Quantifying lost sales

15Oct07

I’m often frustrated by the number of businesses that don’t accept American Express. When you try to use Amex, they look at you like you just presented a bundle of sheep’s wool or some fresh berries or a bottle of goat’s milk. “I’m sure they’ll use another credit card,” the merchant thinks, while rudely saying that they can’t accept your card because “the fees are too high”. But if my behavior is any indication, Amex users are a very loyal group that only carries a Visa or MasterCard for genuine emergencies, and prefers to consolidate all their spending on a single Amex bill. In short, if the merchant doesn’t take Amex, many of us won’t shop there at all. I have a personal blacklist of stores for this very reason.

I propose that American Express put up a website where cardmembers can record an entry each time they refuse to shop somewhere because that business doesn’t accept Amex. Each entry would contain the business name, location, date, and the amount of money the consumer would have spent. To make the process easy, the list of businesses and locations could be populated by licensing a local business database from Yelp, Citysearch, etc. There could also be a mobile version or a way to submit entries via email, for quick recordkeeping on the go. To encourage usage, Amex might even have a prize drawing each month, weighted towards those customers who submitted the most reports.

Then, some enterprising group at Amex could mail a quarterly statement to each business on the list, comparing their lost sales against the (tiny) processing fees they would have paid on the transactions. The biggest offenders could even have their store names published in a hall of fame type page, or in a national newspaper ad, either based on total revenue squandered or total consumer complaints. Maybe, just maybe, this would help all those ignorant business owners to understand that paying an extra one percent (or whatever it comes out to) on a transaction is a lot better than losing the entire sale.



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