Of Drones And Taxes And Online Sales
On a day when the anti-dronecraft missiles were firing fast and furious toward Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, conventionally delivered goods ordered online enjoyed a flighty 18.8% gain over last year on the shopfest dubbed Cyber Monday, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.
The IBM figure is from 9 p.m. last night. Marketing Daily’s Sarah Mahoney will have a complete analysis of Cyber Monday sales figures, including final comScore data, later today. This news — after disappointing sales over the elongated Black Friday weekend — perhaps bodes well for all the good causes standing by today, which is, as you surely know, #GivingTuesday.
“Cyber Monday rocked while mobile sales rolled,” write Hadley Malcolm and Bruce Horovitz in USA Today. “The day widely regarded as the Super Bowl of online sales ca-chinged its way to a record day for retailers, including Walmart, and marked a shift in shopping preferences as smartphones and tablets drove nearly a third of traffic — and for some retailers, more than half.”
The Los Angeles Times’ Tiffany Hsu, meanwhile, paints a decidedly pastoral scene at a Target.com fulfillment center in Ontario, Calif. “Machinery was purring gently. Boxes of Samsung televisions were stacked like blocks atop pallets on a glossy concrete floor. A shift supervisor waved jauntily as he zipped by on a red motorized chariot.”
But don’t let that fool you: the chaos is tightly controlled in the sprawling facility where “workers have been gearing up for the holidays for months.” Haven’t we all?
The way Forbes.com contributor Kelly Phillips Erb sees it, Cyber Monday is “The Most Wonderful Tax Evasion Day of the Year.” What a spoilsport, though.
“You know that sales tax that doesn’t always show up on your online bill?” she asks. “That doesn’t mean that the transaction isn’t taxable. It means that the retailer isn’t choosing to collect sales tax.”
Indeed, the Supreme Court yesterday “let stand a ruling from New York’s highest court requiring Internet retailers to collect sales taxes even if they have no physical presence in the state,” Adam Liptak reports in the New York Times. The New York Court of Appeals had ruled that Amazon and Overstock.com “had a sufficient presence in the state because of affiliated independent sites that linked to the retailers in return for a commission.”
“The court’s decision to stay out of the issue for now may put more pressure on Congress to come up with a national solution, as both online and traditional retailers complain about a patchwork of state laws and conflicting lower-court decisions,” writes Robert Barnes in the Washington Post.
“Overstock's executive vice chairman, Jonathan Johnson, said it would be a mistake for more states to enact online sales tax laws,” write Reuters’ Lawrence Hurley and Patrick Temple-West. “Any state that passes a law like this, we terminate our relationship with affiliate marketers in those states,” Johnson said.
“Congress can and should act," Amazon said in a statement responding to the decision.
Meanwhile, the Seattle skies filled with flak over Jeff Bezos’ announcement on “60 Minutes” Sunday that the company was gearing up for 30-minute delivery in some areas using a fleet of “octocoptors.” Among the skeptical articles:
- “Amazon Delivers Some Pie in the Sky” by David Streitfeld in the New York Times. “Package delivery by drone is a loopy idea, far-fetched and the subject of instant mockery on Twitter — but it is hard to deny its audacity,” Streitfeld writes. Or, for that matter, the “masterful use of public relations” in Bezos’ Sunday night announcement after a holiday weekend.
- “Some Uncomfortable Questions About Jeff Bezos' Unmanned Amazon Prime Death* Drones” by Simon Dumenco in Ad Age. The technology is already passé, Dumenco points out. “I don't know about you,” he writes, “but when I run out of toilet paper, I just use my 3D printer to make some more.
- “Hurdles Surround Amazon's Goal Of Using Drones” by Greg Bensinger in the Wall Street Journal. "There are several major concerns: the operator of the vehicles, the vehicle itself, environmental factors and how people on the ground respond to these flying vehicles," attorney Raymond Mariani of Murray, Morin and Herman P.A. tells Bensinger.
- “Amazon’s Delivery Drones: An Idea That May Not Fly” by the AP’s Scott Mayerowitz on ABC News. “Delivery drones raise a host of concerns, from air traffic safety to homeland security and privacy. There are technological and legal obstacles, too …,” he writes.
Phew. With deals like that, upscale neighborhoods in the future will have to hire air traffic controllers to handle all those incoming delivery vehicles that may (or may not), to steal a line from Robinson Jeffers, “breed like mouthless May-flies darkening the sky.”