This is echoed from my Red Room blog:
In the beginning, I loved the idea that I could make some money through my blog as I guided people to books they might actually use and enjoy. As soon as the Cemetery Travel blog was really up and running (which is to say, as soon as I figured out how to take the reviews I wrote on Goodreads and republish them on WordPress), I applied to be an Amazon Associate.
It seemed like a win-win situation. I could pick a cemetery to feature each week, then enthuse wildly over cemetery guidebooks related to it…and people would follow the links to Amazon and treat themselves to a copy. I could make the shopping process easy. I could get books into the right hands. Along the way, I could get a few cents kickback for each book I sold. What could go wrong?
I didn’t sell a ton of books I reviewed (I reviewed some pretty obscure stuff), but people did click through and examine the books on Amazon. I could see a slow but steady growth of sales. It felt great.
Then Amazon sent my first monthly statement. Since I’d opted to receive a check for my hard work, they wanted me to net $20 worth of kickbacks before they paid me. I was willing to abide by that, since each month I seemed to be selling more books.
The rules changed.
The California government asked Amazon to pay taxes on the books they sold to people in this state. If they’d had an actual store here, Amazon would have been liable all along. However, since they didn’t own so much as a warehouse in California, they’d ducked paying taxes for years. Now California redefined the Associates as salespeople based in the state, which we are. Gotcha.
Amazon made a business decision to cut loose their all associates in California, effectively firing us. While nothing prevents me from continuing to link to books on Amazon and selling them, I no longer get my cut because that would jeopardize Amazon’s tax-free status.
So the last couple of months, I’d get an email from Amazon saying I hadn’t sold enough books for them to actually pay me. Of course, if I sold more books, they wouldn’t count. Catch 22.
There was no way to get the money I’d already earned. Every month, the experience made me feel more and more sour. They were starting to jeopardize having me as a customer. For the books I want to buy, there’s always eBay. It might even be cheaper.
Someone at Amazon came to his or her senses. Wednesday I got an Amazon credit of $1.86 as my payoff for being an associate. That is the full amount they plan to pay me, minus several dollars in fees for taking the trouble because the amount is so pitiful.
I used it to buy a cemetery book on Amazon.
I like Amazon, since they make it easy to find the obscure small press cemetery books I want — and want to review. However, I think that if they do business in California, they should pay taxes here. I’m even willing to pay a little bit more to them for the books I buy, so they can do the right thing.
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