The Netflix tax. Really, NZ retailers? Really?

  • Opinion
  • August 26, 2015
The Netflix tax. Really, NZ retailers? Really?

Much has been made recently of the so-called “Netflix Tax”, adding GST to overseas purchases made online to “make it fairer to NZ retailers”. And we all go “Waaaa, won’t somebody think of the children” whilst some dinosaurs rub their hands with glee.

I call shenanigans.

Those that follow NBR, and are on Twitter, may have read Chris Keall’s recent post. Yes, I agree with many of things he said, but some - such as same-day delivery - simply are a little unobtainable in NZ at the moment.

For me personally, it’s generally not about the price.It’s about choice and selection. And good old fashioned service.

New Zealand is still a market dominated by wholesalers, who quite rightfully want to control their patch. And their years of structured buying and getting into New Zealand what sells in volume has worked in the past.

Not any more. If I want a sparkly pink case for my iPad, goddamnit, that’s what I’m going to get! Be damned if The Warehouse or Vodafone or Noel Leeming et al in their relationship with a vendor won’t carry one in their carefully planogrammed slatwall panel.

I used to work in the shoe industry, where quite frankly if you were larger than a men’s size 13 or a women’s size 41… you were a pain in the arse. I once worked for a company in Australia where we sold ladies’ size 44. Those who wore that size loved me, to the point where I’d get hugged by middle aged ladies in the middle of the shop.

Cue… the internet. Now, I have good friends that gladly shop in overseas online stores to get their size 15 shoes. Delivered in less than a week sometimes to their door. Done and done. And honestly, they don’t mind the price. Which is often on par with NZ prices. To paraphrase my friend: “It used to be when I shopped, I’d pick the one out of the two available that I hated the least.”

When it comes to my day job, I had the task of sourcing some custom printed product. On Wednesday night I jumped on Alibaba. I put out a quote request for what I wanted. On Thursday I had over 30 quotes in my inbox. After three different Skype conversations, I had finalised artwork and quantities. That night, I paid via Paypal. One hour later I was sent a photo of the customer service rep showing a sample in her hands, to save me spending $44 on a sample to be sent to NZ. (This was at her insistence!)

On Monday, I had the full quantity of product. From China. So it had travelled fast! For half the price it would cost me in NZ. Now, you may say I’m destroying jobs etc. Shop local. Support NZ. But this wasn’t about the price.

Yes, I can get the same thing from a few NZ websites. However, they do the same thing I did. And charge me double. Yet operate under the guise of being a “NZ company”. Bollocks.

A few points to come out of this were:

The follow-up from the quote requests I sent were amazing. Nicely crafted emails, a couple of phone calls and about 10 Skype messages. Contrast this with the NZ companies (which I had emailed two days before). I got two lacklustre emails, and one basic phone message. And I’m still getting friendly emails from the Chinese suppliers with just nice follow ups, product suggestions for next time etc.

But I digress. This isn’t a level playing field.

We aren’t playing with the same racquets or sticks. Or boots. Or even balls.


Some NZ companies don’t want to offer the selection. Because stock is expensive and what has worked in the past should work now. And quite frankly, who wants to be stuck with sparkly pink iPad cases? I only have one iPad after all.

Some don’t want to offer the service. Because they don’t understand how it should work. Emails take time! Time that I could spend dusting the shop!

Some don’t want to offer the shipping options. Because it’s too hard. And freight is expensive. And someone has to pack it. And label it. And send it.

Some don’t want to invest in their website. Because that High Street store rent is expensive. Even if there is half the foot traffic of what there used to be.

Yet, you want to make the customer pay more because you can’t be bothered? 

You are making it difficult for New Zealanders to want to give you their money.

I don’t want to see empty shops. And I certainly hate hearing of people losing jobs. Time to up our game New Zealand. Really.

​ ​

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