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Not Letting the NRF Off Easy

When a high-level official of the nation’s leading association of big retailers says that millions of online goods sellers are prone to an addiction that leads to a life of crime, NetChoice isn’t about to let this insult made in front of Congress rest.


Therefore, we have called for the NRF to make a public apology to the hard-working Americans who happen to make their livelihood by selling goods online.  We explained:


“There are millions of hard-working Americans who use the Internet to build a new business, reach new customers, or just to put a little extra cash in their pockets during tough times, and they play a critical role in our economy. At a time when big companies are looking to the government for bailouts, these entrepreneurs are working to create new jobs, pay their taxes, and build something for their future. They are the true innovators — the hardest working, most productive workers in the world – and they deserve better than to be labeled as addicts and criminals by the mouthpiece for giant retail chains who are afraid of a little competition.”

“That was more than rhetorical excess for LaRocca to insult grandmothers selling shawls and small businesses working nonstop to stay alive, The fact is, the NRF is pushing its competition-killing legislation through Congress right now.  With our economy teetering, demonizing the very people who are creating businesses and offering value-conscious consumers more choice is not only insulting, it’s destructive and dangerous.”

This call for an apology was covered by CNET and they asked the NRF official in question for his reaction.  He stood by his testimony and explained that he got his insight on the sellers-are-potential-criminals theory not from law enforcement; not from criminal psychologists; and, not from researchers, but from, guess who, the “many retailers that (the NRF) works with.”  It just gets better, doesn’t it folks?


The NRF’s world view isn’t just being questioned by NetChoice.  Roy Mark of eWeek was at the Congressional hearing and says:


Like heroin, it’s a terrible thing to watch. Reality shows are already lining up to tell the hapless addicts’ tragic tales. Geraldo is offering big bucks for a first-person account. YouTube witnessing abounds. God, as always, forgives, but sometimes needs Congress to trample out the vintage where online competition flourishes.

“Thieves often tell me the same disturbing story: they begin legitimately selling product on eBay and then become hooked by its addictive qualities,” LaRocca said with all the gravitas and deeply honed sincerity of a man who learned the loss prevention biz at the Walt Disney Company retail division.

According to LaRocca, online selling is a toxic suck on the tailpipe, not to mention a ding in sales for Barbie accessory items, Cialis and hair combs. First, the seller’s legitimate goods run out. Then the telltale intermittent stealing begins so the addled can continue selling online. What family scarred by this addiction doesn’t already know this how story ends? That Mr. Soprano seemed so nice in the beginning.

And, as you might expect – quicker than you can say Bada Bing! — the mob steps in. It’s called ORC (organized retail crime) and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, Safeway and Walgreens are using ORC as their latest thrust at online competitors to their own Web and brick-and-mortar operations.

Mike Masnick of TechDirt brings it home


Basically, these three bills in combination are nothing more than a bogus effort by big traditional retailers to put a ridiculous liability and burden on online retailers to fix a problem that isn’t as big as they make it out to be, and which they, themselves, have the most control over — though they purposely choose not to do much to exercise that control. And, finally, these big retailers make up a totally bogus and unsubstantiated claim that online selling “addiction” is drawing a large group of folks into an unanticipated life of crime. Hopefully Congress sees through this blatant attempt by big traditional retailers to put a bunch of hurdles in front of online sellers.