Proposed Legislation Could Keep Seniors from Catalog Shopping

Aug 05, 2013 1:28 PM  By

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Outgoing mail at my parent’s house.

When my mother was alive, she would not let my father buy shirts from Haband. And Mom had every excuse in the book as to why he shouldn’t buy from Haband: You can’t try the clothes on before you buy them (although we know how big a game returns are for direct-to-customer merchants), you have to pay extra for being a 2XL (but you would if you bought from Walmart, too).

My mother passed away in May at the age of 83, and I’m sure she’s turning over in her grave because I’m writing about her. Although, really, I’m writing about my 84-year-old father, who in just 10 weeks since my mother’s funeral, has ordered from catalogs more times than my mom probably did during their 60 years of marriage.

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My father, some time in the 1960s.

Yes, my dad has become a catalog shopaholic (It’s not just Haband, he was excited to receive a new Starcrest of California catalog). But this new addiction of his may come to a quick end, thanks to some legislation that’s in front of us.

The first is the Marketplace Fairness Act. My dad does not use a computer. Even though my mom did, she did not place orders online. And as my mom did, my dad fills out the catalog order form by hand, writes out a check, and mails it in the enclosed envelope.

Now I know the Marketplace Fairness Act is about sales tax collection. And simply put, if (or when) MFA passes, my dad would have to add Connecticut sales tax to every order he places with Haband (or Starcrest).

My dad is a well-educated man, but he has a hard enough time adding the proper shipping cost (yes, Haband sent his order form back so he could re-calculate shipping and send a new check). If he can’t figure the shipping out, how tough will it be for him to also add 6.35% sales tax to his order?

The easiest thing for my dad to do, if he wants to keep up his shopping addiction, is learn how to use a computer and place his orders online. But I don’t see him doing that. So I think it’s very possible that merchants who cater mail-order seniors are going to see a decline in business.

The more frustration in ordering, the more seniors will make a shift to bricks-and-mortar, or keep their money in their mattresses.

The second is Congress’s wish to eliminate to-the-door mail delivery. Now my dad is lucky. His mailbox is at the curb, and it’s not a very long walk to get from the front door to the street. And based on his route, he wouldn’t have been able to opt for a mailbox attached to the house anyway.

But what about those seniors who are going to go from to-the-door delivery to a community cluster box down the road from where they live? How often are they going to check their mail? And are they going to want to haul their catalogs from the community box back to their home, or simply abandon them on top of the cluster box?

Both these cases are probably extreme, but like by dad always says, “[whoever] is trying to get rid of us old people.” So if you are a merchant who sells direct to seniors, you may want to go to bat for your customers.

  • Guest

    Did our Dad see this article before it was published? Deb Parry Liptak