"Make Amazon play by the same rules," writes Tony Del Ricci, owner of Camera and TV Stop,  Medford, NJ.
The online retail giant has been using the location of its new distribution centers, which create over 1,000 permanent and hundreds of Christmas-season temporary jobs, as a club with which to negotiate delays in online sales tax enforcement in multiple states. New Jersey is considering a similar delay. Del Ricci says what helps Amazon will hurt retailers and destroy retail jobs, while costing the state many millions in tax revenues.
"Unless out-of-state internet retailers are required to collect sales tax just like every retail business in New Jersey is required to do by law, Main Street businesses will continue to bleed jobs and slowly but surely close their doors," Del Ricck writes.
"New Jersey allows and encourages out-of-state internet retailers like Amazon who don't have a physical presence in New Jersey to sell products here seemingly tax free, putting businesses like mine at a competitive price disadvantage. Simply put, it's impossible to compete.
"This outdated law also encourages customers to shop in my store as if it’s a showroom for internet retailers, use the time of our professional staff, and my thirty four years of experience in the camera and consumer electronics industry, to help them find the best product. Often times, we watch the same customer whip out an iPhone right in my store to purchase the exact same product online.
"With today's economic fallout, the 7% sales tax alone on purchases of high end electronics like camera equipment, TVs and other devices can be the difference between a completed sale and the customer walking right out the door if my business doesn't eat the sales tax.
"New Jersey should be encouraging small business growth and job creation, but this outdated sales tax law is killing jobs and making the independent retail industry a dying one in New Jersey...
"No one disputes the value of e-commerce, the convenience of online shopping or the positive economic impact it has delivered to every home in America, but it is blatantly unfair that one type of business can avoid collecting sales tax, and another must charge seven percent more on the exact same product sold to the exact same customer. It's a perfect example of failed government intervention in the marketplace.
"The growth in internet sales and perceived tax-free shopping has single-handedly destroyed the retail camera industry in New Jersey. My store alone once provided 20 good-paying jobs. Today, that number has fallen to 7.
"Independent stores aren't the only ones confronting this government-created competitive albatross each and every day. Major electronic chains like Best Buy struggle with the same issue on a larger scale, announcing recently that they would be closing 50 stores nationwide...
"I started my business (in 1978). In those days, at least you had an even playing field and you survived by hard work, honesty and competitive pricing. Today, there is no incentive to open a new store when you immediately start at a seven percent price disadvantage. Fairness, it seems, is reserved only for multi-billion dollar companies.
"Leaders in Trenton and Washington need to think about the long term consequences of this failed policy and the impact on our downtowns, New Jersey jobs, business investment, their own state budgets and the ability to invest in schools, roads and more. Main Street retailers need sales tax fairness as soon as humanly possible. I urge lawmakers to put New Jersey businesses first by making Amazon and other out-of-state internet retailers finally collect sales tax just like we do."
Backdrop to this fight is Amazon's hardball, secretive attempts to negotiate delays in sales tax imposition in exchange for jobs. The company has acquired a couple of warehouses near Newark; it's building a big new warehouse in sales-tax-free Delaware, and others in Pennsylvania, which has only recently acted like it's getting serious about taxing online retailers. If NJ nails Amazon will the company move its shipping jobs elsewhere?