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The Truth About Small Business Saturday

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This Saturday (November 26) is Small Business Saturday®. Always the Saturday after Thanksgiving, this day is dedicated to shopping locally and supporting local small businesses rather than more giant corporations.

While we can all get behind shopping small, the truth is that Small Business Saturday was started as a marketing initiative by American Express in 2012. A little-known fact is that “Small Business Saturday” is even a registered trademark for American Express.

Who Profits From Small Business Saturday?

Knowing that Small Business Saturday was started by a credit card company, I’m sure you can guess that American Express was motivated by potential profits.

For every credit card transaction, a small business can be charged 1.5%-3.5%, according to Nerd Wallet.
Debit cards have less fees because they are less of a risk since money is taken directly from one bank to the other.

“Debit cards used with PIN verification will have a lower interchange rate than one with signature verification. Typically a PIN verification is triggered when the customer chooses to pay via debit. If the customer selects “credit” when paying with a debit card it triggers signature verification, with higher rates,” according to this article breaking down if you should use a credit card vs. a debit card.

But, even with the fees associated with using a card, Small Business Saturday has been a huge help towards getting more foot traffic into shops during the holiday season. What I’m really trying to encourage is that we try and use cash when we’re able so that we’re putting as much money into the small business’ pocket as we can.

Mischief is “A shop that gives shine to all kinds of artists and makers” according to Oaklandside – Credit: Amir Aziz

Support a Small Business with cash if you can:

Speaking with a small business owner, Ryan of Tempest Salon in San Rafael, she says cash is still king. If someone suggests cash than she will sometimes give them a discount. Cash saves her the 2.6% process fee that she would otherwise have to pay if someone used a card.

My favorite types of small businesses are those who source their items from other small businesses or individuals.

Here are some small business suggestions to get you inspired:

  • Mischief in Oakland or Local Take, Jenny Lemons, and Foggy Notion in San Francisco primarily sell handmade goods from local artists and makers.
  • Farmers Markets like Grand Lake Farmer’s Market in Oakland and Alemany Farmer’s Market in San Francisco are both open Saturdays and feature a variety of goods beyond produce.
  • Support local nurseries. A hidden gem I love shopping at is Orchard Nursery in Lafayette. They have a huge shop dedicated to all things holiday and it’s a fun place to get in the holiday spirit. If you need more recommendations, I wrote an article about my favorite East Bay nurseries years ago.
  • Book stores support local authors. Green Apple in San Francisco has always been my favorite book store in The Bay. However, Fabulosa Books in The Castro is also a great shop. They have a whole wall dedicated to LGBTQ+ books and feature many local authors.

We have so many great small business options in The Bay Area. While I did spend a good chunk of this article cautioning us against using credit or debit cards at a small business due to banks taking profits away from the small business, I do want us all to get out there and support you local shop owners.

At the end of the day, even with processing fees from cards the true winner during Small Business Saturday are those local shops & our greater community.

What are your favorite small businesses in The Bay Area? Give them a shout out in the comments below.

You can avoid this Black Friday style chaos on Small Business Saturday


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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.

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