Taxation Without Preperation

Yesterday, we stopped at a well known Warehouse Wholesale Store, hereafter referred to as WWS. I don’t wish to give the name, because I prefer this particular franchise to another company with a similar business model yet more militant staff. My experiences with WWS have always been pleasant and the employees are usually very friendly, so for that reason I’m doing the obfuscation thing. Also, this wasn’t actually the fault of the employee but it is something I wish to address.

Prepared food tax. Presumably this pays for the service of having someone cook, brew, or otherwise exert some kind of effort to make available to you, a food item that required time and effort to be legally presentable for consumption. What’s my problem?

On two separate occasions, this tax was very ambiguously applied. In the case of last night, my friend and I were at WWS to pick up a few things and we stopped at the in-store café for a cup of coffee. The total was 1.06 each, which isn’t bad, pricewise. However, they gave us a K-cup and from there it was our responsibility to pop the pod into the Keurig and push the button.

So, essentially, we paid a tax for, to quote the employee at the counter, “prepared meals”. Yet the employee did not do anything to prepare this thing for us. Not unless she spent hours filling the K-cups one by one, then branding them and sealing them, which I highly doubt because among other things, the brand wasn’t even the store’s original label. And since we had to put the K-cups into the machine ourselves, that’d be like me going to the dentist and having to clean my own teeth with their equipment only to be charged for the “dentist’s fee”.

Again, in this case it wasn’t the employee’s fault. She’s just ringing the product up and its the wigs in the corporate office who are setting the prices and making the register suck the life out of the customer. So let me dip into the memory palace for a visit to a privately owned bookshop in Essex Junction, Vermont.

There was an open mic/poetry reading event. This particular bookstore also had a cooler full of drinks like water and fruit juice for sale and I picked out a bottle of juice and was surprised by the tax, as there is no sales tax on food in Vermont same as Massachusetts.

When the clerk told me there was a prepared meal tax, I was again surprised by the highly broadened definition of a “prepared” meal. In this case, this wasn’t a major corporate chain, but a small bookstore. And while I’m no tax expert, I’m still pretty sure that this bottle of juice was not prepared at this store.

In the first place, the product was bottled in California, so its not like the owner had some kind of special deal with a local farm or something. Judging from the well manicured hands, she sure as hell didn’t squeeze the fruit herself and the bottle was mechanically sealed. Plus I had to reach in and get the juice. What preparation did she do on her part? Was it entirely spiritual, because that would make the tax a tithe.

I just think it’s time we finally set the standard for what should be considered a prepared meal, if we’re going to be expected to pay extra for it. A few cents or an extra dollar, if you’re going to let people take extra money from you without question, then feel free to pony up your pocket change, because this food for thought was definitely prepared.

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