Friday, November 23, 2012


#Fail -Amex promotion gives us and Hawaii small business and the economy a $25 boost (not!) #Fail

by Larry Geller

Update: Big American Express #Fail apparently. And this sounded like such a good idea. I wrote the article below earlier and tweeted it, and then we enthusiastically looked through the list on the Amex’s Small Business Saturday website for a place to spend $25 for dinner tomorrow and get it back later from Amex. It’s very generous of Amex to do this, but unfortunately, at least for Honolulu, we may not be able to participate.

Reading the website (which is such a bad job that Amex should be ashamed), I thought that any “participating” small business meant that it had to be a local restaurant or store, not an online business, for example. Nanette thought it meant businesses that agreed to participate. I had to go out, so she undertook to check with American Express. When I came back about an hour later, she had just finished with them on the phone. The conclusion is that the $25 refund applies only to those small businesses that have agreed to participate.

She was right—but it’s far worse than that.

The website lists businesses that closed years ago—for example, Yum Yum Tree. It lists businesses that don’t take the Amex card. The map not only takes ages to load but fails to place businesses correctly. For example, the Liliha Bakery is not in middle of the Oahu Country Club, dear Amex.

The website loads slowly and sometimes has to be reloaded. A 13-year-old kid could probably do better, especially the geolocation.

As she worked with the Amex representatives on the phone, one did the same website search she did—and got different results.

Thinking that the local Amex office might know which businesses are participating, we called them just now. They’re closed for the holiday. Gee, just when someone might need assistance.

So no one on the Amex side that we could reach is able to say which businesses are participating. They referred Nanette to an automated phone number that was only good for registration and then hung up.

So we’re on our own. Calling some possibilities for dinner tomorrow from the map, they said they are not participating.

So what sounded like a good deal has gone sour very quickly.

And finally—Amex says they want to provide services to small businesses. If this is an example, they are not exactly demonstrating their competence, IMHO.

This morning’s paper carried an article on American Express’s Small Business Saturday promotion. This seems like a very good idea for both Hawaii residents and for Hawaii small businesses. The promotion is effective for one day only, Saturday, November 24.

The details are on this webpage, if you just want to click over there now.

In a nutshell, it says that Amex will credit your account with $25, no strings attached, if you spend $25 or more at one time at a participating location—which includes restaurants as well as stores. Obviously, they have to accept the Amex card. Check the website for terms and conditions.

The website warns that enrollment is limited and may have run out. I just managed to enroll my card, no trouble so far. I received an email that I’m “in.”

This is a good idea obviously for cardholders, and also for small businesses that have been left out of Black Friday as shoppers stampede to the big box stores. It also is good for Hawaii—the money spent at a small business stays here and contributes to our economy rather than to the wealth of the Walmart heirs, for example.

My first thought was that we could try a certain restaurant that we’d wanted to visit. They were listed on the Amex website, but just to be sure, we called and (darn) they no longer accept the card. (darn, darn). Unfortunately, the website is out-of-date. It still lists Downtown as participating, for example, although the restaurant no longer exists.

If you have an Amex card, why not sign up and bring $25 to Hawaii’s small businesses tomorrow? Hurry up before enrollments disappear.


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