A token gesture

Aspen, CO Colorado

The city of Aspen and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s latest initiative to drum up offseason business in downtown is bound to wilt this spring.

Last week the city and chamber announced their Dine-Shop-Park program. The enticement for would-be downtown shoppers is four $1 parking tokens to consumers who spend at least $50 on taxable items in the downtown core (excluding groceries and pharmaceuticals).

So, let’s get this straight: $4 in parking tokens equals two hours of parking. And in order to get them, the shoppers must bring their original sales receipts to one of three visitors centers in Aspen, and fill out a voucher form recording their name, date, sales amount and number of tokens issued.

That’s a lot of work for two hours of free parking.

It’s not that the city and ACRA need to be thrown entirely under the bus on this one. They deserve some credit for trying to bring offseason business to town. But we just don’t see the Dine-Shop-Park program providing much benefit to consumers or businesses, especially when offseason parking is free on Saturdays and Sundays.

This “special,” for a lack of a better term, ends June 12, when the offseason draws to a close.

Perhaps city leaders should take a cue from Basalt, which will reward shoppers with a $30 gift certificate for each purchase of $300 worth of goods or merchandise from Basalt’s stores and restaurants. The key to the program is the town government will use public funds to honor the gift certificates.

Once shoppers accumulate $300 in purchases, they receive a certificate that can be redeemed at a participating business. The businesses will turn the gift certificates into Town Hall for $30 cash. The Town Council’s funding will cover 1,500 gift certificates ” which would represent at least $450,000 in spending at businesses. The town will recoup some of its investment in sales tax revenues.

This program kicks off June 6 and will go all summer.

There’s a tangible benefit ” for consumers, businesses and the town government ” in Basalt’s program. And while there’s no harm in the Dine-Shop-Park program, it strikes us as a hollow effort.