ABA Member Meets with Congressman in Support of E-Fairness

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On September 25, Annell Gerson, co-owner of Bookmiser in Roswell, Georgia, joined with four other retailers to meet with Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) at his Roswell office in support of e-fairness legislation. The face-to-face meeting, one of many being arranged by the Marketplace Fairness Coalition, of which the American Booksellers Association is a member, aimed to make clear how important the issue of e-fairness is to bricks-and-mortar retailers who want the U.S. House of Representatives to finally tackle the issue following the mid-term elections.

“We each gave anecdotal information — mine focusing on the fact that within a 10-mile radius from [Rep. Price’s] office, approximately 15 booksellers have either exited or entered … the book business in the last eight years or so,” Gerson reported. “That equates to a substantial number of jobs and tax revenue.”

Besides Gerson, Roswell retailers participating in the meeting were Michael Horowitz of Alpha Bikes; Nick Nicolosi of North Point Mall; and Robert Wagner and James Steinbach of Best Buy. The meeting was led by Joseph Lee, manager, government relations, Southern Division, for the International Council of Shopping Centers. The group met with the congressman and his district director, Kyle McGowan.

Overall, the meeting consisted of a healthy dialogue, Lee said, adding, “Everyone around the table did a fantastic job of bringing in their own stories that made the advocacy much more localized and imperative to the congressman.” Each retailer shared anecdotes as to how the current sales tax inequity negatively affected their stores and showcased how “crucial bricks-and-mortar stores are to the community,” he said.

Gerson said that she stressed to Rep. Price that “we are the last remaining general bricks-and-mortar bookstore in the city of Roswell.” Bookmiser, which sits at the corner of three counties, all within the congressman’s district, services 10 high schools and their feeder schools in the immediate area. Gerson told Price: “Without us, students and parents will have two choices to purchase books: travel to another city or purchase them online. For myriad reasons, I don't think our community wants to be left without a physical bookstore.”

It is important for indie retailers — and indeed, “society as a whole” — to support e-fairness, Gerson told Bookselling This Week.  “Yes, by purchasing online there is a shortsighted savings of whatever your local sales tax amounts to, but lack of e-fairness has led, and will continue to lead, to a very negative, long-term domino effect.”

Noting that the tax loophole leads to a decrease in local sales, business closings, and the loss of jobs, which all has an effect on government services, Gerson said, “This doesn't begin to take into account all the support independent retailers give to schools and the 1,001 other community nonprofit groups. Ultimately, an online purchaser may save seven percent on their purchase today, but, in the end, that savings will end up costing them much more than that.”