Reconsidering Shopping at Amazon

October 16, 2020 4 min read

2 Comments

This week, I posted on my personal Facebook page on Amazon's Prime Day:

I don't post frequently enough anymore, so if this makes me seem judgy or I arrogant, I'm sorry! I understand the appeal of Amazon for everything they offer, convenience & prices etc. But honestly, Amazon 👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻 is the worst.

Here is the statistic I was sharing along with this comment: "During the pandemic, Jeff Bezos became $97 billion richer by increasing prices by up to 1,000% on essential items and denying hazard pay and paid sick leave to over 450,000 of his workers." (ref.)

 

A thoughtful friend commented with honesty, 

"Could you share some more of your insights about Amazon. I don’t disagree that their model is terrible but I also haven’t been convinced enough to forgo the crazy convenience of it.

Help convince me!"

 

Here is the response I posted. I really had no intention to share this here! But, several friends sent me messages afterwards, and I thought this might strike a similar chord with you. It's not a research paper; just a conversation between friends.

 

I don’t feel like convincing is my job! — we all do different things and feel compelled to stand on certain ground, while compromising on others… The reality of complexity in life!

But, to answer your question, here are a few of the things for me that have stood out and upheld my limiting of Amazon.
 
1) I don’t give money to charities that I don’t think use it well. I want to have the same attitude towards shopping, and the way Amazon is structured for compensation is not how I want so spend my money. Too much to Jeff Bezos, who personally is not altruistic and wants to use his money settling in other parts of the universe so that the consumption cycle can continue without ruining earth. I don’t agree, and don’t like any of that, and I don’t want to give him my money.

2) Bad record of employee treatment in fulfillment centres. Like running them off their feet, few bathroom breaks, and very little room for error before you are fired (because there are always more people to take the job!) They hired a ton of people in the spring for fulfillment, but then cut them loose as soon as it doesn’t work. I don’t like the cutthroat, merciless approach to staffing.

This is true for their own business; but, also, the way they approached fulfillment completely shifted expectations on fast shipping throughout America. This has rippled to so many businesses whose workplaces are frenetic and merciless because of the expectations we have for fast shipping. (IMO this has been a long change, a frog-boiled-in-water kind of change, but is largely attributable to Amazon).

3) Predatory & aggressive at bringing other businesses down.

Part of this is on us; we check something out or try it on in person, but then buy it on Amazon for cheaper. The result is that the local business cannot sustain themselves. I want to still have a world with local businesses where I can explore things with my senses! So, I guess I have to shop at those places, if I want them around!

Amazon also has a massive data bank, and so much power to use that data. For example, many people sell via Amazon marketplace; but, if a product is very successful, they can internally see that. Then Amazon produces an identical product, undercuts the price, and ruins that Marketplace business.

Similarly, Amazon grew a ton over the past 10 years (or beyond?) because of bloggers who built their own businesses largely on affiliate links to Amazon. So, if you click the link & buy whatever the blogger is talking about, the blogger gets a cut. Early in the pandemic, when Amazon was selling like crazy, *that* is the time they chose to cut these affiliate rates drastically — for example from 5% to 1% on grocery items. Now, obviously, those blogger/business owners should not have had all their eggs in the Amazon basket. But, I think that it is brutal that when sales were up, and Amazon knew that they basically had the advantage and didn’t “need” the affiliates, they slashed the rates.

4) Taxes! When you drive to a local store (even a Walmart) to buy diapers, part of corporate taxes paid contribute to, say, the road you drove on to get there. Amazon’s history is that they have evaded so much tax and don’t contribute towards services like the road the drivers take to deliver your goods.

[edit — what I really meant to say here was that a physical store at the very minimum pays property taxes, contributing to local needs like roadwork]

5) General shift of attitudes in our culture towards consumption, convenience, and quality of goods that have been largely spurred on by the company over many years. As well as loss to local business and economy growth, and personal interaction with people who provide us with goods.

 

Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY during the American Booksellers Association's #BoxedOut campaign (during Prime Week); photos via Greenlight's Facebook page


2 Responses

Peggy Hrushka
Peggy Hrushka

October 18, 2020

Thanks for all the information and sharing your chat with friends. I have always preferred to buy locally where I could…. Kantha blankets aren’t local here 😘….. I was not personally aware of Amazon’s treatment to their employees or the price increase for essentials being shipped!! I have forwarded this for my kids to read as well. I am very proud of you for everything you are doing to improve carbon footprint and fair treatment for all.

Katherine Reid
Katherine Reid

October 17, 2020

Thank you, Shelley! You put into words my long held opinion. Thank you for solidifying my opinion with some facts.

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