Thursday, February 09, 2012

Joining The 40%

I may have been part of the reason that net income fell 58% at in the fourth quarter of 2011.  I decided to become part of the 56% of US consumers who try to only buy products from brands that do good things for the environment or community.

According to the research conducted last year, Amazon will face even more scrutiny in China, where that percentage zooms to 83%.

In fact, I became part of the 40% of consumers who go even further and stop buying from that brand compared to 20% who do, about the same percentage who tell others not to boy.  I may also be part of the reason that local independent retailers across the nation outperformed the national average in holiday sales this past year.sustain a bull

It was hard not to keep rewarding Amazon for its incredible innovations.  I had hoped that Amazon would eventually do the right thing.

But that inventiveness, built on a platform that was researched and developed by public tax dollars, will never outweigh the company’s hypocrisy in refusing to pay local tax revenues while it desecrates local business climates.

I just don't buy Amazon's claim that it is refusing to pay local taxes because it is inconvenient or unconstitutional while hoping that instead a uniform tax will be enacted nationwide.  Any national retailer can tell you a simple today’s easily available databases make it for them to localize each purchase both to where the consumer lives and related jurisdictions.

In free-market terms I would call this the mother of all negative externalities, meaning that Amazon is benefiting by neglecting to include the true cost (including negative impacts) of its products and services and is further amplifying those hidden costs by spending tens of millions of dollars fighting any effort toward what economists call corrected pricing.

I don't expect my gradual withdrawal will bring Amazon to its knees. I began by forgoing any use of my Kindle or the related apps I had begun using instead a couple of years ago on my smartphone and tablet.

I switched to using an equally convenient alternative called IndieBound, the app created by a “community-oriented movement begun by the independent bookseller members of the American Booksellers Association.”

I buy the e-books via the website for my favorite local bookstore, which happens to be The Regulator Bookshop located on Ninth Street in Durham, North Carolina, where I live, and  the books download into my IndieBound app just as they did in the Kindle app.

You can find the participating local bookstores near where you live by going to this link.

My switch is not just symbolic.  A much greater proportion of each dollar stays in my community where local businesses create jobs for my neighbors and reinvest taxes in my community.  It is also better for the environment because it involves less packaging, less transportation and an overall smaller carbon footprint.

I'm sure Amazon means well and its founder is sincere in his beliefs, but that doesn't compensate for the company’s hypocrisy or the fact that no amount of good can ever compensate for the vast amount of harm it is creating to states and especially to communities.

The free market is a marvelous thing but let's face it, the reason we have what is called a mixed economy is to make adjustments for what the free market won't, doesn't or can't do rapidly enough.  If it could or did, either the products sold on Amazon would be unaffordable or the company would be paying it's fair share of taxes.

Amazon has the right to spend tens of millions of dollars trying to dodge taxes. But so do the 40% of its customers like me who will stop buying products from the company altogether as it becomes more and more evident that it just doesn't do “good things for the environment or the community.”

To support independent retailers search online for a similar movement in your community like Sustain A Bull in Durham.

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