Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Greed is good

Borders Books, once a somewhat contributing member of downtown Saratoga Springs, has now taken its rightful place among the greed-hearty stalwarts of corporate America, the ones hell-bent on upping profits at the expense of local communities.

When company officials first pitched plans to open a Saratoga Springs Borders in 1999, local residents responded with mixed reactions. Some said having an unsightly box store didn’t fit in with the city’s character, while others feared that such a retailer would force many of the smaller locally owned stores out of business.

As a conciliatory offer to the city’s business and working class, Borders offered anyone with a Downtown Business Association card a 20 percent discount at the store. That meant anyone working for one of the DBA’s many downtown members could cash in on savings at the store.

While 20 percent might not sound like much given Borders’ annual revenues of more than $4 billion a year, for some lower-income workers the discount meant a bit of extra spending cash after a book or music purchase. Well, not any more.

With all that money just flying out the doors, the marketing geniuses at Borders decided to come up with a new plan; a more one-size-fits-all plan, so that even tourists can cash in on the savings. And with a hackneyed slogan like “Borders Rewards” attached to it, who could resist going on a frivolous book-buying spree.

The new discount card works a bit like the “advantage” cards offered by supermarkets: get the card, use it when making a purchase and voila, some random savings will be given. So the one-time 20 percent discount is now pursed out to thousands of people in the form of hundreds of thousands of mini-discounts.

All this may sound petty, but it’s a trademark move by a company only interested in channeling such discount programs. For the rest of the community, it means a few more local dollars going to some faceless out-of-town corporate headquarters that has no interest in the well-being of local business.

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