For many years, I have been purchasing clothing on the “Outlet” tab of my best-ever online clothing site. Their clothing is unique in its styling and execution and pretty pricey. But their Outlet for bargains and my closet have an affinity toward each other.
Present me with a bargain, and my sucker gene kicks in.
It’s not that cheap stuff attracts me, but I am putty in the hands of a retailer who offers fine clothing at bargain prices. And, because I’m not a vengeful person, I’m withholding their name.
Here’s what happened:
I check this Outlet regularly and have been watching a particular jacket that causes me to salivate. It doesn’t matter that I don’t need another in-between jacket, this particular garment would add panache to my wardrobe, and it is now at a bargain price. It is 50% less than its original list price, $139.00, formerly $288.00. Who could resist?
The jacket is faux shearling, so it doesn’t provide the warmth of natural shearling, but who cares. It’s the color of French’s mustard, short, with giant patch pockets, a button front, and a very cozy look.
I was about to order it, and I added a pair of lounge pants at the regular price. Together they total $218.00 for the items.
Many online retailers these days offer free shipping; this particular retailer doesn’t. So $19.50 additional for shipping. Bad enough! (And, of course, to return it if it looked horrible on me, it would be another $19.50.)
And, also, there was another small charge of $1.32 added to the bill for tax. What was the tax on, I wondered since NJ doesn’t charge tax on clothing purchases? So, I called the customer service line and learned that the tax was on the shipping. I couldn’t believe it.
So, I investigated.
After doing some research, I learned that tax on shipping is a highly complex issue, with each state having different laws. Here’s the NJ ruling:
“New Jersey: Most charges associated with shipping and delivery are subject to New Jersey sales tax, although delivery and handling charges for exempt sales are generally exempt.” My reading of this? Since clothing is exempt from sales tax, the shipping charges are usually exempt, as well. This sales tax ruling was put into effect by the N.J. courts in 2017.
I was provoked and asked to speak with a supervisor. When she called me back to leave me a message, she continually referred to me as Mrs. Zimmerman ( my name is Zimmering), I guess due to her disinterest and carelessness regarding my issue. Besides this, since I’m unmarried at this time, I bristled at the “Mrs.” She would have done the company a favor by not calling me back.
Her errors set my teeth on edge. She went on to tell me, without hesitation but in a pedantic manner, that shipping was taxable. And that statement is not as cut and dry as she expressed it.
Her message angered me. After fifteen years of shopping on this site, there was never a shipping tax before. $1.32 extra doesn’t make a difference in most people’s lives, mine included, but I believe it was the Greed Factor that motivated it. Bad enough to be charged excessive shipping charges, but adding the tax was the last straw.
So, I was annoyed enough to call back and informed the company that I will never purchase another item from them, canceled this present order, and expressed my extreme annoyance over this change.
This is how a person might kill a fly with a hammer!
Yes, I realize one must collect taxes, but the question is, from whom and when is it legal? The second question is, why had I not once paid tax on the shipping before? It’s possible that in the past, the company decided to absorb the shipping tax. If that was the case, this policy reversal was a deliberate attempt to gouge more money from customers.
I felt called upon to raise my voice in protest.
Generally, I am mild-mannered, not a rabble-rouser, but I was inflamed by this silly issue feeling like I was being milked as a captive consumer who was eager to make this purchase, and the tax charge was so tiny. Maybe other people have felt the same but figure, “What’s the difference? It’s only a few cents!”
But this is how companies squeak through to grab additional thousands from the public. I felt it was important enough to inform this company that exploiting their customers, or at least this customer, won’t continue to work.
So, the bottom line is a mixed bag. I feel my action was appropriate, and I’m proud of myself for standing up, even though only $1.32 was at stake.