Last week, Amazon shut down its Amazon Associates program in Vermont. Through an impersonal mass email, Amazon told its most loyal and supportive partners that the threat of paying state sales tax was too much for the online behemoth. And just like that, small independent entrepreneurs saw a revenue stream disappear.
The Amazon Associate program is pretty simple: you put up a link to a product on Amazon on your website. If someone clicks on that link and buys it, you get a small commission. In essence, Amazon has turned millions of website owners into middlemen, a vast army of online barkers who can earn money by doing as little as possible. It serves one ultimate purpose: to drive more and more business to Amazon, who does not pay local sales tax.
Why would Amazon choose to hurt the people who love them the most? Vermont, like several other states, passed legislation to place a state sales tax on Internet sales. In this case, they want to tax sales through their resident middlemen. Several others states have passed similar laws but in Vermont's case, the law isn't actually in effect. In fact, it won't be until a number of other states pass similar laws.
Even though Amazon isn't being taxed, they shut down their program. They claim that it would be too much of a burden to collect state sales tax and want a national tax instead. I find it hard to believe that computing and data behemoth Amazon would have any trouble calculating and collecting state sales taxes. Amazon says that it wants a national sales tax instead, a good idea and something that most functioning countries can manage. Unfortunately that's not the U.S. right now. We're certainly not waiting for a national gay marriage bill. The states are taking care of that. Does Amazon think that's wrong too?
No, Amazon decided to treat its best customers like dreck in order to make a point about paying taxes they don't even have to pay yet. This is simply corporate culture at its worst.
So, what's a body to do? Individual action? A Vermont venture capitalist might have captured Amazon's mindset about this issue when he stated, "I don't care about you as a consumer."
Amazon offers a wealth of choices and purchasing ease unmatched by other retailers. I looked at my own purchases over the past several years on Amazon. I saw that I didn't really save all that much time shopping at Amazon. I did buy a number of items (books, toys, etc.) that were all completely worthless. That ease can also translate into waste.
I now buy books at my local Phoenix bookstore. I'll browse on Amazon, but buy it locally. The same is becoming true of technology and other home accessories.
Leaving Amazon isn't going to be that hard. But it will feel good knowing I no longer do business with a corporation that treats its best customers like pieces of rotten meat.
With friends like Amazon, who needs enemies?
Or, as Nate Orshan says in Vermontese, "Hey Jeff Bezos take a Long Trail Hike."