The puzzled stares, the blanks looks, the “I didn’t know that” comments about the power of direct mail…and this from marketers already supposedly “in the know!” It’s no wonder the politicians are clueless about needless damage they are doing to the industry.
This is the gist of the article from Al Urbanski of Direct Marketing News, who asks “does a catalog make a sound when it falls if there’s no one there to hear it?”
Urbanksi tells of recent discussion with a PR exec at a top NY firm that could be pretty amusing if it wasn’t so sadly true. The exec was completely taken aback when Urbanski told her that DM News readers were closely following postal-themed stories in his publication.
She was baffled that direct mail was still a “thing,” even though she admitted, under question, that she had catalogs and mailers at home that stayed around far longer than an email from a retailer.
If the industry pros are this out of touch with how consumers use mail order, it’s no surprise that Congress is totally in the dark.
At issue is the Marketplace Fairness Act, mandating that multi-state retailers (i.e. catalog, mail order and online merchants) collect sales tax not for the state in which they do business, but for the state in which the customer lives.
The new law, supported by brick and mortar businesses that were crying foul that out of state retailers had an unfair advantage by not having to collect tax, places the onus on the seller to know and stay on top of changes to tax laws in all 50 states.
Granted, for online retailers tied to cloud computing and tax collection, this might not be a huge problem. But let’s consider the typical mail order customer, who completes the form, cuts a check and sends it in. What are the odds that the sales tax they add for their particular state will be accurate – or even included at all? The customer service time alone to contact the buyer and make up the difference is going to be crazy.
Urbanski posits that if the legislators behind this piece of work truly understood the size of the direct mail market (it is a $96 billion a year industry according to Ibis), and what a burden this places on the sellers – coming on top of postal increases that threaten to blow a hole through profit margins – it would never have been signed into law.
Maybe it’s time to get some legislators in Congress who have actually worked in the real world. Mail order is a tangible, very real part of this economy. Can anybody hear us?