Amazon is convenient. It’s also enormous, and the company doesn’t have the best corporate reputation. Amazon might be getting too big for its britches. It might be time to break up with Amazon, but is that even possible? Check out this series to learn how and why to find alternatives to Amazon.
Looking for alternatives to Amazon for your online shopping? If not, you might want to consider it. Amazon isn’t all bad, but it’s getting so big and involved in so many facets of life. We surely benefit from diversifying how we allocate our purchasing power. The company also don’t have the best employee welfare record or customer service history. It certainly isn’t the best neighbor (especially when the company doesn’t pay taxes and demands hefty state and local tax incentives to plant roots in your community).
Amazon is convenient, and it seems pretty cost effective on the surface. They’re aggressive, at best, with respect to many of their policies related to things like taxes, growth and use of big data. I’m not suggesting Amazon is breaking any laws (I really don’t know), so some might argue that their ruthless playbook of capitalist opportunity is perfectly legal. Maybe so.
Just because something is legal, however, doesn’t make it ethical, or even good in the long run. Have you ever thought to eat donuts for every meal, every single day? It’s cheap. It’s convenient. It’s legal. Like Amazon. But it’s certainly not good for us, and I can’t imagine anyone thinks that many donuts is good idea.
I know that’s a silly example, but you get my point. That something is legal shouldn’t be the only criteria that it’s fair, just or good.
Are Prices Really Lower?
Amazon often appears to have lower prices on many products relative to other retailers. The Prime shipping option seems too good to pass up, despite many online retailers also offering free shipping. But are the prices really as great as they seem?
Research suggests Amazon might be using their algorithm to direct buyers to pay more for their own products or those of sellers who effectively pay to play, sometimes at a steep cost to the sellers. This doesn’t totally surprise me, because at times I’ve been confused why certain products came up higher in a search result when the product I actually wanted (and seemed better) showed up later on the list. Shouldn’t their massive repository of data know better?
This type of favoritism isn’t illegal (as far as I know). Sellers can choose not to participate in their programs, and customers can dig deeper to find the right products at the best price. But it feels kind of … yucky, and it’s certainly not serving the customer well.
Even if they do have the lowest displayed price, at what cost are we paying for that discount? Amazon warehouse jobs replace local business employment, which is a burden on our local economies and a reduction in overall labor markets.
There’s many a tale of Amazon warehouse employees reporting less than stellar working conditions and morale. Just about everyone seems ‘to know through the grapevine’ that their corporate culture is cutthroat, at best, and many people depart after a year or two, unwilling to put up with the competitive and ruthless environment.
Amazon negotiates large state and local tax benefits to come into a community. This reduces funding for local community programs and infrastructure as well as salaries for police officers, teachers, and other public employees. Is this really a discount?
How Are They Using My Data?
Like many tech giants, Amazon knows a lot about me. They know my purchasing habits. From my Goodreads account, they know the books I have read and want to read (which can be particularly telling for those of us who like non-fiction). They know what I feed my family based on my Whole Foods purchases. They know my address, so they can figure out when I bought my house and how much I paid, where I most likely send my children to school, and probably more.
If you have Alexa, they know (or can know) everything, because Alexa is always listening. That’s the point, after all. Alexa must be forever ready when you ask for something. “Alexa…”
Maybe it doesn’t matter that Amazon has all this information about me. But if they’re using big data to make me pay for goods that might not be the best match for my search, they have a cutthroat corporate culture, and they treat their warehouse employees poorly, that doesn’t leave me feeling overly optimistic that they make ethical choices about how to use my personal data.
Exploring Life Without Amazon
For full disclosure, I currently have an Amazon Prime membership. I bought many Christmas gifts on Amazon using their Prime shipping option. My boys watch Amazon Prime shows occasionally, though we get much better bang for our buck from the PBS Kids subscription we have. Wild Kratts is easily their favorite show.
I have an Audible subscription. We shop at Whole Foods. I have a Goodreads account (yes… Amazon owns Goodreads).
I’m an Amazon affiliate for my blog, which means sometimes I earn a small commission when readers buy certain products through Amazon linked from my blog. The income is not life altering, but it helps pay for services to keep the blog running. It’s real money!
My life is far from free of Amazon. I’m pretty sure I can scrap the Prime membership without much fret (though my subscription doesn’t expire for many months, so .. until then). I think I can find a replacement for Audible. I really like Whole Foods. And I really, really like Goodreads! It will also take me some time to redo all the links in all my old blog posts to find products elsewhere, when possible.
This series is the product of my experiment to disentangle from Amazon and find alternatives. Hopefully, it will also help you discover a few Amazon alternatives that fit seamlessly into your family lives.
Amazon As A Necessity?
Some might think they could never live without Amazon. I get it! I am sure there are valid circumstances where Amazon is far and away the best option for some, and I know that it’s super convenient. I’m with you. I have been buying from Amazon for years.
But for those of us with a choice, I think it’s time we step back and examine our options. Amazon might be leading us in a race to the bottom.
What’s To Come
In this series, follow me on my adventure to break up with Amazon. Learn more about shopping alternatives for many of the things we buy from Amazon. We’re starting the series in the same place Amazon started… with books.