This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
By Betsy Burton
Salt Lake City is a wonderful city strong on community; for the most part accepting of and supportive of other religions, races, lifestyles; lovely to look at, a joy to live in. Like any city, its members sometimes get up to no good, trying to take advantage of a regulation (or lack thereof) to catch a break, get an edge up, take advantage.
And as always, large corporate entities do this more effectively, on a larger scale, than anyone else. But seldom has such behavior been so egregious as this past week when Amazon urged its customers to take their phone cameras into bookstores around this country and, using their price-check app, scan our inventory, then go to Amazon to buy what they'd seen in our stores offering them up to $5 in credit to do so.
Urging our community members to spy on us? Paying them to do so? Isn't it bad enough that in addition to supporting a bricks-and-mortar establishment and being active and actively contributing members of the community, we have trouble competing against Amazon because they don't have to collect sales tax and we do? This gives them a grossly unfair 10 percent advantage off the top (a practice that we hope our legislators address). Add to this insult the injury of corporate spying and it seems our task is insurmountable.
But here's where community comes into play. Have our customers come into our store and clicked pictures of our inventory? No. Have strangers? No. Happily, thankfully, we haven't seen a single person engaged in corporate espionage in The King's English.
Why? Because of community. Because everyone understands that we all live here together, all contribute together to this city we all love. They understand that engaging in shady corporate tactics to save a buck or two in the long run hurts the place they live.
Amazon has become positively cartoonish in its attempts to take over the book industry. Already vilified as bad corporate citizens for using every nefarious means at their disposal to avoid collecting sales tax, now they are employing tactics so underhanded they would embarrass Boris Badenov himself.
And, like dear old Boris (for those old enough to remember, the cartoon villain of "Rocky and Bullwinkle"), they keep shooting themselves in the foot, underestimating the essential decency of people in Salt Lake and everywhere else.
Betsy Burton co-founded The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City 34 years ago.