The philosophy of Postconsumers is not that we have to give up consumerism and shopping and live in a treehouse somewhere (though we think that you are an awesome and interesting individual if you do)! We advocate mindful consumerism that includes knowledge of the societal ill of addictive consumerism, controls decision making rather than being manipulated by the media machine and advocates for ethical consumerism. With all of that said, we obviously advocate for choices that promote shopping local rather than gravitating to big box stores.  However, even the most noble concept can go sideways if approached incorrectly. In response to the societal overkill and increasing disgust at Black Friday, Small Business Saturday was developed.  On its face, it seems like a great thing. However, like anything consumer-related, there are pros and cons and a very grey area. Today, we’re taking a look at the good and bad of Small Business Saturday.

Oh My. Be Wary of Anything Sponsored by a Credit Card Company

There’s really no way to avoid the 800 pound elephant in the room. Small Business Saturday is sponsored by American Express. Like anything, there is a pro and a con to this. American Express has a huge budget for advertising and promoting things. It also has huge social capital and reputation so people listen to what American Express is saying to them, and when American Express tells them to shop locally people listen. These are good things. But … but … there’s really no way to avoid cringing at the link between a credit card company and any event that advocates for shopping. This is especially true during the Black Friday week of events. Sure, American Express may have some ethical backbone about the value of small mom and pop stores, but that’s a fraction of the mix as to why Small Business Saturday was created. We don’t need to have been in the Amex board room to tell you that Small Business Saturday was absolutely a marketing initiative that had two end goals. The first was to encourage you to go out and spend money, hopefully on your Amex card. The second was to generate free advertising and PR for Amex while making them seem like the “humane” option in the world of credit cards. And perhaps they are the humane option. But at its core Small Business Saturday is a marketing campaign by a credit card company, and that should make you uncomfortable.

However, On the Pro Side, Anything That Promotes Shopping Locally is Great

Now, all of that said, we can’t deny that there are huge benefits to the Small Business Saturday campaign. We’re well on-record (and the facts back us up) that it’s big box stores and huge corporations who wind up the gears of the consumer media machine and keep America vaped on addictive consumerism. While you’re still buying “stuff” when you shop local, you are at least not feeding the very beasts that chain most of modern society. Plus, realistically, we can’t shut down the business of buying and selling “stuff.” The economy does need to function. People need to earn livings. We will not be transitioning to a barter society any time soon (or possibly ever, unless the benevolent alien overlords are about to descend). When you shop locally, the benefits are numerous. You’re sustaining local economies. In many cases you’re sustaining local craftsmanship and manufacturing. You’re generally not supporting both the environmental waste and unquestionably poor social ethics of big box stores and massive consumer goods organizations. You are, in short, doing a good thing when you shop locally and the more of it you do (when you need to shop) the better. The key is in finding a balance between shopping locally and shopping for the wrong reasons.

The Key is In Awareness of Why and How Much You are Shopping Locally

So where is the line you should consider drawing? As we previously said, we don’t expect you to abandon the system of commerce entirely. That’s frankly not realistic. You absolutely, one-hundred percent should shop locally whenever possible, and buy locally made goods whenever possible. But you should do this knowing and understanding the traps and tricks of addictive consumerism. You should still make mindful choices about what you buy, when and why and how much. Are you shopping to fulfill an emotional need? Are you buying “stuff” with the hopes that it will make you happy or complete you? Are you buying “stuff” to live up to some societal standard of “more, more, more?” If you’re shopping for any of those reasons, then the location and ethics of where you’re shopping won’t ultimately cure what ails you.  Evaluate your local shopping habits and your overall shopping habits, separately from where you’re shopping. Then figure out if you need to look inward for some adjustments and growth.

The Verdict: We Think (Right Now) the Good Outweighs the Bad

We may not have this opinion in years to come, but right now we truly believe that the value of the size and scope of the Small Business Saturday campaign outweighs the fact that it’s being sponsored by a credit card company. The only way to impact large-scale change is with large-scale reach and influence. American Express has done more to raise both awareness of and activity surrounding shopping local and small than any other source that we can think of. Is it still part of a broken mentality and rigged system? Absolutely. But it’s an essential step in the shift away from damaging big box shopping to a more sustainable and healthy approach. Sometimes, the lesser of two evils really is lesser, and we believe that is the case here.  Should you shop Small Business Saturday just because it’s Small Business Saturday? No. But if you’re going to shop anyway, skip the Black Friday and Cyber Monday industrialized shopping system and support local merchants instead!

Did we miss a way in which Small Business Saturday is both a good thing and a bad thing? If so, tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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Photo Credit: Mike Licht via Flickr