a screengrab below of my twitter-sticks-and-stones with the 22nd most valuable brand in the world.


Shop Small, a month long campaign (Nov 13) to encourage consumers to shop at small businesses. ‘Nowt wrong with that’ I hear you say. No, but stay awhile my friend, the water gets muddy from now on. My problem was with how, and who they partnered with for their ‘rewards’ to small business.

“Shop Small encourages Australians to spend more in local businesses like yours.”
Ah, so they are talking to me as a consumer AND as a small business owner. As a small business they are also rewarding me for participating. Oh that’s great, thankyou AmEx. In what way are you rewarding me? I suppose I had best read your fine print.

“With every American Express transaction you process during November …”
Oh, I’ll stop right there. Firstly I need to be able to accept credit cards. Secondly I need to accept AmEx (how many time have you been in a shop where they don’t accept AmEx). The fine print says I need to be a ‘small merchant’. They define a small merchant as  ‘Any business location that has processed less than AU$1,000,000 worth of American Express transactions in the last 12 months.”  Do note that total is not for all credit card transactions, just the AmEx ones.

Now let’s just pretend for a moment that I did qualify as a small business to participate. One of the ‘rewards’ they’re offering me was the opportunity to sign up for a business account with Officeworks and receive 10% off my purchases for 30 days. (Or it could have been 30% off.) Dearest reader, have you ever heard of Officeworks. Let’s take a few stats from Wikipedia (and yes I have responded to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ recent call for donations): 6,000 employees, 150 locations, revenue $1,510 million, owned by Wesfarmers. Only thing in its favour is it’s Australian owned. But in my books definitely NOT a small business.

And therein lies the rub. The Shop Small movement encourages Australians to shop small, but hey Small Business, you can do whatever the hell you like. We don’t really care but do know we’re gunna get some good PR with the whole warm and fuzzy Shop Small campaign thingy. The AmEx campaign is really incentivising me (as a small business owner) to shop big — to say ta ta to my local stationery shop and open an on-going account with Officeworks.

AmEx: “Hey Liz, forget your local small business stationery shop, you should open an account at Officeworks and get 10% off for 30 days. Awesome!!!!!!!!”

Liz: “Ah, but, haven’t you just run a campaign telling me to Shop Small?”

AmEx: “Yeah, but, yeah, but, yeah, but don’t worry about that you will saaaaaaaaaaave $$$$$$… ”

Liz: For 10% off. Really! How stupid do you think I am?

{From Wikipedia: Officeworks buy in bulk, so you get the lowest prices. Officeworks lowest price guarantee with a 5% discount offered if a lower price is found elsewhere. Officeworks offers free wi-fi.}

If you’re a small business stationery retailer (especially one who has $900,000 AmEx transactions in a 12 month period) are you happy about AmEx encouraging your business customers to open an account at Officeworks? Like hell you are.



I must apologise to American Express and Officeworks: Officeworks aren’t a global retailer  (as I said in my tweet) as they are owned by Wesfarmers — so that makes them Australian owned. But my point about Officeworks NOT being a small business till stands.

Is each Officeworks store operated as a franchise? I suppose then I must concede that makes them a small business-ish.

But tell that to your local un-affiliated stationery shop and see how they take it. On the chin? Methinks not.

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Castlemaine Office Supplies I love you, and not just because you’re “more than stationary” (sic) as the signwriter painted on your window. I’m not going anywhere (else) either.


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