Order Online, or In-Store?

Combing through some old emails of mine, and I came across one from Oct 28, 2009 where I had recently returned from a trip to Cup ‘O Joes down in Queensdale, New York before Kathleen Kelley took things over. I was corresponding with Doug about my trip there, and near the end of our discussion, he brought up an interesting fact about buying in the store in New York State, versus ordering online.

I wrote “I thought I sent you this link of the photos of the shop. It was a great little place, as you can tell from the photos. I spoke briefly with Eric, who was quite busy. There were a bunch of guys in the back  packing up pipes 'n tobaccos to send out. It was like a mini-warehouse and bee hive full of activity. He has a really neat display of his Dunhill awards. That scotch looked pretty neat. The tiny bottle sells for close to a couple hundred bucks, and that's if you can even find it! The large one is even more I'm told. Not for sale though!


I spoke with Samuel who identified himself as the tobacconist there. I also spoke with a fellow named Adam who was starting to work there too. Both were nice guys. When I presented Eric with his tin of Three Year Matured he was quite pleased. He arranged to have a little gift given to me which I will show you sometime when you're over. It's a  

gloved hand that holds a pipe; made of porcelain and has 'The White Spot' as its logo around the base. It's rather large but rare. There weren't too many of these made. [This picture is for illustration only].


He's got a good selection of tobacco there in the store. Pipes galore, and his pricing is actually quite decent. His Peterson pricing would be hard to beat actually. And his Dunhill's are priced reasonably as well. I think he had a Group 4 shell going for $200.00 if I recall. Nice shapes and sizes. Castello too.


They also make a fine cup of coffee! I bought a tin of Mac Baren Vintage Syrian 100g and a couple pouches of bulk Altadis offerings. We'll definitely be going back there for a visit next year, and I will be in a better position to take advantage of the store and all its offerings!”


Doug replied: ”Sounds like a good time. Nice pics too. The store is certainly better than we have.


“I think that I should write an essay entitled the "Phenomenology of Pipes, Smoking, and Stuff". Why? Because for some reason people loose their analytic skills when they experience a new thing (pipe, tobacco, accessory etc). Instead they enthuse on the experience - the phenomena of experiencing it. And SmokersForums is the chief forum for everybody who enjoys doing this. It's interesting to watch and read about but I always wonder why there aren't more questions along witthe effusive experience stuff.


Cup O Joes is one of the big online retailers so I would expect their stock to be significant. On pipes they are competitive but on tobacco they're becoming less competitive. They're losing the pricing battle. It used to be that 4Noggins was more expensive (on most things) than COJ and SP & JRCigars one was one of the price leaders. Now I note that even his online (no NY State tax load) pricing is higher on pretty much every tobacco. The last one that we saw go this way was KnoxCigar.


And what about tobacco pricing... Was it about 20% higher than their web pricing? Or more? How much were GLP 8 oz tins in the store? C&D 8 oz tins? McClelland 100g tins of Xmas Cheer? It should carry the full NY State tax load and maybe even more because the counties in NY tax tobacco too.


Did you happen to ask Eric about the Dunhill tobaccos? He is the source of the first leak on CAO picking them up for distribution again, and summer is most definitely finished.


I'm shocked that you can be so restrained and not bring home more tins, bags, and maybe even some new pipes. I think I'd probably go a bit wild in there, unless the prices were really high.


For a while they were one of the few retailers that had some of SG's blenders. I bought 8 oz of each of their SG Latakia and RC Turkish - this is Izmir too, but a better grade than C&D's, I think. I've recently been playing a bit with SG's RC Turkish and it's very good stuff. The Latakia is

different than McClelland's too. Not Syrian or anything like that - just different. I'm now a bit sorry that I didn't buy more. Also COJ had some of the best deals on PS Lux blends. I managed to buy some PS Lux Navy at $28.56 per 24 oz box. That's an eye watering $1.19 per oz and an excellent deal. They also have some other stuff that 4Noggins doesn't carry eg the Former flake blends.


So I'm curious about their in-shop tobacco pricing. I know that it must be higher than their web site but I have no idea how much. It sort of depends upon the county tax rate. But that's a bit of a mystery. On their web site most of the McCl bulks are almost $50 per pound and they say they'll add 30% to that for NY state tob tax. So does that mean that the in-store price is about $65 for a pound of McCl bulk?“

I replied: “Well, I bought 2oz of Altadis Black Cordial for $6.58 and 100g of HH MacBaren Vintage Syrian for $15.99. The subtotal came to $22.57 and there was a tax of $1.58. The bottom of the receipt has "NY State Tobacco Tax Paid by CupO'Joes"....so I'm confused. The website has the Syrian at $17.99 marked down to $13.85. So it appears that it's definitely better to purchase online than in the store! Let me check the bulk price.....o.k. 2oz is $5.38 online, still cheaper than in store. Lesson learned there!”


Doug replies: “Well... It is better to buy mail order in CoJ case. But I think their situation is quite an improvement (over our situation in Canada) because they apply the tobacco taxes at point of sale (it allows for out of state mail order). In Canada there is no such thing. Both Gov's gets paid long

before the tobacco even reaches a retailer. So the taxes are rolled into the cost of goods and paid as and when they enter distribution and marked up as they descend the supply chain to us. That's one reason that our tob is so darned expensive. NY State tob taxes are relatively high for the US and so are MA's & CA's, but of course not nearly as high as ours. The web site says they ding NY state consumers an additional 30%. So that's probably what you paid. Anybody walking into the store is treated as a resident of NYS.


In any case though you've paid somebody else's taxes our friendly border folks would feel no pain in also charging you both the Federal and Prov tax on top of everything else. But you're under the 200g duty free limit should you choose to remember it at all as you re-enter Canada.


Interestingly the same applies if we visit Quebec. We're expected (fat chance) to pay Ontario's tob tax after paying Quebec's. And they wonder why there is smuggling.”

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That was our email exchange back then in 2009. I found it interesting to go back and read what our exchange was like. I forgot about the fact that ordering online (in some cases) will be better when you're looking at price. We must factor in the shipping costs, however. It's too bad that in the case of New York State, they would have to charge you the tax if you ordered online, and had it shipped within New York State for pickup on your way back in to Canada.


Also interesting was that Doug purchased 24oz of Stokkebye's Luxury Navy Flake for $28.56 ($1.19/oz) back then. Today, in 2020, that same tobacco is $52.80 and $2.20/oz, $1.10 difference which is almost double the price. Cup 'O Joe's still carry the Former Flake blends, ($9.77/tin) but they are all out of stock.


The other interesting thing I learned re-reading this thread was that in New York State, the taxes are not applied to the tobacco prior to the sale to the customer. They are added at that time so that if you ARE ordering from outside the state, you won't pay the state tax of 30%. I may have this mixed up, so I'm going to start another blog thread on this particular subject.

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