What the public wants, the public gets

8 July 2018, 01:06 | Updated: 8 July 2018, 01:20


Shock news just in: people like what's bad for them. A survey is taken twice yearly to gauge the public's favourite company for customer satisfaction.

Drug dealers and brothels are ineligible, so the list is made up of what used to be called high street names, before the high street had more empty gaps in it than a tramp's teeth.

The tip topper-most name on the list is probably John Lewis, you might suppose.

They run an employee-owned partnership that shares its profits with its staff, rather than exclusively among the people in the boardroom.

They have that “never knowingly undersold” slogan they have stood by for 92 years and hot and cold running assistants to attend to your every question, curiosity, problem and need.

In one of John Lewis' 48 stores, the customer can finger the goods, stroke them, touch them, smell them and fondle them, see how they might fit in their home and check them for quality.

They have a marvellous returns policy and it is a shining example of what a retail outlet can achieve when all its staff are valued and rewarded and given bonuses, not just the people who run it.

The bosses are rewarded well, of course, but not so well that their other car is a spaceship.

The 30,000 partners that work in John Lewis did not win this survey, however, little rocket man Jeff Bezos did.

Amazon, the disruptive goliath with the scorched earth policy, the global mega-corporation that has decimated once thriving town centres is Britain's best company for consumer satisfaction.

Customers are apparently happy with the death of their high street and the disappearance of all those jobs and businesses.

They must be happy with the collapse of their local book shops, electronics stores, clothes boutiques, toy marts, kitchen emporia and baby chains.

A few low paid, menial jobs in warehouses have replaced the multitude of life-affirming ones lost by people that used to run their own stores or who dealt with the public face-to-face, not pulled things off a shelf in some dystopian mega-shed, as ordered by a computer, and the public is fine with that.

They are happy with one company becoming so vast that it can have entire cities competing with each other to give it tax breaks to host one of its facilities there and they're happy that its owner Jeff Bezos is now worth about $120bn and is the richest person who ever lived and spends his money on rocket ships and leather jackets, rather than redistribute it to his minimum wage workers.

The British customer is also happy, or couldn't care less, that their favourite company also doesn't appear to pay what a reasonable person might call their fair share in tax.

In Europe as a whole, Amazon paid £15m in tax last year, which is a lot of money, but not as much as £19.5 billion, which is the amount they booked in revenue through their tax efficient office in Luxembourg.

In the same year, Amazon halved its payment to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to just £7.4m, despite the fact that its income from the small amount that it actually declares in the UK doubled.

Think of that – its income went up 50% and its tax payment went down by 50%, and the British public couldn't be happier.

I suppose it could be worse – we could owe THEM money. In other news, HMRC handed Amazon a £1.3m tax credit in 2017, despite its British sales surging to £7bn.

Oxfam’s head of inequality, Ana Arendar, said multinationals like Amazon “are able to exploit flaws in global tax laws and use tax havens to avoid paying their fair share”.

Amazon trotted out the usual line which is utilised by every giant corporation that wishes to swat away such complaints, saying Amazon pays “all taxes required in the UK and every country where we operate”.

Six years ago, the then head of John Lewis said Amazon's tax avoidance 'will drive UK companies out of business'.

That they have done.

All the tax that used to flow virtuously thorough the economy, from customer to bricks-and-mortar shops, to managers and assistants and suppliers, who paid their taxes in full because they had to because they lived and worked here and didn't have armies of accountants and lawyers to minimise their obligations – that's all gone.

The money has been drained out of the economy like water down the pug hole of a bath.

The money we once used to fund the NHS, build and maintain the roads, pay the police, keep the lights on and collect the rubbish, now sits unused, as a number on a screen in an empty office located on a moon circling Jupiter for tax reasons.

It looks very much like we poor dopes who pay taxes are subsidising the richest man who ever lived by stumping up for the health of his workers, the highways he delivers his goods on,  the protection afforded his business interests by a keeping a law abiding society and cleaning up the place.

The British people have declared that they are happy with all that because they saved ten pence and had someone bring them the thing they didn't need, that they bought with money they didn't have, rather than put on their clothes and step out of the house to go to the shops that they complain aren't there anymore.