retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of swipe fee reform ... which finally looks like it might actually happen ... one MNB user wrote:

I could care less about swipe fees…this argument is only about which industry gets to fleece the consumer with swipe fees…banks…or retailers. In the end the consumer will pay one or the other. Don’t play this issue like it will benefit consumers ... Meanwhile, as the banks and retailers argue over who gets consumers’ swipe fee money…nothing is being done to create jobs. Don’t retailers and bankers understand that if they create jobs, then they will both get additional revenues from the newly employed…and additional swipe fees to boot!!
Sorry for unloading,

If not here, where?

Another MNB user wrote:

Since my career has always been in retail, I’m prejudiced in favor of the retailers in this fight. I’ve seen the negotiations between our finance and the card processors.

The card companies have a virtual monopoly and they know it.

They never had to worry about their fees. What can the retailer do…not take their cards? We see time and again retailers who are forced to limit or modify in some way, their acceptance policies simply because of these fees.

Some retailers accept only debit cards because the fees are lower.

Some opt to carry only one card or the other, based on exclusivity arrangements with the competitive card.

Many C-stores, and others have begun charging a few cents more per gallon to off-set these fees.

In each of these examples the customer is ALWAYS the loser.

In our area I actually heard a commercial touting why these card fee limits were BAD for the customers, and people should reach out to their legislators and tell them to “Stand-up” to the “large retailers”…these ads were sponsored by some mortgage and banking consortium. I’m happy to see the 45 Senators with a backbone stand up for Joe Q public for a change.

It will be interesting to see who ultimately wins the battle with consumers though. It will depend upon who does the better job telling their customers how THEY have  been impacted on this legislation.

As a customer, as a retailer, I firmly believe WE came out on top of this one.

MNB user Philip Herr wrote:

I think retailers may want to watch for the next move made by banks before slashing prices. There is a loophole that is likely to become “Plan B” for banks. Specifically, banks can charge any fee for debit cards that are PREPAID. Right now that occurs for a very small proportion. But what’s to stop banks from coming up with a design to encourage existing debit card members from converting to a prepaid format? Perhaps they offer to maintain customer rewards only for prepaid cards. So keep a balance of several hundred dollars on the card and continue to get rewards. Hell, they will probably promise not to “ding” the customer if they overdraw their limit – they will just decline the purchase.

So customer continues to get exorbitant rewards for debit (no change), bank gets to charge higher swipe fees (no change) and retailers continue to pay high exchange fees (no change).  Looks like there was some brilliant lobbying going on when the bill was written.

Regarding the Amazon sales tax debate, MNB user Paul Sakariassen wrote:

Let’s be real about this, the primary reason Amazon is in favor of a national solution is that it will never happen.  Local taxing entities who use the sales tax as means of funding for local infrastructure or local public facilities are never going to agree to give up the control over this type of revenue generation.  Mr. Bezos’ motivation to keep things as they are comes from the comparative pricing advantage that he gets versus bricks & mortar retailers that he competes with. In this day, with everyone on a tight budget, 6,8 or 10% automatic discount is quite an incentive for the consumer. What Amazon facilitates, with customer culpability is the loss of local tax revenues that could benefit the general public in the communities the customers live in and probably spreads the resultant burden across the whole community in the form of higher property taxes.  There is no altruistic desire on the part of Amazon to work towards a national sales tax reform solution, just a strategy of stall and delay.

And MNB user Scott Svarrer wrote:

I agree with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.  When I first heard that states are pushing for Amazon to collect sales tax I thought, “How in the world do they expect Amazon to keep track of all the different sales tax laws?”  One of my responsibilities is to know the sales tax laws of five states to make sure items are set up correctly.  Believe me, it’s not easy.  It’s crazy to expect a business to keep track of more than 7,500 state and local tax laws.  Bezos is right to resist this effort and I hope he prevails. 
A national tax solution would be a good compromise but it has to be a simple solution.  For instance, there should be no tax on any item that has a nutrition, supplement or drug facts panel.  All other items should be taxable at the state’s sales tax rate.  No county or local tax rates should be imposed.  Yes, people will complain that candy should be taxable and toilet tissue should be tax-free, but that’s just too bad.  If states want tax revenue from internet sales, there should be a system in place that does not put undue hardship on businesses that do not operate in their state. 
Kevin, I disagree with your statement that the “revenues could be divided between the federal and state levels.”  I don’t think the federal government should collect any of it.  There should be no federal sales tax involved in internet sales because that would leave the door wide open for them to increase the national tax at their discretion.

Responding to yesterday’s video commentary about customer service, MNB user Bryant Bradanini wrote:

I believe that your viewpoint of making customer service a priority is dead on.  However, the type of service that I prefer is "Genuine" customer service, meaning that it is a real belief that the customer needs are important.  I cannot stand the robot-like delivery of most retail employees.  The scripted "Hello, did you find everything today?  Did you know that beef jerky is 2/$1?"  frustrates me because I don't think that they really care.   I've even heard stories about certain retailers sending their employees to Smile School to learn how to address every customer that comes within 20 feet.    I would prefer to deal with an employee that can actually read my body language, communicate with empathy, and respond in such a way that makes me feel important.   You cannot learn compassion and caring from a book.

MNB user Kevin Nolan wrote:

A comment regarding your ‘Face Time with the Content Guy’ editorial about the site…..

What goes around, comes around!  I'm just guessing here but, the companies that will be griping the loudest about this new website’s unfairness will most likely be the very companies that did nothing for their customers when they had a legitimate complaint about the products & services provided by that company, leaving the customer feeling like they had been “Corporately Bullied!” 

To coin another phrase from the Content Guy’s era….Power to the People!

I feel so old.

MNB user Pat Kline wrote:

As a poor farm kid from Minnesota, I find it difficult to offer sophisticated strategy on how to change the down-bound train of poor service. I do though have some advice, take a trip to NYC and walk into just about any convenience store with hot/cold salad bar-or restaurant for that matter. These people will in almost every case exhibit a high degree of professionalism reflective of someone with a career, most bad service is done by those with a (bad?) job.

Interesting differentiation.
KC's View: