Effect of eBay and online shopping on prices?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy so much as a pencil these days without checking eBay, Amazon, or price comparison sites to see what a reasonable base price should be. And if I can’t find the item in a real life store at something close to that price, then I will buy it online (taking P&P and other factors into account, naturally).

But I never used to do this. I never bought stuff by mail order in the past. Before the internet, mail order was a pain in the arse. You couldn’t browse the goods, there was no way of tracking the order, no payback if it turned out to be unsatisfactory, and the delivery companies were not really set up for it, not like today where an average company’s post room is full of Amazon orders that employees have had delivered to their workplace.

I believe economists would call what we have today a “more efficient market”, one in which buyers are more aware of what they need to pay and sellers of what they can charge. It seems to me that this is something of a one-off, step-change in the economy. It should have led to a drop in prices over a relatively short space of time, a few years.

So my question is, have economists looked at this? Is it evident in inflation statistics, or is the effect too small or drawn-out to be noticeable?

I think you’re overstating the case here. I have relatives who grew up far out in the country, and the Sears mail-order catalog was a big part of their lives. They ordered a lot, and had no problems getting delivery. Heck, there are even houses in my neighborhood that were entirely ordered from Sears.

And according to my relatives, the coming of the Sears catalog DID have a real effect on the local merchants. They used to be the only place in town selling certain goods, the only competitors were similar stores in towns half a days travel away. They could just about charge whatever price they wanted. But once the Sears catalog came, they were limited. The only ones who would pay much more than the Sears price were those who needed it immediately. Others would order from Sears and wait. So the local stores had to adapt their pricing.

Ebay and Amazon are two of the world’s greatest sales tax dodges. They rely on a vast majority of their transactions not incurring sales tax and vehemently oppose sales tax collection on internet transactions.

I agree there really isn’t anything surprisingly new about buying online as I too grew up in a community where almost everybody ordered almost everything from Sears.

I also check on line for prices but I usually buy from WalMart if they what I want.

Amazon collects (and I assume pays) sales tax if the item is shipping to a state in which they have a warehouse (and a state sales tax). I live in Kansas, and pay sales tax on every order from Amazon (not always on orders from third party sellers through Amazon) at the time of payment.

When I lived in Guam and the majority of my internet shopping was through Amazon, I paid sales tax at the time of purchase if the item was shipping to Kansas (as a gift to family) but not if it was shipping to me in Guam.

Nothing you have said contradicts my post. “Vast majority” does not equal “All.” The qualifier is not whether they have a warehouse in a particular state, rather its predicated on whether they have an office or other point of presence.

I live in California, I pay no sales tax on Amazon purchases. I can say with a great deal of confidence that Amazon is very selective about where it places its warehouses-- you are one of the unfortunate ones stuck paying sales tax.

It’s not a coincidence that one of their biggest warehouses is in Reno, NV.