Taxes, Regulation and E-Commerce Innovation

A video affirmation can carry legal, cultural and political weight.

Walmart is thinking about empowering customers to deliver purchases to other customers.  Customers who have time and transportation would take online purchases to customers who lack time or transportation.  The delivery people would be rewarded with discounts and other incentives.


Walmart’s thinking is an innovative e-commerce idea.

But innovative ideas often encounter legal risks and roadblocks.  New ideas upset old norms.

Video Overcomes Roadblocks Better Than Paper and Ink

The video below shows one way to cope with such risks and roadblocks.

Imagine that as Walmart signs up a customer to deliver stuff to other customers, Walmart:

1.  Presents to the delivery person contract terms and program rules, written on paper;

2.  Asks the delivery person to read and then sign the terms and rules in ink; and

3.  Asks the delivery person to make a video like this (where the delivery person is reading a script):

What a Video Affirmation Does

A video affirmation creates compelling evidence.  The evidence can be more emotionally impactful than an ink signature on a long paper document.

Here, the video shows the customer really cares about the delivery program.  It shows he understands it.  It shows he was not tricked into joining it.

It shows the delivery program is part of a positive cultural phenomenon, one that includes cool benefits to the community as a whole.

What Are Some of the Roadblocks?

As e-commerce innovations come along, someone – like a judge, a jury, a government regulator or a tax collector -- might be tempted to decide that the innovation:

a. should be taxed (e.g., unemployment taxes);

b. should be regulated for safety under occupational safety regulations; or

c. should be treated like employment, for purposes of benefits like retirement or healthcare insurance.

However, videos like the one above might motivate a decision-maker to pause . . . to think differently.  It might persuade a jury that the innovative delivery program is something most different from traditional employment and should be given special room to flourish.

–Benjamin Wright

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