Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rant - @Amazon to start collecting sales tax in Georgia on Sept. 1

@Amazon to start collecting sales tax in Georgia on Sept. 1

So Amazon caved into Georgia and will start collecting sales tax on September 1st, 2013.  Last March, the Georgia Legislature amended Section 48-8-2 of the tax code to require internet retailers to collect Georgia sales tax.  

Rant begins.

In my opinion the law was specifically targeted towards Amazon.  I spent around $2300 last year using Amazon so that would equate to around $184 of tax that the State of Georgia would now college. I can afford to pay that in taxes in stores so it's not going to impact me that much.  Modification of the tax code is going to net the state around $16 million dollars that is going to get wasted in the Department of Transportation or Community Health on foolishness. 

What the state and their Retail Association bulldogs don't realize is that the shopping experience in the state of Georgia is abysmal. I don't think these guys and gals have done any of their own shopping in the last 20 years.  I really detest shopping these days and prefer the convenience of online shopping.

They believe that this is a win but retail sales are going to continue to decline.

Amazon has spent the past 18 years refining is e-commerce, customer service, fulfillment, warehouse and shipping business and it's super easy to shop with them.  Most existing brick and mortar store have failed to do so and are suffering.

Here are some of the main problems facing retail brick and mortar stores: 

1.  Inventory Problems

Retailers are not using technology to their best ability to deal with dwindling store inventory.  I've seen shelves at retail stores to be out of inventory of a product for days, weeks, months. Reporting the problem doesn't seem to get the item in stock.  If the item is a hot item; using the store's inventory availability system online or in-store proves to be a hit or miss experience.  Popular sizes are generally not restocked often.  I know immediately with Amazon if an an item is in stock, how many are left if the stock is low and if out of stock when is the anticipated date the item will be in stock.

2. Poor Customer Service

This is my pet peeve about shopping in retail stores.  Very few retailers foster an environment conducive to shopping. I don't necessarily need to be greeted and hand held but when I need assistance I don't want to have to go to customer service or walk around the store to get someone to help me.   Many store associates are oblivious to what the store sells, ongoing sales, inventory.  They're kinda just there to collect a check.   I bought some jeans for my nephews and asked an associate if the children's jeans were on sale.  It took 15 minutes to get an answer back from him.  During that time I asked another associate at a register while I waited and the answer was no.  Upon checkout I discovered that the jeans were on sale and both associates had no clue at what was going on just mere feet away.

I avoid returning items to stores if at all possible unless the product is defective. Even when it's defective, I usually end up yelling or sighing very heavily while someone tells me something contradictory to store policy as I read it back to them.   Store returns associates and polices in my opinion are designed to frustrate the customer to not return products… ever.

My mom accused me of being a bully for questioning an associate on why was she not pressing the right button after she spent 10 minutes trying to remove an extended warranty on a video game that I clearly and verbally declined. The register output on my side explicitly said what key to press to decline the warranty and the associate hit the key accepting it over 5 times in a row.

The rare times that I use cash it's quite and experience watching the process of getting change.  Heaven forbid giving extra change to get whole dollars or even change back.

3. Long Lines

I blame customer service managers for this.  Usually there are not enough registers open based on the amount of customers in line.  Waiting more than 5 minutes in line to checkout in my opinion is inexcusable in the 21st century.  I've taken pictures and sent them back to corporate offices on chronic long lines and limited open registers.  It was persistent even during holiday shopping time.  Even after the corporate office intervened the chronic long lines register closures returned.  I began shopping elsewhere.

4.  Poor zoning and recovery
Some retailers do this very well. Others don't so well.  Zoning/facing and recovery is something that needs to be done hourly  if not many times an hour and not once a day.  I'm not going to even mention retailers where you can see items that need recovered and shelves that need to be zoned that are not touched for days at a time.

5. Delivery/Shipment
I subscribe to Amazon Prime for free 2 day shipping.  Most of the time I get the item(s) next day because Amazon has such a tightly integrated fulfillment and distribution system.   Delivery times of large items requiring freight delivery can be negotiated with the local freight delivery service.  You're not required to be at home for half day windows requiring you to take off time from work.

If you've ever had to except delivery and have installation from one of the brick and mortar stores you may know that it can be a painful experience.  With one retailer I've had 2 separate items that were damaged in the truck before they even arrived, multiple delivery times that were improperly scheduled, botched installations requiring multiple installation attempts and returns.  I've had to send recording of calls with customer service reps back to corporate offices because something was entered into a system differently that what was verbally communicated back to me.

6. Customer retention/rewards

The stores that I frequent often usually have some sort of customer retention or rewards program.  I'm willing to give up some privacy in shopping if I can get some rewards, discounts or coupons for be a loyal customers.  Stores that have rare coupons, offers and sales soon return the items back to the pre-sale levels that should have been at the discounted levels in the first place.  Shoppers  are savvy now and know the real price that items cost at manufacturer and unwilling now to pay high markups and deal directly with the manufacturer if they can.

7.  Store Terminals

It's the 21st century and having 1) Broken Terminals for extended  2) Terminals that do not have NFC Readers or Paypal payment methods for faster checkouts is inexcusable  

In conclusion, retail stores need to do a much better job with increasing customer service from the parking lot to the register in physical locations and the whole supply chain, inventory systems and online stores to compete with Amazon.

Here's a list of retailers that I have positive retail experiences :

Trader Joe's
Banana Republic

Here's a list of retailers that I have negative retail experiences :

Brandsmart USA
Old Navy
Family Dollar
US Postal Service

Home Depot