Home » Amazon, Bookstores, PG's Thoughts (such as they are) » ‘Sobering Statistics’ About the Effect of Amazon

‘Sobering Statistics’ About the Effect of Amazon

26 January 2016

From Shelf Awareness:

One of the most well-attended and discussed sessions yesterday at the Winter Institute featured the release of a new Civic Economics-ABA study called The Fiscal and Land Use Impacts of Online Retail, which aims to demonstrate the effects of the growth of Amazon on American towns and cities. The study determined that in 2014, the last year for which it could get full-year statistics, Amazon sold $44.1 billion of retail goods nationwide, which is “the equivalent of 3,215 retail storefronts or 107 million square feet of commercial space, which might have paid $420 million in property tax.” Also in 2014, Amazon avoided collecting state and local sales tax of $625 million. Between uncollected sales tax and the loss of property tax, state and local governments lost more than $1 billion in revenue–about $8.48 per household in the U.S.–the study found.

In 2014, Amazon’s warehouses–65 million square feet of space–employed roughly 30,000 full-time workers and 104,000 part-time and seasonal workers. But including all the jobs lost from stores whose sales Amazon supplanted, Amazon sales “produced a net loss of 135,973 retail jobs.”

Matt Cunningham of Civic Economics noted, too, that in 2014 Amazon book sales were about $5.618 billion, some 11.6% of Amazon retail sales. That amount of sales represents about 3,600 “bookshop equivalents and 40,000 bookstore employees,” which he called “a sobering statistic.”

The study noted that as of the beginning of this year, Amazon is collecting sales tax on purchases in 27 states–soon to be 28–which is helpful for some state and local governments, but that other trends continue to get worse. “The displacement of retail space from communities to the Internet… has contributed to a slowdown in the occupancy and development of commercial space,” the study wrote. “This, in turn, has an invisible but certain impact on an essential source of revenue for most states, cities, and schools: property taxes.” And Amazon’s warehouses and distribution centers “on the peripheries of cities” are valued and taxed at lower rates than the spaces they are supplanting, often in downtowns.

. . . .

At the presentation, Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance emphasized that the study should serve as the basis for “generating a much bigger public conversation about the impact of Amazon,” particularly with government officials at all levels.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

PG says this is a typical tactic of legacy businesses facing an innovative newcomer – lobbying government officials to place the newcomer at a disadvantage or even outlaw what the newcomer wants to do. See taxicabs vs. Uber, for example. Add in the practice of subsidizing city centers at the expense of suburbs.

Let’s consider a hypothetical bookstore located in Oregon, a state which has no sales tax. Powell’s Books would be one example.

If a faithful Powell’s customer leaves Portland for the bright lights of New York City, where the sales tax is 8.875% and decides to phone one of the exemplary Powell’s employees to order a book and have it shipped to New York, will Powell’s have to charge (and pay to the State of New York) New York City sales tax?

PG will assure one and all that it’s well-settled law that Powell’s has no legal obligation to collect New York sales tax unless it has nexus, also known as sufficient physical presence, in New York.

The ability to collect a state sales tax is restricted by the US Constitution. The Due Process Clause requires a definite link or minimum connection between the state and the person, property or transaction it seeks to tax and the Commerce Clause requires an even higher level of connection. The Commerce Clause requires a substantial presence in a taxing state by the entity the state desires to tax.  (See Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992), a staple of law school constitutional law classes, for the Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue)

So, if Powell’s doesn’t have a legal obligation to collect New York sales tax, does it have a moral obligation to do so?

In PG’s extraordinarily humble opinion, the moral obligation to pay taxes is coterminous with the legal obligation to pay taxes. If an individual or organization has a legal obligation to pay taxes, their simple moral obligation is to pay the taxes due under the relevant statutes and regulations.

If Powell’s decides to make a free will donation to New York City because a former Portland resident lives there (and everyone at Powell’s watches New Year’s Eve on Times Square), Powell’s is free to do so.

New York City might send Powell’s a certificate of appreciation for being such a generous organization. However, PG thinks few people would say that free will donations to New York City are a moral obligation instead of a charitable impulse.

As far as retail stores and retail employees that do not exist because people like to buy things from Amazon, why is Amazon different from Sears & Roebuck? Sears & Roebuck was founded in 1886, and famed for the Sears & Roebuck catalog which offered goods and prices unavailable from the local general store.

From the Sears Archives:

In 1888, Richard Sears first used a printed mailer to advertise watches and jewelry. He illustrated the cover of the 1894 catalog declaring it the “Book of Bargains: A Money Saver for Everyone.” This catalog expanded from watches and jewelry, to include merchandise such as sewing machines, sporting goods, musical instruments, saddles, firearms, buggies, bicycles, baby carriages, and men’s and children’s clothing. At this time Sears wrote nearly every line appearing in the catalog by drawing upon his personal experience using language and expressions that appealed to his target customers.

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Many thousands of stores closed because their customers ordered from Sears. PG doesn’t know whether the American General Stores Association campaigned to increase taxes on Sears or otherwise prevent Sears from selling its products at such low prices or not.

PG says it is a self-evidently foolish idea to promote the freezing of commerce and society into its present form, whether that form exists in 2016 or 1886.

If the American Booksellers Association hired researchers from Civic Economics to poll American consumers and ask if Amazon should be terminated, PG knows what the results would be.

 

 

Amazon, Bookstores, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

78 Comments to “‘Sobering Statistics’ About the Effect of Amazon”

  1. Sorry kids, it’s only ‘sobering’ to those who can no longer game or otherwise control what they use to game and/or control …

    Once again they’re trying to make Amazon the evil one rather than cleaning up their own houses’ problems …

    • They are blaming amazon for what goes on all over.

      I used to buy vitamins as GNC. I have for years now 98% of the time bought vitamins online from whichever retailer gives me the best prices for the ones I like. Amazon and Vitacost usually get my order these days.

      I used to shop for clothes in stores. I can’t remember the last time I was at a mall. I have ordered formal and casual wear and lingerie online–Amazon, Macy’s, Ebay, Lane Bryant, Old Navy, Bare Necessities, Coolibar for swim/beachwear. I like having stuff sent to me and skip dealing with mall crowds and the so-often apathetic sales assistants. Also, I can wait for cool coupon codes/promos. Whomever gives me free shipping, lowest prices, and free returns will get my business most often.

      Ditto shoes. Ditto cds. Ditto vacuum cleaners. I will buy from where it’s most convenient and cheapest.

      That is most often online. I even order sometimes from Walmart–but I haven’t been inside a Walmart in years. I would order from them more often if they had the items I wanted and shipped faster. Their shipping is really tortoisey.

      The smart retailers have an online presence and make it work.

  2. As someone who studied economics, I find the name “Civic Economics” annoying and perhaps a bit oxymoronic. Manipulating data and emotion to create a propaganda case for protectionism is hardly ‘economics.’

  3. If they can’t handle Amazon, I hate to think what they’ll be saying when 3D printers make most retail obsolete in a couple of decades.

    It’s like dinosaurs fighting over the best-tasting leaves while the asteroid is heading their way.

  4. I wonder if they consider all the small businesses or authors that sell through Amazon and spend that money in their local communities.

    That $1 Billion didn’t go into Bezos’s pocket. It went to expanding Amazon which meant more products bought and distributed. Which means some of it went to authors, new TV shows, US manufactures, indie clothing designers, and finally to delivery companies.

    It’s like considering an Indie store closing (30 years ago) while totally ignoring a B&N that opened up a few blocks away when calculating the effects.

  5. Reading the OP, one might begin to think that the Winter Conference attendees and the ABA are, um, somewhat biased!

  6. Am I the only one nerding out about PG’s introduction of the word “coterminous”?

    Just in case I’m not, here ya go, fellow nerds. I looked it up:

    adjective
    1. having the same border or covering the same area.
    2. being the same in extent; coextensive in range or scope.

  7. Here is a bit of interesting history about Sears (excerpt from the article):

    Sears, Roebuck and Co. and its Effect on Retailing in America

    “Around the turn of the century, Sears customers were mainly from rural areas. Since Sears did a large amount of business in rural areas, the company began calling the catalog the “farmer’s friend.” Country storekeepers were very opposed to the catalogs, because when Sears first published its catalog people were delighted that a company could actually deliver merchandise to people’s homes. Country storekeepers lost sales as a result of Sears’s policy. Because of these problems, storekeepers began taunting Sears and Roebuck with the nicknames of “Rears and Soreback.” Rural newspapers refused to print Sears’s ads, and children were even given ten cents or a movie admission pass for every catalog that they turned in. The catalogs were then sometimes publicly burned. In response to this problem, Sears began mailing orders without the name of the buyer on the package, and even reprimanded storekeepers in one of their catalogs: “As a rule, the merchant from whom you buy, adds little profit to the cost of goods as he can possibly afford to add. For example, a certain article in our catalog is quoted at $1.00, while your hardware merchant asks for $1.50 for that same article….””

    To read the rest:

    http://www.lib.niu.edu/2000/ihy000452.html

  8. Nobody ever talks about the considerable savings in energy realized with online shopping, via Amazon and others, in contrast to shopping at B&M stores of all kinds. Here’s one interesting 2013 article (it cites original research on the topic):

    What’s more energy efficient, shopping online or in stores?
    http://persquaremile.com/2013/08/21/what-is-more-energy-efficient-shopping-online-or-in-stores/

    And here’s an excerpt from a great article with lots of details and visual aids:

    “The bottom line? Unless you’re walking or biking to the bookstore, buying a book online results in lower carbon emissions than purchasing it from a traditional bookstore. Light-duty delivery vehicles operated by companies like UPS and FedEx travel well-designed routes that serve multiple consumers in a minimum of trips, achieving fuel economy higher than that of a typical individual consumer driving alone to make the same purchase.”

    Read more here: The Environmental Impact of Online Shopping: Nitty-gritty
    https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=30443

  9. I used to pass the big Sears warehouse in Minneapolis nearly everyday back in the 90s. I didn’t understand why they didn’t put their catalog on CDs back then. It would have been cheaper than producing and shipping the paper one. And you could search it. That didn’t happen to the best of my knowledge. Then the internet thingy came along and stores started popping up. I thought why in the hell don’t they put their database online? These upstarts are doing it. Surely a company as big as Sears is in the position to do this. They owned mail order sales. The internet is just the next step. They should be the leader in this. Well that didn’t happen. Adapt or die.

    • The 2016 spring Sears catalog arrived at our house last week. (I don’t think anyone requested it.) Two thick volumes: one for clothing, one for household goods. It was flipped through to look at the pictures, then tossed in the recycling bin. There were ten or so pages in the middle explaining how to place an order. Clicking a button is so much easier.

  10. PG should be extraordinarily humble more often – it makes for great posts.

    I never thought about Sears – but it is exactly the same thing, except without the digital component. And of course the shipping might take a lot longer if you lived on a farm in Nebraska off the main roads.

    Was Sears accused ridiculously of being a monopoly at its apogee?

  11. Two points my training in urban geography makes me think they missed:

    1) Amazon may drain revenue from local communities (unproven in the article) but they do not require local services such as sewer, water, power, or extra roadways to service only their facilities. (Unless they have a local facility, in which case they pay taxes.)

    2) High property taxes push people out of city centers, but businesses and residences are actually cheaper to service in dense areas than sparse areas. Some municipalities make a loss in their suburban or rural areas that they make up for with city center revenues. When the push of high taxes exceeds the pull of central location, municipalities face revenue crises. Amazon is not responsible for inept tax regimes.

    • Your 2nd point is interesting. I’d occasionally wondered why so many municipalities are in debt but been too lazy to research it. I’m sure there’s other factors but I hadn’t considered your point. Thanks.

    • Furthermore, the money Amazon doesn’t charge for sales tax (in the less than half of the country in which it doesn’t charge sales tax) doesn’t vanish from the economy. It’s still in the local consumer’s pockets, and might subsequently be spent on something else locally.

  12. If you want less of something, tax it.

    It’s so cute how the article thinks that local governments “lost” tax revenue. If people don’t buy something, they don’t pay tax on it. The stores, now empty, don’t pay property taxes or sales taxes or B&O taxes. So the true base level of tax income is zero. By making it possible for businesses to make a profit, *then* the tax income goes up, and increases with the increasing profit.

    Also, under the most rigorous and controlled experimental conditions the organism will do what it damn well pleases. Most organisms with money will seek value even as a sunflower turns to the sun 😀

    • Yup.
      Besides, that money wasn’t lost or burned in a bonfire: it stayed in the hands of the people who sweated (or scammed, in some cases) to get it.

      Too many politicians and wannabes assume tbey have a god-given right to our money.

  13. Also in 2014, Amazon avoided collecting state and local sales tax of $625 million. Between uncollected sales tax and the loss of property tax, state and local governments lost more than $1 billion in revenue–about $8.48 per household in the U.S.–the study found.

    Correction: US citizens saved $625 million, or an average of $8.48 per household, from being stolen out of their pockets by overreaching governments that try to insert themselves into every economic transaction.

  14. I, for one, look forward to the total collapse of local retailers. The clerks, the stockers, the managers, the managers of local retail operations, the local contractors who repair and maintain the buildings, the local drivers who ship the products: Who cares about them? Let ’em clean toilets somewhere else.

    And as long as we’re collapsing the local economy, what about the taxes the local government bodies collect, a shortfall that someone else will have to make up, right? Who cares about that?

    And when you drive by the malls and shopping centers, you won’t have to worry about the traffic from all the cars going in and out, because there won’t be any. And the malls can collapse into pretty ruins that decades from now urban spelunkers will investigate, photograph and put up on their Tumblrs.

    I don’t care. I have everything I need at home. And if I want anything, Amazon will ship it to me. Right?

    • Your sarcasm is duly noted. Go on beating that straw man and enjoy it, because you’ll never find anything in the real world that looks remotely like it.

      • Well, really, he is absolutely correct! He just doesn’t go far enough…

        All of those local retailers should be destroyed too! Goodness, just think of all the local seamstress jobs that have been destroyed by Old Navy! The blacksmith jobs that don’t exist because Ace Hardware will sell you nails by the pound! All of the printers and typesetters that aren’t in your local community and paying taxes, because of Barnes & Noble!

        Get rid of all of this mass production and efficiency, I say! Everyone will have plenty of work, pay plenty of taxes, and be too damn tired to keep complaining…

    • Looking 30/40/50 years ahead, most things you use will come out of a 3D printer in your basement. For most things too large for that, you’ll send a print job to the local 3D printer shack, and wait for it to be delivered. If you want to travel somewhere, you won’t get in a car or on a plane, you’ll just rent a VR drone or VR body at the destination.

      The world is going to radically change over the next few decades. As I said above, trying to save retail malls is like trying to save the dinosaurs when the dino-busting asteroid is growing bigger in the sky every day. Short of banning new technology, it’s not going to happen.

      • I always like that scene in the Doris Day movies where she visits a boutique, sits in a chair, and a woman comes out and models the clothes Day’s character might want.

        So I’m waiting for the following to happen with shoes and clothes: You upload a biometric scan of your measurements to the store. You select the pattern / fabric / color / style you like. You get 3-D printouts made to measure. This would be perfect, since shoe stores are a waste of time for me (never having my size & trim), and Zappos and Amazon are only somewhat better.

        This doesn’t have to be a disaster, though. Unless teenagers and retirees are priced out of the market, or made redundant via robots, I think they will still do service jobs. I would love it, though, if doing away with credentialism became more widespread and we could adopt apprenticeships instead. That would help the unskilled adults in the middle.

      • Don’t forget VR robots, Edward. They may be the only visitors to major tourist attractions.

      • It is an interesting question to ask what the many hundreds of thousands of unemployed people will do to live. Reading about all the truck-drivers who will lose their jobs to self-driving trucks inspires some creative thinking just to imagine the possible, not even trying to predict the likely futures. All the truckstops, all the towns on the highways.

        Catalogs like Sears happened when the railroad made centralized delivery to local areas possible. Railroads created “a bunch of jobs and stuff” that was totally unpredictable too. I really wonder what happens to us next.

    • Maybe the tax system should adjust to a changing economy, rather than having the economy adjust to an unchanging tax system?

      Choosing to maximize the cost of a service rather than minimize it is a waste of resources.

      Economic history indicates a driver of overall social welfare is the freeing of labor from one endeavor so it can move on to another.

    • When you have no retail but you still need the services of your town or county provide, there go you real estate taxes shooting up since there is no longer any tax revenue coming in from local businesses.

      The concept of Nexus is a very serious issue and it’s certainly not just about Amazon. All of the states are becoming over-reaching in their attempts to collect sales tax from businesses. Washington State, California and NY are among the worst. They send out blanket letters demanding the tax and if you’re a small business you can’t afford the lawsuit of trying to defend yourself. There ought to be a federal ruling about the issue of sales tax, one way or the other. The states shouldn’t be able to collect based on their whim or wild claims that you have Nexus in their state.

      We’ve had states demand tax revenue from us because we had an independent sales rep, from a commissioned sales group, call on one account in that state. Washington State wants sales tax from all publishers because they say all publishers are doing business there because of Amazon. It goes on and on with over-reaching state governments that are trying to make up shortfalls in their budgets.

      • When you have no retail but you still need the services of your town or county provide, there go you real estate taxes shooting up since there is no longer any tax revenue coming in from local businesses.

        Which is one of the main places that local taxes should be coming from in the first place.

        And don’t forget that spending will decline, too. Schools, to the extent they’re needed, will move online. Roads can be allowed to decay when we’re hardly traveling on them any more, etc.

  15. As an economics study goes, it’s incomplete. One of the points of econ is to determine the most efficient use of scarce resources. Sounds to me as though Amazon is right on the money. They’ve freed up all those other resources to be used for other things.

  16. “…in 2014 Amazon book sales were about $5.618 billion, some 11.6% of Amazon retail sales. That amount of sales represents about 3,600 ‘bookshop equivalents and 40,000 bookstore employees…'”

    No, it doesn’t. Those aren’t all “lost” bookstore sales, because that $5.6 billion includes a significant number of SELF-PUBLISHED books — which ABA member stores REFUSE TO SELL. If indie bookstores are adamantly opposed to making $$ by selling indie books, there’s nothing anyone can do to save them. Creating bogus statistics like this will not help.

    I just can’t with these people and their WhaleMath(TM) any more.

    • This.

      That’s excatly what I was thinking. They don’t even see the indie authors and the amount of money distributed to them though Amazon as retailer – and all the other businesses that sell through Amazon. Granted, it’s not always much, but it does mean income and buying power returning to people all over the country.

  17. In 1900 farm labor was appx 40% of the US labor pool

    Today it is 2-3%.

    Time for some retroactive hand wringing.

  18. The house I grew up in, on a South Dakota farm, was built in about 1904 from a “kit” ordered from Sears. People ordered one of several models listed in the catalog, and all the lumber, windows, etc., were shipped by train to be assembled on site.

  19. I was born in a small Texas town and, in the early 50s, we ordered toys from Sears Catalog. It was great. Nowhere else in town had such a selection.
    My dad was the only doctor in the county. You couldn’t order medical care from a catalog, but that may be changing, at least partially. Local medical personnel can consult with specialists on-line and people can talk with a doctor or nurse & show their symptoms online.
    The world changes. You can’t stuff people in a box just to suit the way things were, or the control freaks in government, or anyone else. Call it freedom, progress or simply reality.
    As a longtime author (100 books to conventional publishers) who’s relieved to be going indie, I welcome the changes. Even if they don’t always suit me.

    • I got my first job through Sears. I was five. I would model for the catalogs, also Aldens’, JC Penney, and Montgomery Ward. I’d be on a set pretending to play with a toy, or wearing a robe, or holding a teddy bear. I was a cute kid till it all went away.

  20. On the moral obligation to only pay taxes that are in place.

    Would the opposite follow that any tax, if it’s in law, would be a moral obligation? If a tax was passed that only applied to, um, left handed people?

    I think in a system that seems to benefit certain groups over others, relying on existing tax code to guide mortality is not something I’m eagre to do.

    I’m not sure I have an opinion on Amazon, but if a retailer is delivering a significant amount of the goods in a state it seems there might be a point where it should equal legal presence. But it’s not like i ever heard that legal term before reading this!

    • Allowing states to reach into other states to tax that state’s businesses is a recipe for disaster. When there is no cost in taxing the other guy, it’s very attractive to do it.

      In principle, we see this on a much smaller basis when tax authorities place much higher levies on airport car rentals than every other car rental in town. They are shifting the tax burden to people from out if state, at no cost to their own people.

      Give them a bit more rope, and they will place an income tax on Hertz based in all of Hertz’ earnings. Then states retaliate…

      • Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution forbids levying taxes or duties on “goods exported from any state.” Only Congress has legitimate authority to tax interstate commerce. They probably won’t touch it with a ten foot pole for good political reason. The preztel logic and legal gnat-straining the states have used to dodge that provision ought to be slapped down and the offending politicians spanked. But SCOTUS doesn’t have the courage, it seems.

        M

  21. P.G.

    I rarely disagree..(much) with your general conclusions…but now I do.

    Taxis, yeah, they are a toot to make money for the local councils/city govt for ever. Hideous regs and so on.

    Played with ’em, both sides. Cop and limo driver/limo corp owner. Hate, hate, hate.

    Uber? Almost total deregulation and who knows the heck who’s driving you or your loved ones to wherever.

    I get it, nothing is perfect right now, but limo/taxi driver services REQUIRE regulation. I’ve seen, far too many times how disastrously how these apparently simple things can go wrong.

    Taxes..I baby sat a UK Chancellor of the Exchequer. A pretty smart one, although an arrogant SOB. (So it goes.) Your finance minister, I think.

    Steering the VLCC of state has to go through a million steps to change direction. Lobbying groups to the left, right and Chelsea all arguing your brains out and delaying. 600 odd reps in the commons, (UR representatives) and hundreds more doddering, corrupt villains in the Lords. (UR Senate.)

    Whereas outfits like Amazon, Google, Apple and the rest are walking away from their responsibilities by being nimble.

    I get disruption, but so did Uncle Joe. How did that go?

    brendan

    • I always question analyses like this one, because as often as not they seem contrived, intended not to seek out the truth, but to “prove” a pre-selected point of view. Understand, I’m not saying you are necessarily doing this intentionally. But nothing that you wrote provides any kind of reason to believe state-run regulatory agencies do a better job of keeping anyone safe than a private company.

      This usually works by presuming that certain things provide a positive effect without ever offering any proof. For example, Uber drivers are not centrally regulated by a government run system, and a few of them commit crimes. Okay, fair enough. But get thee to Google and search for taxi drivers committing crimes (yes, I mean the card-carrying, government-agency vetted kind). You get a disturbing number of incidents there as well.

      That too is anecdotal, but it leads to the conclusion that some real data analysis is necessary, not just a wild assumption that a government-imposed regulatory system is automatically effective. Wouldn’t it make sense, at least, to review some of the data, to draw some mathematical basis to support an assertion that government does a better job? Simply stating that there is a problem does not prove that government is the answer, nor that it will be effective in addressing the issue.

      Indeed, government itself is full of corruption and incompetence…and a lack of accountability private firms can only dream of. If a government-run regulatory system is exposed as failing or corrupt, most likely nothing happens. We’ll be told that employees are being “trained” (why weren’t they trained in the first place?) or “suspended.” It’s a home run if a guilty person actually gets fired and a bottom of the ninth, two outs, last game of the world series grand slam if someone is actually held criminally accountable.

      On the other hand, a company like Uber can get sued out of existence if enough bad things happen. And the appetite for prosecuting private sector wrong-doers is vastly larger than that for holding government types accountable.

      Again, I’m not advocating for Uber, but I just wish the people who were so willing to bang companies and call for more government in every facet of our lives would at least take the responsibility to monitor the governmental monstrosities they saddle us with and hold them to the same standards they were foaming at the mouth to target at private firms.

      • Government environmental agencies “oversaw” the poisoning of Flint’s children with lead water. People have already died from Legionnaire’s on account of that water. We have an environmental reporter who’s been looking into this. He blames the bureaucratic mentality of just doing exactly what the regulations say to do and never, ever, ever, using their common sense.

        A psych class I had once said that this is the nature of bureaucracies, they orient everything to their benefit and away from the purpose they’re supposed to serve.

        The EPA turned the Animas River that “radioactive yellow” color. No one’s in jail for it, and no one is in jail for Flint. They had one job! I don’t believe for a second that a private company would get away with such killing and permanently poisoning people.

        A metro reporter and I were arguing with a business reporter a couple of months ago about Uber. The bizrep insisted that it was somehow “not fair” that Uber didn’t have to pay the same fees or the same regulations as the cab companies. I asked,

        1) Do these regulations make cabs more available, period? I already know the answer is no. It would be a lie to claim otherwise.

        2) Do these regulations make the cabs more safer in terms of crime? The answer is no. You have a “paper trail” with Uber that you don’t have with a cab: You know the car, the driver’s name, the driver’s face. You can let your loved ones know all of this ahead of time just in case.

        3) Do these regulations make the cabs more safer in terms of mechanical issues? The answer is no; Uber requires the cars to be only a few years old and well-maintained.

        4) Do these regulations make the cabs less expensive? The metro reporter, whose used Uber the most, insists this is not the case.

        So, I asked the bizrep, what good are these regulations if they don’t result in any of those four factors? Clearly the regs aren’t designed to benefit the customers, because they haven’t benefitted the customers.

        An editor chimed in, “Well, those regs are just the government’s hand out. You have to pay to play. That’s the point is all.” Mind you, I work for the liberal paper in town 😛

        • Absolutely. Political arguments so often breakdown between groups of good little soldiers on each side, no one pays attention to reality.

          I won’t fault someone for thinking government should be the answer to a lot of problems (I don’t agree, but I can accept a reasonable debate). What I do fault people for is mindlessly supporting every government effort to gain more control with any accountability. If you advocate for government control, you own a piece of responsibility to make sure to hold that government accountable. Too many people on the left simply lobby incessantly for the government to take over more and more aspects of life, and then they move on, paying not a whit of attention to what happens.

          Taxi regulation is a foul nest of corruption, a stinking nest of collusion between medallion owners and their crony politicians. The idea that the regulation exists to protect riders is a bad joke.

    • I get it, nothing is perfect right now, but limo/taxi driver services REQUIRE regulation.

      In the UK a few years ago, the REQUIRED regulators decided it was perfectly OK for a convicted rapist to drive a taxi, and he was later arrested for raping prostitutes after he picked them up in that taxi.

      I doubt many people would complain if the government said Uber drivers needed a clean criminal record check and approved insurance. But taxi regulation exists primarily to keep taxi prices high, and is only as trustworthy at the people regulating it. I’ve never used an Uber taxi, but I suspect they have a lot more to lose from letting rapists drive their cars than the government regulators do.

    • Whereas outfits like Amazon, Google, Apple and the rest are walking away from their responsibilities by being nimble.

      What responsibilities?

  22. Regulation just means more opportunities for local political graft. Services like Uber and Lyft upset that.

    When unions try and force parents taking care of their own disabled children at home to join them, and threaten them if they don’t join, regulation has gone to far.

    When you need to get a license from the state to make money braiding hair, not cutting, coloring or any other service, just braiding, regulation has gone to far.

    When the city shuts down your kids lemonade stand because they don’t have a permit to sell, regulation has gone to far.

    Those who can’t compete in price or customer service are usually the loudest calling for something to be regulated.

    • This. All of this.

      Before she got sick, my aunt ran a daycare right out of her home. We’re talking a legally blind woman with few employment options who managed to carve out a good living for herself, and a service to other parents she knew.

      My aunt did it on her own; she wasn’t part of an agency or a chain or anything, but the unions tried to pass a law saying she and others like her had to join. They did jack all for her and are frankly good for doing jack all, but the greedy little bastards just wanted to snatch what she had out of her pocket. I was glad when the state went right-to-work a few years later. Served them right.

      I remember the hair-braiding license requirement. Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. And hassling kids for selling lemonade? Tar, feathers. Assembly required.

  23. PG will assure one and all that it’s well-settled law that Powell’s has no legal obligation to collect New York sales tax unless it has nexus, also known as sufficient physical presence, in New York

    PG left out the other side of this particular coin. If the seller doesn’t collect sales tax, the purchaser is REQUIRED to remit what is called USE TAX to the appropriate jurisdiction. Failure to do so breaks the law. Signing a tax return (and NY has an income tax) leaving the Use Tax line blank or filled in with zero is perjury.

    • And how many people actually pay this use tax?

      Consider the burden on the taxpayer: If you live in a jurisdiction with a use-tax law, you have to keep track of every purchase you make out of state, and whether it was taxed or not. You have to obtain a full schedule of taxable goods and services in order to know which of those purchases are taxable and which are not – and you have to be up on case law and administrative rulings so that you know which category borderline cases fall into. In short, you are letting yourself in for an unpaid accounting job far more onerous than your annual income tax return, for which you will be hard pressed to find professional help; and Heaven help you if you get any of it wrong.

      Instead of which, people don’t do the paperwork and don’t pay the tax. And I have yet to hear of anybody being prosecuted for it. The law is unenforced, and would appear to be unenforceable; and I have rather a strong idea that it might be considered ultra vires if a case came before the courts.

      • But, it’s fun to cite the law when people tell us about Amazon’s obligations to pay taxes it isn’t legally liable for.

        The citizens in these states are definitely liable for paying the tax, but they don’t. These same citizens then complain that Amazon doesn’t pay the tax it isn’t legally liable for.

      • Actually, I did when I lived in such a state.
        Since, ahem, Amazon keeps track of all my orders I just tallied up the totals and paid the forty-some bucks.
        It was nowhere near enough money to bite and I got to brag about being an upright taxpayer. 😀

  24. Wow. I wrote something along the lines of PG’s piece here, but I do wish I’d seen PG’s piece beforehand so I could have made reference to it. 🙂

  25. If it hadn’t been Amazon making those online sales, it would have been some other online merchant. People aren’t going back to shopping offline anytime soon.

  26. Sobering Statistics?

    I’ll drink to that! 🙂

  27. Pondering Kinnard’s Law: A retailer which serves markets the established industry doesn’t want to serve shall be called a monopoly.

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