As if the “evil empire” of book selling hasn’t done enough to live up to the reputation that its critics have put forth, a new interview in the Financial Times with Waterstones’ CEO James Daunt describes how Amazon is causing unemployment rates to skyrocket, especially in terms of high street booksellers. Despite the fact that employment numbers from 2010 show that more than 50,000 people worldwide–a number that surely has increased in the last three years as the online retailer has grown–got up each morning and went to work thanks to Amazon, Daunt’s accusations are leveled at the way the government is allowing companies like Amazon to enjoy publicly-funded tax breaks while taking jobs from the same working citizens who funded those breaks.
In the interview with Andrea Felsted and Robert Budden, Daunt is quoted as asking, “What proportion of jobs do they create in a warehouse relative to the number they destroy on the immediate high streets around them, and why is the taxpayer funding this destruction? Why does Amazon get the tax breaks to do that, let alone why does it itself find a way in which to attribute profits to those parts of its global empire where the tax rate is as low as it can be?”
If there are merits to Daunt’s concerns in regard to the numbers of distribution center positions not outweighing the numbers of retail jobs lost, is Amazon expected to be the only company who conducts itself in a “be a better man” way? Daunt pointed also to big-box stores like the chain Tesco, which opened throughout the UK and cost smaller independent grocery stores their business, even while acknowledging that Amazon offers a tremendous value to customers. Is a company expected to forgo profits in order to not muscle out its competition?
Interestingly, Daunt does concede that the fault here is not entirely Amazon’s. As a company whose shareholders expect a profit each year, it is operating well within its rights under the UK tax law. He goes on to call on politicians to make changes to the tax structure in order to prevent these kinds of cuts for major foreign corporations.