Why I’m not Shopping at Amazon (& O.co) and why you Might Give This Some Thought

by Orin U. Unphare – Guest blogger

Why is Amazon.com smiling?

First, let me lay it all out. This is not my real name. I am using a pseudonym because I fear retaliation from Amazon. Why? Well, first, as far as companies go, it is an AMAZON. Second, it is known for retaliating, which is why I’m walking away to begin with.

            To be honest, I got fed up with Amazon a while back when I discovered it sells fur. Fur is a needless product that involves the tormenting and killing of animals. Amazon sells fox, raccoon and rabbit fur.

But now Amazon is retaliating against the State of California because the Golden State feels it’s unfair to sell stuff to  people here without collecting sales tax, the same sales tax that every business in the state must pass on to the government. It seems that our state throws money around for crap like schools, hospitals, roads, cops, firefighters, mental health and junk like that. How arrogant.

  Internet-based retailers already have a pricing advantage over brick and mortar stores because they don’t have to . . . well . . . have brick and mortar stores. No buildings, no land, no sales clerks, no business taxes, no property taxes, yada yada. But with most California communities charging taxes of more than eight percent in order to pay local and state bills, Amazon and other Internet retailers can undercut local business even more by saving their California customers eight-plus percent. As Bill Dombrowski of the California Retailers Association puts it, “This is nothing more than some companies trying to get a competitive advantage though a tax loophole, and now we have closed it.”

            So Amazon and Overstock.com (now going by the sobriquet O.co; I guess the J-Lo and A-Rod thing has spilled over into the Internet retail arena) feel they don’t have local retailers tightly enough by their cojones, so they have decided to get even with California.

Overstocked or undertaxed?

            How? As you may know, these retailers often do business with affiliated retailers all over the country. Since Amazon and O (not to be confused with Oprah  whatsername’s magazine) and other Internet businesses that meet certain criteria and that are affiliated with businesses in California, they must turn the sales tax over to the state. Instead, Amazon and O have opted to sever all relations with their California affiliates. In other words, they have found another way to screw greedy California, which is laying off more public employees than it can count.

            Well I have had enough. And this isn’t easy for me. I have bought some stuff at O.co for a fraction of what it would have cost me locally. I did that because there are some items that sell for outrageously inflated prices at retail locally. But that is fair competition.

            Now you may say, “Why should I give a rodent’s behind about California’s problems?” How’s this for an answer: According to the June 30, 2011 San Jose Mercury News, Amazon has pulled the same maneuver in Illinois, Arkansas and Connecticut, cutting out its local affiliates in those states. It is also suing New York State over similar legislation. U.S. Supreme Court, here we come! And with the current “Big Business Rules!” court, I wish all these states good luck. You’ll need it.

            As for me, taxes are what pay for essential government services. So if the big Internet boys won’t play – make that “pay” – fair, they can shove their businesses up their assets. I’m shopping elsewhere.

            Give this some thought. Your state may be next. And your local mom-and-pop may be steamrolled out of business.

Some Cool Consumer Tips

            I l-o-o-o-ve when I run across cool stuff for consumers. Here are four new factoids that might help – or at least interest – you. 

1 – You know those nutrition labels on packaged foods that tell you about calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium, and the like? Well I think they Typical Nutrition Facts lbelare great. Better than great. They’re Gre-e-a-a-t! (I’m not sure if Tony the Tiger spells it that way). I check out what I buy to put into my body. And while I do not eat meat for a variety of reasons, here’s some good news for those who do. Starting January 1, 2012, raw meat and poultry will be required to come with nutrition labels; at least the most common cuts and ground meats will. If this is stuff you’re cut out for, check out the regulations at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FRPubs/98-005P.htm.

  1. 2 – If you have purchased HDMI cables for your cool electronic equipment (or, as I like to call it, all that electronic junk that we think will make us happier but just drains our savings and makes our retirements that much more bleak) like flat screen TVs Blue Ray players and the like, you know how damned expensive they can be. I have seen them ranging in price from 15 to 40 bucks. It’s a damned cable for Pete’s sake, not that I even know who Pete is. So I did some fishing (not “phishing” or phooling around). And voila, I found a pair of six-phoot cables for less than six bucks, including shipping! There they were on display at Overstock.com, which I now believe is simply O.co (great, another thing to remind me of Oprah Winfrey). So you can spend less than three smackers for each cable (in a pair) or you can get them in a fancy box for 10 times the price. My 3-buck cables work great, thank you very much.

3 – Have you ever checked out government web sites for money that may be owed to you? If your answer is “no,” what are you waiting for? Most states hold money that is coming to folks for a variety of reasons. The most common types of unclaimed property are:

  • Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents
  • Stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends
  • Uncashed cashier’s checks or money orders
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Matured or terminated insurance policies
  • Estates
  • Mineral interests and royalty payments, trust funds, and escrow accounts.

California’s unclaimed property URL is http://www.sco.ca.gov/upd.html. I once found that the Consumer Gal had a modest amount of dough coming her way. Do an online search for your state. In addition, the IRS has nearly $165 million in unclaimed refund checks lying around somewhere. There are 112,000 taxpayers who have not received their 2009 refunds due to mailing address errors. So think back . . . “Hmm, did I ever get that refund from last year? . . .Doh!” If you are missing one, update your address at www.IRS.gov.

4 – Have you ever gone to an emergency room only to discover that the staff thinks that 27 other people’s emergencies are more emergent than yours? So you sit around for hours until you forget why you are there. Well, guess what. A lot of hospitals are okay with you going somewhere where the wait time is shorter. To find out a hospital’s wait time, check its web site or call the hospital. If you have a life-threatening emergency, make the call on your way to the hospital of first choice, providing you are not the one driving. Better yet, first call for an ambulance, then start calling or surfing for emergency rooms.