The bulb on my desk-lamp just went out. It's one of those oddly shaped fluorescent bulbs. Now, I could trudge over to the hardware store, and ask the guy in the grungy vest where the light bulbs are. He'll take me to them because he has nothing else to do, and he'll stare at the display like he's helping. He'll even pick something and say, "is this what you're looking for," and I'll point out that it looks nothing like the bulb in my hand which I've already shown him twice. Eventually, I'll find the hanger it should be on. He says they seem to be out of stock. I grumble something that sort of thanks him for his help, and head to the next big box hardware store. I go through the same process again and find the bulb and head to the cash register. There, they'll ask if I have a discount card, swipe my credit card, I'll sign the device, I'll refuse a bag, and I'll be on my way. Total time in the car will be at least 30 minutes, with another 20 minutes in the stores for an elapsed time of at least 50 minutes, if not more.
Or, I can go to Amazon, search for the numbers in the search bar that I found on the side of the bulb, and it comes up with suggestions. I pick the one that matches what I'm looking for and click on the "order" button. I'll get it the day after tomorrow. And a moment later, I'll get a receipt via email.
So I saved at least 49 minutes, a little gasoline, and the tedium of dealing with the hardware industry's finest.
And I didn't even notice whether Amazon charged me tax!
Attention to everyone from retailers to politicians to uninformed journalists - anyone who likes to use buzzwords. The field has NOT been leveled.
Unless that hardware store can match the ability to find the item with a couple of keystrokes, be 100% in stock all the time, avoid dealing with uninformed help, expedite the check-out, and do all of that in about 2 minutes, you are still going to lose massive sales to the internet. Unless you sell high-end stuff like furniture or expensive clothing, my guess is the average consumer doesn't even notice the sales tax. Because they saved 49 minutes!!!
Now, if I needed that bulb right away, I would have gone on the aforementioned adventure. Or I might have gone if I just wanted to wander around the hardware store, as guys are wont to do. But in this case, I saved almost an hour of my time and I can live with a slightly darker office for a couple of days.
And I even shot a few cents to my favorite charity through the Amazon Smile program.
I see all of these articles that claim that the recent decision in SD vs. Wayfair is going to save their businesses by "leveling the playing field." No, it's not. See above.