Dear Gerry and Sol, thanks for reminding us how much you’re ripping us off. Love, former customers

The biggest retailers in the country, happily profiting from a high Australian dollar for purchasing overseas-made goods, are determined to stop Australian consumers from doing the same:

Some of Australia’s biggest retailers are launching an advertising campaign saying existing tax rules give overseas-based online companies an unfair competitive advantage.

The lobby group includes Myer, David Jones, Harvey Norman and Target.

Goods bought online from overseas retailers are currently exempt from GST if they are worth less than $1,000, but Australian retailers want GST applied to all online purchases.

The point of that, obviously, is reducing the number of online sites willing to jump through the hoops to sell to Australians, and thereby restoring the local distributors’ profiteering monopoly – enabling them to buy more cheaply but forcing Australian consumers to pay inflated local prices. It only takes a moment to see that the difference between Australian retail prices and overseas online prices is much more than the 10% GST…

Like the big mining corporations before them, the retailers are printing ads threatening to have to SACK LOTS OF ORDINARY WORKERS if they don’t get their way (we don’t care if it costs more to enforce than the tax raised! The point is hurting our competitors!); like the miners, they’re talking absolute crap (our lower sales over Christmas are all to do with this convenient scapegoat and nothing else!).

Interestingly, even at News Ltd, the retailers don’t seem to be getting too much sympathy from readers or, once that became clear, the graphic artists:


I wonder if Mr Harvey thought through the consequences of highlighting to his customers on every news site just how much better deals are online.

Back to the drawing board, Gerry.

UPDATE (6/1): As will surprise practically no-one, Gerry is doubling down, calling anyone who shops online “un-Australian” and finally remembering that the successful mining industry campaign was about scaring people that they were going to “get whacked”:

“Yes, you might have to pay more, but it’s the right thing to do. You’ll pay a lot more if we lose jobs and retailers close down,” he said.

No, we’ll pay a lot more if overseas sites simply stop selling to us and we’re forced again to rely on you and your profiteering mates as the sole importers of those goods – which is of course your aim.

Or, as Stephen Harrington put it to Harvey in The Punch:

The funny thing is, though, I’m right with you. I want a level playing field too.

So I assume, like me, you’re in favour of estate tax? Perhaps, too, a significant boost in the minimum wage for Australians? I mean, that would certainly level the playing field regarding opportunities which are afforded to us and our children.

If you’re in favour of fairness, I assume you’ll soon be starting up a campaign to push for better pay for the workers in developing nations who make most of the household goods that you sell at a huge profit?

Maybe you could help out some of those people who weren’t given much of a start in life? Or, would that also be, in your own words, “just wasted”?

Hey, Gerry, in all seriousness if you really want “a level playing field”, I’m right behind you. But, like most people, I want to level the entire field, not just your luxurious corner of it.

Given how unpopular Mr Harvey makes himself every time he opens his mouth (including in his painful advertisements), it’s somewhat surprising that the other retailers were happy for him to speak for them.

UPDATE (7/1): Gerry inadvertently reveals how it’s got nothing to do with the 10% GST:

”What we are talking about is someone buying a guitar in New York, for instance, and having it sent over here 30 per cent cheaper. It is giving that overseas retailer the advantage.”

So, discounting the 10% GST, you admit you’re gouging another 20%?

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15 responses to “Dear Gerry and Sol, thanks for reminding us how much you’re ripping us off. Love, former customers

  1. I’ve done an analysis of some random price differences to really clearly illustrate why people are buying offshore — and it’s not that it’s only 10% cheaper.

  2. “SACK LOTS OF ORDINARY WORKERS”

    Hmmm, my advice is they sack the execs and CEOs who are paid obscene amounts of money, of course these greedy pricks will argue that they need to pay top dollar to get the best CEOs and execs… Riiiight, they pay the obscene amounts of money and their businesses don’t seem to be doing very well, at least they’re making that claim (with a multi million dollar campaign……LOL) So they’re doin’ their dough on execs and CEOs.

    And, the big retailers (corporations, many of them foreign owned) don’t give a shit about Australian Manufacturing jobs yet they want consumers to give a shit about the sales assistants job.. Fuck ’em!

  3. I just posted this at the Age and thought I’d put it here too:

    At Big W I went to buy a wrist watch, a Slazenger Watch, she was trying to stuff it into a Lorus Box, I told her I didn’t care about the box but I wanted the instructions, the Sales Assistant said she didn’t know where the instructions were and apparently had no interest in looking… Hmm, I told here I’d pass, I went home and looked online, I’m going to buy a Timex watch from an Australian online retailer far cheaper than any Aussie Bricks and Mortar outlet. Why can’t these retail giants realise that one of the factors driving people online is the appalling customer service displayed by some of their staff, If I’m going to pay a premium I expect to be treated professionally. This campaign by the greedy retail corporations has inspired me to shop online more.

  4. jordanrastrick

    The point of that, obviously, is reducing the number of online sites willing to jump through the hoops to sell to Australians

    Well it seems obvious now that you’ve hit the nail on the head, Jeremy, but I’d missed it. Its not the 10% price difference they’re after, but the regulatory cost of compliance. If online shops overseas have to collect GST they simply won’t bother selling to Australia anymore if this campaign gets up – the hassle won’t be worth it for such a small market. Likewise if the consumer has to arrange to pay their own tax (as they do now) it simply won’t be worth the effort for many purchases.

    The threat to establish offshore warehouses for online sales is just a hollow bluff, and the government should call it.

    The worst part about the whole shemozzle is the effect it could have for the markets on goods and services that simply aren’t sold in Australia.

    Perhaps a reasonable alternative is a tax on online payments to offshore merchants. This makes the cost of compliance (both monetary and intangible) small, and it would fall largely on big institutions with the scale and the experience to absorb it – the big four banks, Visa, MasterCard, perhaps Paypal. Hell, the government might actually have some prospect of turning a profit from such a tax. And then the retailers won’t be able to whinge about unfair price advantages (as if overseas merchants don’t have to pay their own local sales taxes) anymore.

  5. I have considered this matter in some depth here. What hit me is that I can save ~$900 on exactly the same item, buying online, from an Australian retailer as compared to Gerry Harvey’s price. This isn’t a matter of GST on imports, it’s that GH runs a dying retailer and he’s hoping for legislative protection from being inept.

  6. There’s a few points to this debate:
    1. Many Australian retailers have been incredibly lax with a web presence and online shopping. I think they’re now realising that this is costing them.

    2. The degree of range choice between Australian and overseas stockists is often stark. Photographic equipment is a classic example of this. The difference in the range of models and accessories available between Australian and overseas retailers is woeful. This is often why I shop online.

    3. Price of course is an issue. I can order a particular camera from a shop in New York and have it delivered for $200.00 less than what it would cost me to go to the shop around the corner. I buy film from Thailand and have it delivered for 1/3rd of the price of retail.

    Having said all that, I know how difficult retail can be at times. I wouldn’t like to rely on it for my living.

  7. Alister – really interesting write up and your points about customer service are valid. It’s incredibly hard handing over your hard earned to some woefully disinterested staffer who can barely bring themselves to look you in the eye.

  8. Now News is getting stuck into the ripoff prices we pay for local access to digital products sold by foreign-owned companies like Apple.

    Somebody tell them about videogame pricing on Steam.

  9. and the ruling class wonders why we despise them and no longer pay for games and movies

    and with GH and I hate there sense of entitlement,I also hate the $1000 is not high enough for me to get a high preformance gaming laptop dispite being about $1000 more in Aus than US.

  10. I’m sort of in the market for a new camera. It had never occurred to me before, but because of the hoo-ha from the billionaires I checked out a few online stores (which all seem to be in Hong Kong). I’ve discovered I can save roughly 40% of the Australian RRP for the price range I’m looking at (sub $1000). Even if I add GST I’ll be well ahead.
    So thank you Gerry and Sol. I now know where I will be purchasing my next camera.

  11. The Age declares:

    “Big Retail to expand tax crusade”

    “THE business tycoons demanding the imposition of GST on Australians’ overseas online purchases have vowed to extend their advertising campaign despite a public backlash against them and calls for retailers to concentrate on lifting their own performances.”

    LOL – So what are they proving? That they have plenty of money to waste! What’s their problem again?

  12. jordanrastrick

    Un-australian? Roflmao. Gerry Harvey and the rest LOVED the end of protectionism in manufacturing. Cheap imports from China, hurrah! And of course cheap imported manufactured goods are an excellent thing.

    But the shoe is on the other foot now, and with outrageous hypocrisy they’re trying to trot out the same old lying bullshit protectionist “moral” arugments for the local economy. Of course the local economy has always and will always benefit from such a fall in prices, because it frees up consumer income to be spent on other new goods and services. End result: consumers end up materially better off, same amount of locals ultimately employed, GDP per capita goes up.

    Its amazing to me that anyone would even try to advocate this nonsense in the modern day and age when the reasoning was thoroughly torn to shreds 200 years ago.

    Not to mention centuries of solid evidence that all the lost jobs in subsistence agriculture, menial factory work, etc etc etc etc turned out to be a resoundingly good thing.

    And yet, people keep buying into it.

  13. Splatterbottom

    Protecting uncompetitive rip-off merchants like Gerry Harvey is “helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason”.

  14. jordanrastrick

    Yeah, he’s a real piece of work. Nice use of the quote there SB.

  15. You have to hand them one thing. They have managed to make pretty much 100% of the commentators on both Fairfax and News sites line up on the *same* side of the argument. That is quite an achievement.

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