Monday, February 8, 2010

E-Fair Trade and Taxes

I know, as soon as you read the word "taxes" this post became much less interesting. I have gotten a Soapbox into the Coloradoan on this issue.
You can just read the link, if you like, but I thought I'd say a few words on it here.
A theme of the past decade (or two) has been the big versus the small, the independent business versus the chain. Many people appreciate the low prices and wide variety that chain store bring. Our store certainly can't afford the floor space of a Barnes and Noble, and our business model is much different from theirs. Many big corporate stores actually make most of their money on opening new stores (the loans they get, the subsidies they get from the communities they enter) instead of their existing stores. They are like sharks- they must move or die. Our store has grown in space in the last year, but we aren't on the verge of opening another store or franchising. Just not our business model right now.
I find that our customers are looking for a certain experience in our store if they come here instead of Barnes and Noble, and we are happy to provide it. We don't kid ourselves that we have a huge effect on their business, but are happy with our niche and are grateful that our customers enjoy their experience in the store enough to keep coming back and keep us in business.
Amazon and other online retailers have a different business model than chain brick-and-mortar stores and independent stores. They have almost no overhead in the way of floor space (except for some warehouse space), payroll, etc compared to a brick-and-mortar. And that's their business model- again, not ours. You can go to our website and buy a book from us (no shipping if it comes to the store) for a 10% discount, but we do not have the leverage of scale to negotiate (some might say strong-arm) the discounts that Amazon does. Even so, we're getting by.
But there is still another advantage that Amazon has. It avoids paying sales tax, which all stores with a physical presence in the state of Colorado must pay. This may be an incentive to shoppers, who can avoid sales tax and pay even less on Amazon because of this circumvention. But it is not fair to all the retailers who are paying sales tax. Amazon has a physical presence in the state in all the small businesses who sell on Amazon. We do not sell there, but many private individuals do. Trucks shipping books from Amazon use Colorado roads and put exhaust into Colorado air.
We understand that as a small store, we have hurdles to jump that the big guys don't- like no subsidies from communities to build here, like the inability due to our size to negotiate steeper discounts which we can then pass on to the customer. This particular disadvantage, however, we feel is unfair, not only to us but to everyone in Colorado who does pay tax and does their fair share to fund our schools, police, firemen, and roadways. It doesn't just hurt us; it hurts all of Colorado.
So, promotion of tax collection is never a popular position. It hurts the wallet in the short run. But taking the long view, it hurts more when there is no tax revenue.
I used to work in the mental health field, so I've seen that it hurts the mentally ill when the one inpatient treatment hospital in the state is closed due to lack of funds. It hurts the mom with the developmentally disabled child, who is no longer able to find relief of any kind in her gruelling days of caring for one who cannot care for themselves. It hurts the kids who once got to eat at least one hot meal at school, when that program is shut down. That's who I think of when I think of lost tax revenue.
I'll climb off the soapbox now. Part of being an independent bookstore is making the store a community resource, and I suppose I see the taxes not being collected by Amazon as another community resource, if we only could use them properly. It seems a terrible waste.

No comments:

Post a Comment