The 0.65 percent increase in the state sales tax, which is scheduled to go into effect Monday, is shaping up to be a nonevent, say local merchants and sales people.
In the past, an impending jump in the sales tax has induced consumers to make purchases of "big-ticket" items, such as automobiles, furniture and major appliances, before the tax takes effect. Not so this time around, said Kenny Stufflebean, new and used car sales director at Jim Clark Motors, the Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth, Volkswagen and Isuzu dealer at 29th and Iowa.
"Usually we would have a swamp of people coming in here trying to buy at the last minute, but I haven't noticed it this time," he said Friday, adding that many consumers are simply unaware that the sales tax is going up.
"There's a lot of people coming in who don't know it a lot. It's like it's a secret," he said.
WHAT MAY catch a lot of people by surprise, then, is that the tax Kansas merchants must collect on retail sales will rise from 4.25 percent to 4.9 percent on Monday. In Lawrence, where the city also levies its own 1 percent sales tax, consumers will pay a combined 5.9 percent tax on purchases.
So why the consumer apathy? Sales people speculated last week that the the sales tax got lost in the shuffle of media coverage about the 1992 Kansas Legislature. The sales tax increase will help fund a new school finance package, and much of the information about the tax was combined with news about funding for public education.
Ernie Sifford, general manager of Price's Appliance and Repair, 2500 W. 31st, also said the tax increase wasn't getting people's attention because it wasn't going to rise a full percent.
"We're not going over 6 percent," he said of the combined state and city sales tax rate. "It's just not going to be noticed."
SIFFORD, WHO said he encountered more customers trying to beat the tax the last time it was raised, said his sales people have tried to persuade people to make their appliance purchases before Monday.
"It's something that we do mention," Sifford said. "It really doesn't seem to sway them either way."
Eddie Klotz, manager of Ed Marling's furniture and appliance store, 27th and Iowa, said the topic of the tax increase was coming up in conversations with customers last week but only because his sales people were mentioning it.
"We have not had anyone come in and say `I'm going to buy this now so I can save a little money,'" he said.
Chuck Kramer, new and used car manager at the Laird Noller automobile dealership, 23rd and Alabama, said customers seemed to have only a vague notion that the sales tax was going up.
"They know it's coming but they don't know the date," he said.
KRAMER SAID his sales force was getting some results by mentioning the sales tax to customers.
"It's one of our closing points that we're pointing out to them, that they can save a lot of money by buying now," he said.
For every $1,000 of a car purchase, a local consumer will pay sales tax of $59 on Monday, $6.50 more than before.
"On a $20,000 car that makes a lot of difference," he said.
However, despite any positive results from mentioning the tax increase to customers, neither the Laird Noller dealership nor any of the other businesses contacted planned to be open today.
AS FAR AS the logistics of implementing the tax increase at the retail level, local merchants said they expect no problems.
Larry Bassinger, assistant manager of the Dillon's store at 1015 W. 23rd, said that because the company's electronic cash registers automatically figure sales taxes, collecting the higher tax simply will be a matter of programming the new rate into the system.
At Weaver's Department Store, Ninth and Massachusetts, where clerks still write sales tickets by hand, Marlene Swaggerty, the office manager, said she anticipated no problems. New sales tax rate cards, which are provided by local banks, will be distributed to the sales clerks to begin using Monday.
Swaggerty also said she didn't expect the new tax rates to cause any confusion for customers. "I doubt if they'll really notice," she said.