How Small Business Saturday Made Me Feel Like a Jerk

How Small Business Saturday Made Me Feel Like a Jerk - picture of hand sliding credit card through payment machine

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Being patriotic is exhausting so I took an extra day to recover from the holiday weekend.  Please enjoy this post from Leana Storts from

Some of you might be familiar with Amex Small Business Saturday promotion.  You know, the one where you get 10 dollars back on each 10 dollar purchase per card at participating  places. It happens only once a year and naturally, as a money saving enthusiast,  I like to take advantage of it. However, let me tell you a story about how the pursuit of free stuff can sometimes backfire big-time. This is my experience from last November……

When Rewards Go Wrong

Since our town had a few businesses participating in a Small Business Saturday promotion, my plan was to get some free lunch courtesy of American Express. It didn’t work out. That day, my husband and I were going to Tampa for a one night getaway.

Originally, we planned to have dinner at Carrabba’s in Tampa, our favorite chain restaurant. But Amex promotion was only running that day, and I just couldn’t let it go to waste. My husband loves sushi, so I found a place in Tampa that participated in the promotion.

Between our two Amex cards, we would get 20 bucks in Japanese food. The only problem was, when we got there, the restaurant was closed. And there was a weird, scary looking guy hanging out by the entrance.

So we said sayonara (goodbye in Japanese) and got the heck out there. While driving around, I saw a restaurant called “Jerk Hut” serving, you guessed it, Jamaican cuisine. I immediately remembered it being on the list of participating businesses on the Amex website. I like jerk chicken, but my husband is not a fan.  He said he would still go with me and just order some American food there.  Unfortunately, there was nothing American about any of the food offered in that place.

So instead of having a nice romantic dinner at Carrabba’s, here we were, sitting in a dingy looking hole-in-a-wall, with me eating freshly microwaved jerk chicken all by myself. Oh, and I only utilized one of my cards, giving me 10 dollars  in credit. My husband just sat there and waited for me to finish because nothing there looked appealing to him.

Too Little, Too Late

To be fair, they had a beer special, costing only 1 dollar, which was the only bright spot of the evening!  After my dinner, we looked up movie theaters and found a drive-in type that was not far away. I have never been to one of those so we decided to try it out.

The movie was “Hunger games” and a lot of it took place at night, making it very hard to see on the outside screen. And it all went downhill from there. My husband got pizza from the concession stand because, obviously, he was still hungry.  I didn’t see it on the seat and accidentally sat in it.

After the movie, I looked up Crowne Plaza on GPS. It immediately popped up. I normally check the address to make sure it’s the right one, but there is only one Crowne Plaza in Tampa, so what could go wrong? Plus, I was exhausted from this whole fiasco.

Apparently, plenty could go wrong, and it did. The GPS  took us to a Sheraton that was located in the opposite direction from Crowne Plaza. By now, it was 10:30 PM and we were both tired. It just wasn’t a good day, though I have to say, my husband was very patient and kind through it all.

When Frugality Goes Too Far

Did you notice how it all started with me wanting to save 20 bucks? Now, obviously, that’s a good chunk of change for a middle class family. It is for us. But I didn’t really want to go to the sushi place, it wasn’t on the way to our hotel, and we don’t get to go out that often.

The whole thing reminded me of how sometimes we  devote way too much effort to every single promotion. It sounds good in theory, of course, until you have to drive 30 minutes out of your way to save 5 bucks. Just like I should have cut my losses when the sushi place wasn’t open, maybe it would be best to just let it go when the pursuit of savings gets too complicated. If it ends up cutting into your family time, you may end up feeling like a jerk.

My thoughts: This post made me laugh because I have done something similar soooooooo many times.  It’s so true that the savings is not always worth it.  I still feel bad for some of the awkward moments Greg has had to endure in situations like these!

How about you?  Have you ever lost a perfectly good evening because you were chasing some kind of discount?

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  1. Nice to know that your husband waited you patiently while you’re eating Holly! 🙂 A few months ago, I purchased for an Eat-All-You-Can for only $9 per person, but when we arrived at the restaurant, we were totally dismayed when we saw the viands that was served! We expected for a delicious and lots of different kinds of foods but we were totally wrong.

    1. Hey, Clarisse! I’m so flattered that you thought it was Holly’s writing! 🙂 Yes, my poor husband, he has to deal with a lot.

  2. There are some date nights that have went so bad for my wife and I that I would have gladly paid $20 to make things right. Yep, frugality probably went too far that night.

  3. My wife and I have has similar experiences to this, especially when we used to save restaurant coupons. We would end up going to a restaurant that neither of us liked, but we could get 40% off!

    Live and learn, they say…

    1. FI Pilgrim, that’s the problem with coupons. I can totally relate. The food was mediocre, but at least there was lots of it! 🙂

  4. This was too funny. I have definitely drug my husband along to chase after a deal, even when it wasn’t really worth it. I keep in mind now that time is money, so if something takes up too much time, it probably isn’t worth the savings!

  5. Actually, no. By not paying attention to discounts until we’ve decided to make a purchase, I think we save more money because we’re not tempted by “bargains” that we don’t really need and didn’t want until we heard about the discount. We gave up chasing discounts long before we started making real money.

  6. Oh this definitely has happened to me! I wish I had a good example off the top of my head, but my wife and I are totally discount chasers and oftentimes have a gift card or some sort of deal/coupon for our meal or entertainment.

  7. We have definitely been guilty of this ourselves, and it’s usually me that’s the guilty party. You’d think I’d learn after one too many “bad” experiences, but I’m getting there. 🙂

  8. Oh man! I am sorry to hear this happened. I will say things like this happen to the best of us. I KNOW there have been times where I really tried to be super frugal and it just backfires. Thankfully, it’s not too often!! I hope that doesn’t happen often for you either!

  9. Even if there is no incentive, I prefer to support small businesses; chain restaurants are rarely as good and don’t do much to help those small, family run places. I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad experience, though! They should maybe have reviewed participants a little better!

    1. Daisy, you make a valid point on supporting small businesses. Interestingly, I actually tried to do just that. First, I went to our local restaurant and tried to use my Amex there. Well, they didn’t accept American Express, yet were listed on the Small Saturday promotion web page. Very odd. But yes, I agree with you!

  10. Awe I could totally see that happening to me! I have passed up “almost too good to be true” promotions because the headache wasn’t worth it.

  11. I’ve been guilty of doing this before…driving out of my way across town to save 2 cents on a gallon of gas. It’s really easy to get roped into saving and the effort isn’t always worth it.

    1. @Brian My in-laws are guilty of driving 10 miles to save 2 cents per gallon of gas! And they do it on a regular basis. 🙂

  12. I was about as bad for the small business Saturday. Between my husband, myself, and our business, we had 5 Amex cards at the time. I was determined we would get 5 pairs of running or biking socks that usually cost around $10 per pair. We were actually visiting family out of town, but I scoped out all the running stores. We went to the first one on the list and found out in the check out line that they had recently been bought out by a chain and did not participate. OK, put socks back and left. Drove a long way to another store that did participate, but I’m sure the clerk though we were nuts to ring up 5 pairs of socks all on different transactions. I don’t know that it was worth all the hassle. I don’t get embarrassed about stuff like that but the hubby was not super happy. They are good socks though….

    1. Kim, I can totally see myself doing something like that! As in driving to 5 stores to maximize promotions. That was before I had kids. Enough said.

  13. This is the tricky bit of marketing. It works on all of us, frugal or not, in gently modifying behavior. I’ve definitely done some of the same things trying to save a buck. Mostly, I end up spending money I would not have spent, in order to get a deal. Of course, the real deal is often just avoiding it altogether, and saving that money to buy something I organically want…

    1. @DoneByForty Exactly! The trick is to take advantage of these promotions and not the other way around. Marketing works on everyone to a certain extent.

  14. I have so done this! Only for me it was trying to squeeze in a “quick” stop for gas which was 20cents off per gallon on my sisters wedding day between the ceremony and the reception. Because it was such a great discount, the gas station was packed and it took forever. We ended up being much later to the reception than we meant to be, which was completely not cool for the maid of honor and mother of the bride! I don’t think my sister has forgiven us yet either!

  15. I actually used to live in Tampa, so I imagine that it was rough finding participating businesses there for the Amex promotions. At least you can laugh about the experience now! 🙂 I have definitely eaten in some questionable locations and had my eyebrows waxed in crazy spots just because I had a Groupon or deal. It’s funny because we can spend so much time and energy on using deals that we could probably use less time and money just not using them.

    1. Shannon, it’s funny that you lived in Tampa. It does have some unsavory places. This restaurant was one of them. It’s odd because it had Trip Advisor “seal of approval” on the door. What??

  16. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    Love it! I can’t remember any specific time, but I’m sure I’ve done this and I’m sure it drove my wife crazy 🙂

      1. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

        That’s good! My wife is also very frugal with a lot of things, just not quite as bad as me 🙂

  17. Yes! I’m always saying “but, honey, it’s FREE” and my dear husband reminds me that just because something is free or discounted doesn’t mean we need it or want it. I’d probably be buried under free samples and coupons if not for my husband’s loving reminders that I don’t want clutter or experiences that aren’t meaningful. Great post!

    1. Mrs. Frugalwoods I’m glad you enjoyed it! Like i said, it’s a cautionary tale and a reminder for myself not too go too crazy with this stuff in the future.

  18. This falls under the sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose some category. Next time it will be a win, right!?!?

  19. Yeah, it happens. For me, the problem is expired Groupons. I buy fewer of them than I used to because of that “chasing the deal” problem.

  20. LOL! Great story, Leana. I think we all have been guilty a time or two of getting carried away in an attempt to save a few dollars. 🙂 The only thing that has saved me from making that mistake more frequently is that I never seem to have enough time, so if I have to drive across the city to save a few dollars – I won’t do it. Usually. 🙂

    1. @ Shannon Actually, having two kids to take care of, saves me from getting in on too many deals. Chances are, I won’t have an opportunity to use them all. We rarely go out to eat as a couple these days.

  21. I can’t think of an example right now when this has happened to me. I do get into those Amex deals once in a while. Some are better than others such as the $5 credit on itunes. I always go for that one. Recently they had a $10 off on groceries. So I try to stick to those deals.

    1. @Raquel Some Amex deals are great, like Staples offers. You can stock up on paper towels and so forth. Definitely worth it.

  22. Although the best laid plans can go astray, a little planning (including a contingency plan_ goes a long way. Calling ahead avoids the “closed” situations and many others. I know it is a bit old fashioned, but it works. Don’t let it bother you though, we all have our share of these kinds of stories. I was looking forward to NY deli food and it was worst than the worst place in LA.

    1. @Krantcents You are absolutely right! I should have called the restaurant beforehand. Sooo many things went wrong that day. It’s funny because I am normally an obsessive planner.

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