I just read an article by Brian Fagioli on betanews.com entitled I support the Internet Sales Tax and you should too, and I have to say that I believe Brian is way off. For those who are unaware, there is currently a law under consideration in Congress, the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 (S. 743), which essentially would require internet marketplaces (like Amazon for instance) to collect sales taxes on behalf of the states, and send the money to the state in which the purchaser lives. This measure has passed the Senate and is currently on the way to the House. Brian’s argument is that Amazon’s (and other stores like it) ability to sell products without collecting sales tax is directly responsible for the closing of such brick and mortar stores as Circuit City and CompUSA, because online retailers do not have to collect sales tax. This makes their prices on products (oftentimes the same products) cheaper, much cheaper. He believes that stores like Best Buy have become more of a showroom than a store, and that the only reason people go there is to touch or see merchandise before they go online to buy it. He also says, in so many words, that if you don’t support this law, that you are selfish.
Brian, if your best argument is that taxes are the only reason the big box stores are closing, you need to do better. I chose to go to Best Buy on three separate occasions to purchase a laptop, a nook, and an sd card for that nook. On each occasion, I made that decision in order to keep my money in the community and do my part to keep my neighbors employed. However, my ‘neighbors’ were not interested in helping me at all. When I went to buy the laptop, I was ignored in the computer section for an hour. I actually ended up staying that long to see if anyone would help me, and they didn’t. When I went back 2 years later for the nook, the two employees were more interested in figuring out who needed to go on break first and for how long to help me. One actually interrupted the other’s conversation with me to discuss the break situation, and the other one actually turned away from me to discuss it, and then they both walked away…from a paying customer. When I gave them one last try and went to purchase the sd card that I had seen online on THEIR website, they brought me to another tablet and asked me to look up the item for them…they actually wanted me to find the item in their store.
No sir, if I am going to be refused eye contact, be considered second to someone’s break, and have to search for my own products, I may as well pay for them as well, online, when I look them up, from the comfort of my own couch, in my pink pajamas. This is not a sales tax problem, it is an entitlement problem. If you want to make money in a service industry, you need to actually provide a service. If you want to have human beings not clicks as customers, you actually have to talk to them. Demonstrate the product that you are trying to sell. Tell me some of the advantages of the product that I am looking at over the other products on the shelf. Smile at me, be nice to me. Act like I am the reason that you came to work, because, you know what, I am. If I tell you that I am just looking, respect that and let me know that I can find you when I’m ready to make my purchase. If you have knowledge about the product that I don’t and it might influence my decision, share it. None of these things happened to me on three separate occasions at Best Buy, and it is the only reason why I will never make a purchase in a Best Buy again.
You know Brian, there is another fatal flaw to your logic. Most of these online retailers charge shipping. My college books cost $56 to ship to my house. I paid $25 in shipping for a $25 copy of my birth certificate so that I can renew my driver’s license (please, don’t get me started on that ridiculousness). Yes, when I make purchases from Amazon, I typically use my Prime membership, but that shenanigans costs me almost $80 a year. I recently had to go to the post office and pay an additional 69 cents to pick up a card that my mother sent to me from two counties away. My point is, this merchandise (nor my Mother’s Day card) does not instantly materialize at the home of the people who want them. People have to pay for this privilege, and often times this cost jacks the price right back up to the brick and mortar price with sales tax.
Yes, I am guilty of trying out a product in a store, but 9 times out of 10, I would buy the item from the sales person if they were nice to me. However, I recently checked out an expensive designer purse on Amazon, and then went into a Dillard’s department store and purchased it there. In that case, I needed the instant gratification of having the purse now, not in 5-7 business days using my Amazon prime membership. Oh yeah, and the saleslady was nice to me. I showed her my tablet, and told her that I wanted a purse from a certain designer that it would fit into. She stood there with me in the expensive bag aisle, with her high heels, with her wristlet key unlocking each purse, removing the designer imprinted paper stuffing, helping me see which one my tablet would fit into, and then patiently re-stuffing and re-locking up the bag when my tablet didn’t fit. She must have played with 15 different purses that day, before we found one large enough for my tablet that I thought was pretty. She was nice to me. She made me feel as if my money mattered to her and to Dillard’s. I make purchases in brick and mortar shops all the time, but only IF THEY ARE NICE TO ME. I have learned that my money apparently does not buy me that at Best Buy, so I go somewhere else, where they are nice to me…Amazon.