Licensing is Anti-Consumer

From a reader, comes this story of St. Louis so far refusing to grant a license to a woman who wants to operate a clothing sales truck (in a parallel to the growing food truck business).  What is the official explanation for denying her a license?  These government folks are refreshingly honest, not even bothering with the BS about consumer protection and jumping right to the real reason - incumbent businesses don't want new forms of competition.

NewsChannel 5 received this written explanation from Maggie Crane, the communications director for Mayor Francis Slay:

"We like the idea of fashion trucks a lot, but we still need to find out if there is a way to license mobile boutiques that does not put brick and mortar stores, who have already made substantial investments in their neighborhoods, at a disadvantage. We will also need to identify neighborhoods that will welcome them.

"We went through that process with food trucks a few years ago. Food trucks, for example, must abide by an enforceable set of rules outlining everything from safety regulations to where and for how long they can park.

"Our prediction is that the region's first legal fashion trucks will be here in the City. But, for now, they are pirates."

Note by this same logic Amazon should have been banned by St. Louis, as certainly bookstores in St. Louis had made substantial investments in their neighborhoods.  In fact, one of my favorite book stores used to be in Clayton, near St. Louis, though I fear it has died  (anyone know, I can't remember the name, was a large independent).  In fact, that is an advantage of the Internet I had never considered -- it allows new businesses to challenge old ones without harassment by local licensing and zoning authorities.


  1. john mcginnis:

    Hmmmm. A B&M could fire up a fashion truck faster than a startup could and leverage existing inventory to do so. Clearly a NIMBY attitude.

  2. john mcginnis:

    I would ask one thing of the OP. If I rolled a truck into one of your camp grounds selling general camping merchandise what would be your stance?? You have sizable upgrade expenses I suspect you would want to protect.

    Just observing both sides of the argument.

  3. Jon Nichols:

    At times I've been on the fence on the whole food truck issue. I can certainly understand a city saying that a truck should not be allow to park in a public parking spot for the purposes of doing business, since the intent of that spot is for parking, and having available parking is a good thing for a city.

    That said, if a private business owns its parking lot and wants to allow it to be used by a food truck (or clothing truck), a city should really have no reason to stop it.

    Of course, cities put all kinds of restrictions on what a business can do with its own property (most of which are transparent rent-seeking), so I do have at least a little sympathy for a brick-and-mortar store that seems to operate with many more regulations than a food truck. The solution is not to stop the trucks, but instead to lighten the regulatory burden of the stores. A guy can dream...

  4. john mcginnis:

    Food Lion, Walmart, etc could make the same arguments against farmer's markets. I am surprised they have not attempted to do so.

  5. Incunabulum:

    If they looked cloesely, I think the city will find that pretty much *no* business makes a *substantial investment* in its neighborhood. They'll pretty up the area of their property and maybe some of the nearest parts of the street and sidewalk but that's about it.
    I think what Maggie Crane really means to say is that she doesn't think the city can collect as much tax or collect it as easily from small trcuk based businesses as they can from B/M stores.

  6. Incunabulum:

    I'm sure that if you rolled up *into* the campground without prior arrangement he'd be understandably upset - but if you set up shop on the shoulder in front of it he'd be SOL.

  7. Incunabulum:

    As a matter of fact a fast moving B/M could use trucks to get their product in the faces of more consumers than just those who walk through the door - put a sampling of your merch in the truck (with the option to buy it there) and let people know there's more in the store. Brand recognition means that their more likely to come back to you the next time they want to buy.

  8. CTD:

    I'm betting it was the Library Limited on Forsythe. At one point it was the biggest independent bookstore in the country. loved the "Mystery Room" especially. It got bought by Borders in the mid 90's and they shut it down in 2011.

  9. Corky Boyd:

    "Note by this same logic Amazon should have been banned by St. Louis, as certainly bookstores in St. Louis had made substantial investments in their neighborhoods."
    The same logic applied to Direct TV when they started offering service. The cable companies freaked out. They thought they had a natural monopoly and many wrote monopoly agreemnts into their contracts with the municiplities. And some municiplities even ran their own monopoly cable operations. When Direct TV began, cable companies referred to satellite operation as the "Death Star."
    Comcast's customer service was so bad where I lived in Michigan, that when it lost the signal from the Michigan/Michigan State game (the big game in Michigan), the phone just rang and rang. There was no customer service. It was just an unneeded expense to Comcast.

  10. marque2:

    substantial investment - means they have invested in politicians through the chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, and even invest directly in them! These substantial investments need to have returns.

    I would suggest the clothe trucks make substantial investments themselves, and then all of a sudden their methods will be legal.

  11. marque2:

    I don't think Wal*Mart has to worry about the farmer's market, and visa versa. The customers come from different groups, and what happens when you need food on Wednesday, after all the Organics you bought on Sunday have rotted?

  12. marque2:

    In Los Angeles area, especially in Hispanic areas, you see people selling wares out of trucks on Gas station corners, empty lots. Even on highway intersections in the more rural parts.