Friday, September 27, 2013

Change of Plans for Today, and Change for This Website Going Forward

I was planning to do my first of several movie reviews of the 2013 additions to the 1,001 Movies list today.  Instead, I got blindsided by Amazon late last night.  Here is the key paragraph from an email I received from them:

“We're writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account will be closed and your Amazon Services LLC Associates Program Operating Agreement will be terminated effective October 6, 2013. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Maine state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor LePage on June 5, 2013, with an effective date of October 9, 2013. As a result, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after October 6, nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Maine residents.”

What Amazon is referring to is that Maine (the state I live in) passed a law requiring online retailers to collect sales tax if purchases are made by Maine residents.  (That’s much simplified, but it gets to the gist of it.)  Many years ago a federal law was passed that online retailers had to collect sales tax for those states where they had a physical presence, even if it was only a distribution center or a support center.  Amazon has no such presence in Maine.

Of course, they do not get to decide what is and is not constitutional.  That’s the job of the U.S. Supreme Court.  I’m sure that since this state law is related to interstate commerce, and since the Constitution says that interstate commerce is under the control of the federal government, not the states, that that is what Amazon will argue.  In the meantime, though, Amazon has apparently decided to exact retribution on the people who live in my state for the actions of the government – 99% of whom I didn’t vote into office.

The Amazon Associates Program that they refer to is one where if someone makes a purchase from Amazon by following a link from my site, I get a 4% commission, and the buyer does not have to pay a cent extra.  Essentially, Amazon is sharing their profits with me because I “referred” someone to them.  Those are the links at the end of my movie/book posts, as well as the Amazon ad in the right column.

Now this has never been a huge moneymaker for me; I was never going to be able to make a living from it.  For instance, several hundred people have read my recent post on the changes made by the 2013 Edition of the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, but out of all of those people, only one (1) has purchased a copy of the book by following the Amazon link.  (Thank you to whoever that was.)  That means I made a whopping 92 cents on the $22.99 cost that Amazon is selling the $35.00 book for.

So it’s not about the money I’ve been making; I’ve always seen these purchases more as a “thank you” from someone for pointing them towards a good movie or book they might not otherwise have heard about.  No, it’s about the apparent sheer pettiness of canceling this program for Maine residents.

I now also have huge questions on what Amazon is going to do for the other parts of their business.  Are they going to refuse to ship products to me after October 9, 2013 because I am buying them from Maine?  And what about the publishing arm of their company and the Marketplace Retailer agreements?  I had been planning to use Amazon’s company CreateSpace for printing a book next year that I would be selling (and earning royalties for) on Amazon.  Would I no longer be able to do that because of the royalty payments?  And I was thinking about creating a Marketplace agreement with them to sell my earlier genealogy book which I own the copies of, and for which the new one is going to be a supplement.  I will need to go back and research all of these things again.

Personally, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass if my state wants to collect sales tax on online purchases or not.  I don’t buy stuff online to avoid a little bit of tax; I do it because I can get stuff that the bricks and mortar stores around me do not carry in their inventory.  And the shipping charges essentially offset or even exceed what I would have paid in sales tax anyway.

By the way, if you are wondering about the politics behind all of this, it was not one political party or the other pushing this law through.  The Governor of my state is Republican.  While he is a buffoon who regularly makes the national news for doing or saying stupid stuff (google “Paul LePage Maine Governor” sometime), both the Maine House and Senate are controlled by Democrats.  The law to collect sales tax from online retailers was bipartisan – passed by a Democrat-controlled legislature and signed by a Republican Governor.

So, the change to this website going forward is that in October I will be removing the Amazon links to the right, and I will no longer be including Amazon links at the ends of my posts.  I’ll be leaving them in place until Amazon goes home to sulk on October 6, 2013 just in case there are any last minute purchases that people might make.  After that Amazon will be keeping 100% of the profits when someone follows a link from here, but unlike Amazon and their notice to me I am not going to go through and remove all the individual links out of spite.  Frankly, it’s just not worth it.

By the way, you may be wondering why I wouldn’t just switch to clickable ads like most websites have.  Well, I got screwed over by Google in the early days of this site on that when they refused to pay me 60-some dollars they owed me.  It was a “no win” situation for me where Google controlled not just all the cards, but all the chips and the dealer, too.  After I got over being mad I joked about it in this early post, if you have not read it.

So, I’ve got my work cut out for me in October researching what might be happening with Amazon and how I will and will not be able to work with them in regards to publishing a book, or even making purchases.  I really can’t believe they would just stop allowing purchases from an entire state, but if they are going to be collecting sales tax for Maine for that then why kill off this Associates program for Mainers in the first place?  As of this posting there are no recent press releases on regarding how they are going to address the Maine law.

I think I’m going to go read a book and try to forget about all of this for several hours.


  1. I think they did this to Missouri associates also. Seems stupid as I'm sure they still sell and ship to those states, and besides, it doesn't matter where the associate lives, it's where the buyer lives, right? Unless it's supposed to track state income tax for the associates, which would make more sense for the move.

  2. "Unless it's supposed to track state income tax for the associates, which would make more sense for the move."

    Hmm. They already had to track what they paid me because that gets reported to me for tax purposes. I didn't go above the threshold required for a form to be sent to me, though. They do not have to withhold any money at the time they pay me. Since I am essentially "self-employed" I am solely responsible for paying income taxes on that money to both the state and federal governments. I don't think it would have to do with that. Thanks for giving me a new angle I hadn't considered, though.

    I agree this is all very stupid. So punishing me for the actions of my state government is supposed to do what? Make me storm the state capitol demanding a repeal of the law? Organize marches to free Amazon from this burden?