You know the situation all too well. You go to a grocery store, a BART station, or any other wide “parking lotted” location, and you are immediately locked into an uncomfortable stare-down with a pseudo-impassioned plain-clothed youth, armed with a clipboard and an intrusiveness that ranks somewhere between an aggressive homeless person and a Macy's employee desperate to meet a quota. You normally think up some lie, pretend to be on your phone—anything to just get into the store and on with your life.
But, every once in a while, they shout out a line that lures you in. Something that you are indeed passionate about, something that makes you surrender that look of "okay, tell me more". Now they've got you. And they hand over that clipboard with a list of dozens, maybe even hundreds, of people who have stood right where you’re standing. It's a relatively small commitment. All you have to do is sign and your show of support is tallied.
It's a high pressure sales situation except nobody is asking for your money.
These days, there is a new beast in front of your grocery store and its mating call is "More Jobs, Not Taxes"—it is trying to sell you on petitioning the internet sales tax.
You may hear this and immediately want to sign, because it sounds appealing to reject any new taxes. It would be slightly more difficult than asking a room to give a show of hands if they want to pay more or less for something.
What you should know, though, is that "More Jobs, Not Taxes" is a campaign funded entirely by Amazon.com, an online retailer whose refusal to collect sales tax costs
It's incredibly important that you know this, because, unlike other petitions, this one is asking for your money, as well as your community. Amazon's attempt to block this new law prevents them from collecting and remitting taxes that go towards fire departments, police stations, public schools, health programs, etc. Their refusal to collect sales tax also gives them an unfair advantage over local retailers who do collect and remit taxes for the community.
So, even though your immediate reaction to one of these petitioners may be to sign on, just remember that, by saying "No" to internet sales tax, you're actually saying "No" to fairness, small business, and the wealth of your community.
-Jon Stich, Diesel Bookstore-Oakland
Visit the Green Apple Books blog for another indie bookseller response to the Amazon problem.