A discussion draft of the Online Sales Tax Simplification Act of 2016 is expected to be introduced in Congress soon.
Will Amazon ship dirt?
Last weekend, inspired by the first balmy day in Chicago in months, my thoughts turned to gardening. I wrote up a list of what I'd need to buy to be ready to plant when the weather turns for good in a few weeks: new pots, dirt and plant food. With this month's cover story on Amazon in the back of my mind—and my reluctance to spend a beautiful day wandering Home Depot—I thought, "Would Amazon really ship dirt?"
A quick tap on my iPad showed me, yes, Amazon will indeed ship dirt. In fact, it'll sell me a 26-pound bag of dirt for $10.99 and deliver it to me in two days for free because I'm an Amazon Prime member. That's only a buck more than Home Depot was selling it for, and I'd have to go to a store to buy it because Home Depot won't ship dirt.
Amazon may have to eat the financial loss on the sale of dirt—UPS rack rates show it'll cost more than $22 to ship a 26-pound package from Hebron, Ky., where most of my Amazon orders come from, to me. But Amazon assuredly made up at least some of its loss when just hours later I paid it $6.99 to download an e-book to my Kindle. Amazon's shipping cost on that sale was zero.
Amazon has accomplished a remarkable and valuable thing. It's made me, and millions of others, shop Amazon first. For dirt and for e-books and for thousands of products in between. That's been Amazon's goal all along, and it's made it a reality.
That's a frightening reality for competitors, which includes almost everyone else that sells online. Amazon's every move creates turbulence for every other e-retailer, and competitors must have a game plan. You can read about how a handful of e-retailers are finding ways to compete, starting on page 22. They can't turn a profit if they sell dirt the way Amazon does, but they're not ready to throw in the towel either.
Allison Enright, Editor