Amazon has long enjoyed an unbeatable price advantage over its physical rivals. When I buy a $1,000 laptop from Wal-Mart, the company is required to collect local sales tax from me, so I pay almost $1,100 at checkout. In most states, Amazon is exempt from that rule. According to a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, only firms with a physical presence in a state are required to collect taxes from residents. Technically, when I buy a $1,000 laptop from Amazon, I'm supposed to pay a $100 "use tax" when I file my annual return with my home state of California. But nobody does that.
If by "nobody" the Slate columnist includes himself, he is breaking the law, as surely as Dennis Kozlowski was. He's not just "technically" breaking the law, he's breaking the law.
The article, which focuses on Amazon's expansion of next-day and same-day delivery, concludes:
Getting something shipped to your house offers gratification that's even more instant: Order something in the morning and get it later in the day, without doing anything else. Why would you ever shop anywhere else?
Here are some possible answers: In a store, you can try whatever it is you are buying — shoes, clothing — on, and if it doesn't fit, you don't have to mail it back, you can just leave it in the dressing room or on the floor. Last week I was shopping for a tent, and I looked on Amazon, but I wasn't sure if I needed a 4-person or 6-person tent, so I went to REI with the people I was going camping with, set up the tent on the showroom floor there and had everyone climb in. You can't do that at Amazon.com. And with an in-store purchase, you don't have to worry about being home when the delivery guy shows up, or else having to drive to the FedEx or UPS depot at night to collect what they meant to deliver but couldn't because you weren't available to sign for it.
Don't get me wrong; I buy plenty of things online. But sometimes it's nice to go to a store, whether it is to talk to a knowledgeable sales person, or touch and feel and see the goods in person rather than on-screen, or to discover something that you wouldn't have found just by searching online.
Disclosures: This site is an Amazon affiliate, which means it earns a share of the revenue when you click through links to Amazon and buy things there. The editor owns some shares in some retailers that compete with Amazon.