[OM] Buying in the US of A [was FL-50R flash - experiences with www.buyd

Subject: [OM] Buying in the US of A [was FL-50R flash - experiences with www.buydig.com?]
From: Moose <olymoose@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2008 11:35:08 -0700
Olaf, and anybody else who may contemplate a similar strategy for buying 
in the US,

Although they may appear at first glance similar, US sales taxes are not 
VAT in concept or practice.
- They are levied by individual States and vary wildly from 0% in Oregon 
to almost 10%.

- They are levied only on retail sales to the final user, not at any 
intermediate value added or distribution steps.

- They vary even within a State, with smaller local jurisdictions 
levying add-on taxes. The Calif rate is 7.25%, but my local rate is 
8.75%. They generally aren't levied on food.

- Unlike VAT, they aren't subject to refund when you leave the country 
with the item(s).

- They are, in my opinion, one reason for the greater rate of demise of 
retail shops here than in Europe. The reason is that sellers without a 
retail presence in a state are not required to collect sales tax for 
that state. So B&H & Adorama, for example only charge sales tax for 
items sold to NY State. So a purchase from out of state has an immediate 
8.75% discount for me.

Legally, if I buy from out of state, I am obligated to report and pay 
the "use tax", equal to sales tax, to the state. However, virtually no 
one does so and there is no mechanism for enforcement, as the State has 
no legal way to require out of state sellers to report sales to state 
residents/addresses and the sellers have a financial incentive not to 
report. Yes, I agree this makes no sense, but it is rooted in issues of 
States Rights going back to the creation of the country and it's 
Constitution, bolstered by appeals and Supreme Court decisions and a 
political swamp. So no changes are likely to occur anytime soon.
Amazon is a complicated operation.
- They warehouse and sell many things themselves. Those items get free, 
but slowish, shipping for orders over $25. For me, books, CDs and many 
other items come very quickly, again for tax reasons. Amazon has a big 
warehouse and, shipping operation just over the border in Nevada, which 
has no inventory tax, unlike Calif. Cameras and electronics, however 
come from far away and may take over a week with the free shipping option.

- They sell many items in 'partnership' with other sellers. Many 
photographic items will be sold by Adorama, Cameta or others through Amazon.

- They are a growing competitor to eBay through "Amazon MarketPlace", 
where individuals and small retailers list new and used items.

- Most sales not directly from Amazon are subject to the normal shipping 
and tax charges of the actual sellers for whom Amazon is acting as 
listing agent, although I've seen a few listings with the free shipping.

So, pant, pant, the $410 listing you refer to is actually from an outfit 
named Marcus Audio Video, who will charge shipping and apparently have a 
retail presence in Washington State that requires them to charge sales 
tax? Well, no, they have been in Brooklyn, may be in Florida now and are 
almost certainly a rip off place collecting a tax that isn't and they 
will keep.  Anyway, at $410 + 8% + $18 shipping, the total of at least 
$460 is greater than the Amazon/Cameta total of $440. Cameta is solidly 
reputable. It worries me that Amazon is apparently fronting for some 
shady operations, although they probably shield one from the worst abuses.

Amazon themselves also show it for $426.49, with free shipping, but not 
in stock. The boilerplate "Usually ships in 1 or two months." seems to 
mean different things at different times for different items. You could 
order and get it in a week, or not for months. Watching several wish 
list sort of items, I've seen them go up and down in price and move in 
and out and into Amazon stock.
Personally, I would buy direct from B&H, $441.35 with UPS 3-5 day 
shipping. Adorama is a tiny bit more.
Fed-Ex has a split personality.
Some years ago, Fed-Ex acquired a smaller, ground only shipper, which 
became Fed-Ex Ground. Although lately not as bad as they were for 
handling, in my limited experience, Fed-Ex Ground can still be very 
sloooow. Although integrated at the input end, the two operations still 
have separate networks and the delivery trucks are separate. The express 
side of Fed-Ex  is solid in the US. I prefer UPS for ground shipping. 
 From B&H or Adorama to the West Coast, the UPS 3-5 day option is 
usually worth the small extra charge.

I hope that clarifies the overly complex situation of buying stuff in 
the US a little.

Oh, yeah. Buydig/Beach are fine too.


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