MONEY online shopping

7 Things You Probably Had No Idea Amazon Sold

repairman arriving at front door
Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

What do autographed vintage Air Jordans, environmentally friendly baby wipes, cheap wine, and plumber recommendations have in common? You can find them all at Amazon.com.

On Monday, Amazon announced the official launch of Amazon Home Services, a marketplace and recommendation tool to help people find, schedule, and pay for services like home cleaning, lawn care, and handyman jobs. The new service is obviously competing in the same space as user review tools like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Porch, and customers with verified purchases made through Amazon will be able to review services as well. Amazon also says all of its professionals are handpicked and fully insured, and if anything goes wrong with a job it promises to “work with customers and the pro to ensure the job gets done right or provide a refund.”

Amazon’s entrance into the sphere of contractors and professional home services may seem a little out of left field. But the move makes total sense in light of the company’s overarching mission—to become the destination for anyone wanting to find and purchase pretty much anything.

Here are a few other seemingly odd retail categories that Amazon has ventured into recently. They haven’t all been successful. In fact, some have basically been flops. But when you’re trying to take control of the marketplace for selling everything under the sun, a few misfires and false starts should be expected.

Fine Art
Amazon Art launched in the summer of 2013 as a marketplace selling tens of thousands of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works—including some originals from masters like Monet and Norman Rockwell, with list prices into the millions of dollars. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some in the highbrow art world have been skeptical about the idea of one-click ordering, say, a Rembrandt.

Renowned economist Tyler Cowen pointed out the absurdity of being asked to pay $4.99 for shipping for a “mediocre Mary Cassatt lithograph” listed at $185,000, and wrote that he hoped Amazon Art was “a doomed venture.” The New Yorker noted that actually selling and profiting from high-end art may not be the point for Amazon: “Regardless of whether Amazon Art revolutionizes the art world, it will contribute to the perception that Amazon is working to create: whatever it is you’re looking for, you only need to remember one U.R.L.”

Fresh Flowers
About the same time Amazon was getting into fine art, it quietly launched The Amazon Curated Flowers Collection, in which the e-retail giant would be selling and shipping flowers directly to customers. Apparently, the venture didn’t work out. Recode reported that the Collection was kaput within a few months, and now the only flower bouquets that can be ordered through the site come from third-party vendors.

Diapers & Baby Wipes
Another venture that seems to have not worked out as well as Amazon wished was its recent entrance into the diaper business. Last December, the company began selling Amazon Elements, its own brand of high-end, environmentally friendly diapers and wipes. Less than two months later, bad feedback from customers pushed Amazon to discontinue the diapers and take them off the market, at least until design improvements could be made. Amazon Elements Baby Wipes, meanwhile, are still listed for sale at the site, where they get a 4.5-star rating.

Collectible Coins
Amazon’s Collectible Coins marketplace hit the site last May, allowing shoppers to search, browse, and buy thousands of rare and historical authenticated coins from dozens of dealers. Like Amazon Art, the coins purchased via Amazon can be priced into the millions, and Amazon gets a cut of every sale—reportedly 5% to 20%.

Sports Memorabilia
Among the wide selection of autographed sports collectibles currently up for sale on Amazon is a pair of 1985 Air Jordan sneakers ($48,788 + $4.49 shipping) and a baseball featuring Lou Gehrig’s signature ($71,264.99, with free shipping!). Amazon got into sports memorabilia in 2012, and it has a section for entertainment collectibles as well.

Wine
The Amazon Wine marketplace was introduced in 2012 in about a dozen states, with shipping on up to six bottles priced at a flat $9.99. The service has since expanded for delivery to more than a dozen other states, and the site—no stranger to price wars—has been competing aggressively on wine promotions, notably with 1¢ shipping on many orders.

TIME eBay

The Rise and Fall (and Rise and Fall) of eBay

Ebay Reports Quarterly Earnings
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The online auctions site is being carved up to keep investors happy. What will be left won't be pretty

Remember when people seriously talked about their eBay addictions? You might not, because you’d have to go back a dozen years or more. And anyway, it was really more of a compulsion, the way mobile games or chat apps have more recently become. Still, if you look you can still find multiple confessions of self-described eBay addicts.

“Hard to believe it’s only been six months since I met my great love,” began one addict’s confession in the heady days of 1999. “I refer, of course, to eBay.” Of course. The site’s manic youthfulness was captured back then in a TV ad where a pudgy Bezos-ish man danced and sang how “I did it eBay!”. Quirky, yes, but eBayers got it. eBay was the “it” company, the rare dot-com that saw its stock surge after the tech bust, fueled in large part by the compulsions of its buyers.

No fad lasts, though, and eBay had to weather a rough transition as our online addictions moved to MySpace, then to Facebook, then to Angry Birds and beyond. Its stock peaked at $59.21 a share in late 2004 before entering into a tailspin after it became clear the broad enthusiasm for online auctions was fading. Within five years, the share price had fallen below $10 a share.

In the rare turnaround for an Internet company, eBay came back–reaching as high as $59.70 a year ago–because of two key factors. The first was PayPal, which eBay bought for $1.5 billion in 2002. The second was CEO John Donahoe, who realigned the company at great effort to not only keep PayPal ascendant but also to revive eBay’s original marketplace.

Today, the stock is still performing well, trading around $55 a share. But don’t read too much optimism into that. Shareholders aren’t bailing because the company has worked so hard to please them. Stock buybacks trimmed eBay’s share count by 5% in 2014–enough, its CFO reckons, to add 8 cents a share to the bottom line this year. And eBay is ready with another $3 billion to spend on repurchasing more shares if necessary. Meanwhile, 2,400 workers are being laid off this week.

Beneath such investor-pleasing maneuvers, there remains a renewed and growing conviction that the decline of eBay’s core operations is starting all over again. It’s not at all uncommon for Internet companies to see a meteoric rise and fall (it’s practically become the rule), but eBay seems to be charting a different narrative: The rise and fall. And rise. And fall.

eBay’s decline this time is happening differently. The company is literally splintering apart in the form of corporate spinoffs. Last September, under pressure from boardroom bully Carl Icahn, eBay unveiled a plan to break off PayPal into a separate company later this year. Last week, after the company reported earnings, eBay announced another surprise spinoff: its Enterprise business, which will either launch an IPO or be partially sold to another company.

eBay Enterprise is a modestly growing division that is less visible to consumers using PayPal and the e-commerce site. As part of Donahoe’s turnaround, eBay began helping traditional retailers manage their online sites. Chains like Toys’R’Us, Ace Hardware and Dick’s Sporting Goods have signed up, bringing eBay $1.2 billion in revenue last year. Last quarter Enterprise revenue rose 9%, against a 1% decline in the year-ago quarter.

PayPal is also thriving, growing steadily at around 19% for the past couple of years. And so the weak part of the post-spinoff trio will clearly be eBay itself, the lean marketplace rump that will be left once the choicer meat is sliced away. Its revenue grew by 6% in all of 2014 and only 1% in the fourth quarter–the big quarter for retailers because it includes the holiday shopping season.

Excluding volatile foreign exchange rates, eBay’s marketplace rose 5% last quarter, but even that is disappointing considering the performance of other online retailers. ChannelAdvisor, which has long tracked sales on e-commerce sites, estimated that eBay’s sales during the holiday season–basically, November and December–rose 7.3%, well below the mean growth of 16% for all sites it tracks. Amazon’s grew 27% in the period. But what ChannelAdvisor calls “third party” retailers, everything from BestBuy to NewEgg to Tesco to Rakuten, rose 34%.

Parsing e-commerce sales is still a matter of guessing at a fragmented market, but here’s the bottom line for eBay: It’s not just that auctions aren’t popular now, it’s more that eBay’s transition to regular e-commerce has hit a wall. Its Web site redesign is already dated. It’s struggling to stay high in Google searches. Many of its most trusted sellers can also be found on other sites, like Amazon. eBay is just one of many shingles they hang out these days.

Which is too bad for online shoppers because often the prices and shipping charges on eBay make for cheaper than Amazon and elsewhere. But shoppers are often too harried to compare prices these days. Sites like Etsy and Alibaba seem to have more momentum, while Pinterest and Zulilly are where many go to impulse buy online. Meanwhile, Best Buy and others are doing better at reaching out to their customers online.

The result is that there’s little momentum left for eBay, once the champion of e-commerce momentum. No one dances around and sings “I did it eBay!” anymore. Even Donahoe & Co. are throwing in the towel to a certain extent. The site remains a very nice place to buy—rather useful if you bother to figure it out—but at the end of the day just one of many online marketplaces. The addiction that made eBay a star has left eBay behind.

So, it seems, have PayPal as well as the Enterprise business that Donahoe built. That’s okay with shareholders because they now have a chance to invest in PayPal and the non-consumer ecommerce business, while selling their shares in the good old eBay that once ruled our online shopping impulses. The legendary auction site will soon become the auctioned goods, only with fewer and fewer bids as the clock ticks away.

TIME Amazon

Amazon’s Plan to Buy Old RadioShacks Is a Brilliant Master Stroke—If It Happens

US Postal Service Experiences Busiest Day Of The Year As Holidays Approach
Aaron P. Bernstein—Getty Images Amazon.com packages await shipment at the Indianapolis Mail Processing Annex Dec.15, 2014 in Indianapolis.

It seems counter-intuitive that Amazon is in talks to acquire physical stores, but it could make a lot of sense

Amazon has dominated online commerce, muscled into media streaming, and inched into the smart home market. Now, the online retail giant has possibly set its sights on a surprising target: brick-and-mortar stores.

According to a Bloomberg report, Amazon is in talks to acquire some stores currently owned by RadioShack, which could soon file for bankruptcy. For a company whose entire business model has for two decades focused on upending the traditional retail model, ruthlessly cutting costs for itself and consumers along the way, Amazon’s reported interest in buying physical stores seems counterintuitive.

But having a physical retail presence could actually help CEO Jeff Bezos grow his e-commerce business. Much like oversized banks, having a physical presence serves as a kind of interactive advertising billboard that could spur overall business. The stores could also have kiosks that would allow customers to purchase goods online, and encourage Prime membership. Amazon Prime plays an outsized role in the company’s profitability, with one outside study estimating that its 40 million members spend $1,500 per year, compared with $625 for non-members. The stores could also serve as a place for customers allergic to packaging to return products to Amazon, without having to package and address boxes themselves.

MORE Amazon Prime Membership Should Come With a Warning

Amazon has already made some forays in this area. The company leased space last year in an office across the street from the Empire State Building and has installed lockers, where customers can pick up deliveries, in Staples locations before. But with more than 4,000 RadioShack stores likely for sale, and Amazon reportedly joining Sprint and the investment group behind Brookstone in a bid for the locations, the stakes could be much higher this time around.

The real game changer will come if Amazon begins selling merchandise out of RadioShack locations. “If they actually started stocking inventory, that would represent something that would be fundamentally new to the brand,” says Craig Johnson, an analyst at Customer Growth Partners. Selling chairs or barbecue grills out of a store may be impractical, though the locations could be delivery points for customers, particularly those who order from Amazon Fresh, the company’s new grocery service.

The Apple Store, which has come to define the Cupertino-based company, was an invention that only came toward the middle of the company’s revitalization under Steve Jobs. But don’t expect Amazon to take a page out of Apple’s playbook. The latter’s outlets, which have the highest average dollar-per-square foot sales in global retail, are finely milled temples to high design. Amazon’s customers are a much more frugal bunch, and under Bezos, the company’s dominant genetic feature has been no-muss efficiency. A few thousand outlets to make doing business with Amazon even easier could only bolster that.

Read next: Staples to Buy Rival Office Depot for $6.3 billion

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME E-Commerce

EBay Plans to Cut 2,400 Jobs and Unload Enterprise Business

The shake up comes as the e-commerce giant makes peace with investor activist Carl Icahn in prelude to a planned spin off of PayPal later this year

EBay plans to cut 2,400 jobs and unload its business unit that helps retailers manage their online shopping operations. The news came as eBay made peace with investor activist Carl Icahn by naming one of his allies as a board member. Here are the key points about the shakeup Wednesday and the company’s fourth-quarter earnings.

What you need to know: EBay confirmed reports from last month that it would eliminate thousands of jobs by saying it would slash its workforce by 2,400 positions, or 7%. The restructuring comes ahead of the company’s pending spin-off of online payments service PayPal into a separate, publicly-traded company.

Additionally, eBay said it may also part ways with its Enterprise unit, which works with online and brick-and-mortar retailers. The company said it may sell the business or hold an initial public offering after determining that it does little to lift sales in its core online marketplace. The decision is a major u-turn for eBay, which had previously invested heavily in enterprise, most notably by paying $2.7 billion four years ago for GSI Commerce, which fulfills orders for retail partners.

Meanwhile, eBay also patched things up with Icahn, the company’s largest shareholder and a thorn in its side by giving his ally, Jonathan Christodoro, a board seat. The two sides have reached “a standstill agreement” that also calls for PayPal to adopt certain corporate governance provisions post spin-off.

The big number: News of the job cuts, potential sale of the Enterprise unit s and strong quarterly financial numbers sent eBay’s shares up about 2.5% in after-hours trading.

EBay posted fourth-quarter revenue of $4.9 billion, up from $4.5 billion during the same period last year. Fourth-quarter profits were also up, rising 10% to $936 million, or 75 cents per share, from $850 million during 2013’s fourth quarter. Full-year revenue rose 12%, from $16.1 billion in 2013 to $17.9 billion this past year. For the full year, eBay posted a loss of $41 million after seeing $2.9 billion in profits in 2013.

What you might have missed: EBay’s payments unit — which is mostly PayPal — continued to show the most growth of any of the company’s segments. The payments unit generated $2.2 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter, representing an 18% gain year-over-year, while full-year revenue increased 19%, to $7.9 billion.

The Marketplaces segment still generated the largest revenue stream, though, bringing in $2.3 billion in the fourth quarter — up an anemic 1% year-over-year. That unit saw revenue increase 6% on the year, to $8.8 billion. The Enterprise segment, which is now in limbo, generated $443 million in the fourth quarter and $1.2 billion across 2014.

CEO John Donahoe, who is due a big payday when he leaves the company after the planned spin-off, called 2014 “a year of unexpected events and distractions” in a statement. He also bragged about PayPal’s results while promising better things for both that unit and what will remain of eBay. “EBay, while facing challenges, continues to be a great business and is focused on stabilizing performance and engaging its core customers,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

MONEY online shopping

Why Amazon Is Losing Market Share to Big Box Chains

Boxes sit stacked before being loaded on a truck at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S..
Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

As big box chains have improved their e-commerce platforms, they have found some surprising advantages.

Amazon.com AMAZON.COM INC. AMZN -0.66% has grown to a value of over $130 billion with barely any profit, largely due to its dominance of online retail. With a 23% market share of online retail sales, the company does more e-commerce business than its next 12 largest competitors, which includes the likes of Staples and Wal-Mart WAL-MART STORES INC. WMT -0.34% .

Without profits to underpin its share price, Amazon’s tremendous market value has been predicated on its dominance of retail’s biggest growth category as e-commerce sales increased 16% in the third quarter of 2014. According to conventional wisdom, Amazon’s lack of physical stores gives at an advantage over the big box chains like Wal-Mart and Best Buy. Because Amazon does not have the expense of brick-and-mortar stores, the thinking goes, it can offer shoppers lower prices and therefore a better value proposition.

But what if that wasn’t true?

The revenge of the big boxes

A recent report by the think tank L2 Inc. looked at 64 big-box chains, and uncovered some surprises in the industry.

Despite Amazon’s mammoth growth over the last decade, conventional retailers are now stealing e-commerce market share from the leader. In the first quarter of last year, Home Depot saw online sales jump 54%. Costco’s increased 48%, and Macy’s and Wal-Mart saw a 31% and 30% increase in the category, respectively. Meanwhile, Amazon’s retail sales grew just 20%.

Amazon’s dominance of the space owes more to the relatively small size of e-commerce rather than traditional retailers’ ineptitude. Despite its growth, e-commerce only makes up 6.6% of all retail sales, and volume sales are still growing four times slower than in physical stores. In the most recent quarter for which data’s available, e-commerce sales totaled $78 billion, while total retail sales in the U.S. were $1.18 trillion.

The reason why the big boxes ignored e-commerce for so long was simply because it wasn’t worth it. The vast majority of sales still take place at physical stores, but e-commerce has reached a tipping point where retailers have realized it’s beneficial to invest and grow sales in the space. As they’ve improved their e-commerce platforms, the big boxes have found some surprising advantages.

Amazon spent $6.6 billion on shipping costs last year, while it collected just $3.1 billion in shipping fees. Brick-and-mortar retailers can offer in-store pickup thanks to their physical locations, an option 19% of Internet shoppers have used.

Similarly, “showrooming,” the practicing of browsing in a store, and buying online was supposed to seal the fate of the big boxes. Now, it seems that “webrooming,” or browsing online but buying in the store, has become popular as an Accenture survey said that 78% of respondents they had “webroomed,” while just 72% had showroomed.

As the competition has intensified, many big boxes have lowered prices to match or beat Amazon, and several sources have reported that Amazon is no longer the default champ of rock-bottom online prices.

Where this is battle is going

Amazon has spent the last several years building out dozens of distribution centers near metropolitan areas to help it achieve its goal of same-day deliveries. But the big boxes already have a huge foothold in cities and suburbs, with thousands of stores that should present a potentially huge advantage over Amazon. Though, it may require a change in systems, it shouldn’t be very difficult for retailers to ship from stores as long as the economics justify it. Google Express has also taken on Amazon in the delivery race, and has partnered with retailers to offer same-day delivery to customers in some cities. A strategy like this one may be the easiest way for big boxes to undercut Amazon’s delivery proposition.

Traditional retailers still have a lot of improvements to make in the e-commerce space, but expect them to increasingly leverage their physical real estate in the battle against Amazon. While Amazon may offer a better online shopping experience, it’s not about to open a network of hundreds of stores to match the presence of its competitors. Therefore, companies like Wal-Mart can continue to use propositions like in-store pickup, ship-from-store, and others, as a selling point over Amazon and a way to keep shipping costs down.

In the coming years, the most successful retailers will have to become masters of the omnichannel. They will have to offer shoppers an equally rewarding experience both in-store and online, and be able to combine those capabilities for optimal delivery of the purchase, whether that’s in store or to the home.

Amazon will continue to grow as the e-commerce channel expands, but this surprisingly strong competition from brick and mortar names should continue to claw back market share. If that happens, questions about Amazon’s lack of profits will only loom larger, and the stock could take a major hit.

Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

Related Links

TIME Retail

Online Marketplace Etsy Is Going Public

Etsy signage at the Brooklyn Beta conference in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Oct. 12, 2012.
Bloomberg—Getty Images Etsy signage at the Brooklyn Beta conference in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Oct. 12, 2012.

Etsy could bring a little bit of Brooklyn hipster to the public market this year

Etsy, the online seller of handmade crafts and vintage goods, is planning to go public as soon as this quarter with plans to raise $300 million, sources told Bloomberg News.

If the Brooklyn-based site rakes in that amount of cash, it would be the biggest New York tech IPO since 1999. The last time a New York-based tech company garnered that kind of a valuation was the dot-com boom when high valuations benefited listings from TD Waterhouse Group and Barnesandnoble.com, the e-commerce spinoff of the bookstore chain.

Etsy was started by painter and carpenter Rob Kalin in 2005. The multi-talented artist was looking for a way to sell his hand-built goods and started the online exchange. The company now has nearly 26 million items listed on its site–anything from vintage champagne coups to handmade dog collars.

Etsy, which has been valued at more than $1 billion, brings in its profits by charging sellers 20 cents to list products and then takes another 3.5% commission from each item sold. It also generates revenue from advertising and payment procession. In 2013, the site reported $1.35 billion in gross merchandise sales, according to its website.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are working with Etsy on its IPO, and the company is likely to file a prospectus this month with more financial details, sources told Bloomberg.

An Etsy spokeswoman declined to comment.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

Read next: We Just Learned a Little More About the Apple Watch

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME fashion

Author of #GirlBoss Steps Down as CEO of Nasty Gal, Will Remain in New Role

ABC's "Good Morning America" - 2014
Ida Mae Astute—ABC via Getty Images Sophia Amoruso - #GirlBoss - visits GOOD MORNING AMERICA, 5/6/14, airing on the ABC Television Network. ( Ida Mae Astute--ABC via Getty Images)

Sophia Amoruso will now oversee the company's creative and brand marketing departments

Correction appended

Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso is a different kind of #GirlBoss now. The CEO and bestselling author has handed over the keys of her fashion site to president and chief product officer Sheree Waterson, but Amoruso is staying on to oversee the creative and brand marketing departments of the company.

Amoruso made the surprise announcement in a personal video blog on the company’s website. Watch it here:

Thirty-year-old Amoruso’s decision to step down as CEO comes as a shock, especially in the wake of #Girlboss, her bestselling book about female business leadership. But the company has been struggling this year. Nasty Gal laid off 10% of its employees over the summer, and after years of rapid growth, revenues have plateaued around the $100 million mark. She has told investors to lower their expectations for for fall 2014 revenue, indicating that it would be the same as last year at worst or possibly up 10% at best.

Nasty Gal will still be very much Amoruso’s company, and she is presenting the change as a way to play to her own strengths on the creative and branding side (she wrote that the change “will give me the freedom to feel that I’m using my talents at my best and highest”). Waterson agrees. “I actually see myself as support to Sophia so we can unleash her genius,” Waterson told Re/Code. “Taking over the operation of the company allows Sophia to be out and connecting the brand with our customer and all the other amazing people she meets.”

Correction: The headline on an earlier version of this article misstated Amoruso’s change of position. She has resigned as chief executive, but will remain at the company.

TIME

Cyber Monday Sales Pass $2 Billion in Biggest E-Commerce Day Ever

The record-breaking figures come as a welcome tonic for retailers after news that sales over the Thanksgiving weekend were a bust

So much for the idea that Cyber Monday is waning as a shopping event.

E-commerce sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving hit $2.04 billion, up 17% compared to a year ago, according to analytics firm comScore, making it the biggest online shopping day ever, and the first to surpass $2 billion in sales. For the full five-day period, sales rose 24%, and e-commerce sales so far are running ahead of forecasts.

“Any notion that Cyber Monday is declining in importance is really unfounded, as it continues to post new historical highs and reflects the ongoing strength of online this holiday season,” said comScore Chairman Emeritus Gian Fulgoni.

The numbers come as a welcome tonic for retailers after the National Retail Federation estimated that sales, both online and in stores, over the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend were a bust.

Walmart Stores, for one, said it had its biggest e-commerce day ever on Monday, though it didn’t quantify that success. Wamart and other retailers, including Target and J.C. Penney, have invested heavily in their e-commerce firepower to fight back against online shopping leader Amazon.com this holiday season.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Government

Americans Actually Love the Post Office

United States Postal Service clerks sort mail at the USPS Lincoln Park carriers annex in Chicago
John Gress—Reuters USPS mail clerks sort packages in Chicago, November 29, 2012. A new Gallup poll shows that most Americans think the post office is doing a good or excellent job despite its financial difficulties.

Poll finds that the beleaguered USPS is the nation's most-liked government agency

Complaining about the post office is an American pastime, like griping about Congress, or whining about the DMV. Who, in their right mind, actually likes dealing with the post office?

A lot of people, it turns out. According to a new Gallup survey, 72% of Americans say the U.S. Postal Service is doing an excellent or good job. That puts the USPS ahead of 12 other government agencies, including the FBI, the CDC, NASA and the CIA. And the younger the respondent, the more likely they were to think highly of our much-maligned courier: 81% of 18-to-29-year-olds rated the post office’s job as excellent or good, while 65% of those over 65 said the same thing.

So what accounts for the post office’s surprising popularity? Age, for one.

(MORE: The Postmaster General Hangs Up His Mail Bag, With a Parting Shot at Congress)

As the volume of letters has declined, the USPS has evolved to become as much a courier of packages as it is a way to send and receive first-class mail. In the last few years, the post office has not only expanded its delivery of parcels (it recently began a partnership with Amazon to deliver on Sundays), but it also often delivers packages for FedEx and UPS in what’s called “last mile” delivery, which are shipments to residents that private carriers don’t service. That means millennials interact less with the USPS at its worst — the interminable lines at understaffed post offices — and more from the comfort of home, where the mailman is the person at the door with their new shoes from Amazon or their iPhone from the Apple store.

The post office is also the one agency that Americans actually see doing its job each day. You see postal employees on their routes. You can see post offices open. When’s the last time you saw an FDA worker inspecting your local restaurant or the Federal Reserve Board in action as it plotted the end of quantitative easing?

Not that the latest survey should make the post office rejoice. The faltering institution has run deficits every year since 2007 and its aggressive efforts to adapt to the digital age have not yet been enough to offset the substantial drop in mail volume and onerous Congressional mandates to fund retirees. But it never hurts to have the public on your side.

TIME Retail

We Won’t Have an Internet Sales Tax Any Time Soon

John Boehner Holds Press Briefing At U.S. Capitol
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds his weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitors Center at the U.S. Capitol on April 18, 2012 in Washington, DC.

But brick and mortar retailers insist the idea won't go down without a fight

Republican leaders in Congress are renewing their vows to fight a proposal expanding the sales taxes applied to online purchases, dealing a blow to brick and mortar retailers who hoped to get a bill passed during the post-midterm lame duck session.

Currently, states can only apply sales tax to online purchases made by their residents from retailers with a physical presence in the same state. The Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) would reverse that, allowing states to tax online purchases made by their residents regardless of the merchant’s whereabouts. While the idea has sometimes been called the “Amazon Tax,” it’s become less applicable to the giant online retailer because the company is increasingly setting up warehouses in new states to reduce shipping times.

The MFA passed the then-Democrat-controlled Senate last year, but it was never picked up in the Republican-controlled House. With Republicans now firmly in control of both chambers of Congress, the bill looks like it’s headed nowhere fast. House Speaker John Boehner, who’s long been opposed to the MFA, said this week it will be tabled for the remainder of this year’s lame duck congressional session and would face heightened scrutiny in the year ahead, the Hill reports.

“The Speaker has made clear in the past he has significant concerns about the bill,” a Boehner spokesperson said. “And it won’t move forward this year. The Judiciary Committee continues to examine the measure and the broader issue.”

Still, backers of the bill vowed to continue the fight. “Most Americans won’t be taking the next two months off, and neither should Congress,” said Jason Brewer of the Retail Industry Leaders Association in a statement to CNBC News.

Supporters of the Marketplace Fairness Act have attempted to tie it to a similar-sounding but separate bill that extends a longstanding ban on taxing Internet access, a deeply popular moratorium on both sides of the aisle.

[The Hill]

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com