The brick-and-mortar stores also say consumers often use them as showrooms, examining items in person before buying online.
“We do have some folks who like to come in and do that,” McLaughlin said. “They will come in, they’ll shop a bit and check out the features of products, and they will take that business to the Internet.”
She emphasized, though, that her family’s stores provide something online retailers can’t: a direct customer-service interaction.
“Nothing beats personal service, one-on-one attention,” she said, adding that McLaughlin’s also tries to stay competitive on prices.
New York’s so-called Amazon Law has been challenged in court by Seattle-based Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, and Salt Lake City-based Overstock.com, another Internet retail giant. Their lawsuits, initially filed in 2008, asserted that the law violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
New York state courts ruled against them, with the most recent rebuff administered just over a month ago by the Court of Appeals, which ruled the law was valid because those companies “established an in-state sales force” via agreements with affiliates.
Courts in other states, however, have ruled such laws to be illegal.
Perhaps ironically, Amazon favors passage of the Marketplace Fairness bill, but Overstock.com has threatened to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court has already ruled once in favor of the validity of imposing sales taxes on Internet purchases, in 1992, but that ruling limited retailers’ responsibility to collect taxes to states where they had a physical presence, such as a warehouse. Sales taxes that fell outside this circumstance were the buyers’ responsibility, the court ruled.
The current bill has divided the conservative ranks, pitting anti-tax forces against small-business supporters.