Archive for February, 2021

Why I’m shopping less at Amazon (and why you should consider shopping there less, too)

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

These are crazy times. I’m so thankful that online retailers have been able to continue operating, despite the lockdowns.

But I’ve centered out one particular online retail giant as worth avoiding.

Amazon’s website is great for being user-friendly and easy to navigate. It’s a convenient one-stop shop for everything from books to electronics to tools to many household objects and even some food items. And Amazon has a great, no-hassle, free returns policy.

With all these advantages, why would I want to shop elsewhere? I have seven reasons why, and I want you to think them over for yourself too. A few of these reasons are based on my subjective experience, but some of these reasons are based on reported evidence and broader experience.

Reasons #7, #6 and #5: Amazon does not have the best price (for a number of items), the prices often fluctuate dramatically, and the quality of products is declining.

Here’s an example that illustrates some of those points: Last summer I needed a new leaf skimmer for our little pool. I already had the pole, and just needed the end attachment. Amazon’s list of offerings was largely from third party sellers based out of Canada. The leaf skimmers they were selling looked flimsy, on par with dollarstore quality, and the customer reviews reflected this. However, the price on average was about $27. Needless to say, I was not impressed. A quick search elsewhere revealed an online pool supply store, based in a nearby city, with substantially higher quality leaf skimmers for half the price. No thanks, Amazon, I’ll buy elsewhere.

Reason #4: Amazon’s packing service has become pathetic. I can’t remember exactly when I noticed the switch, but it seems that nowadays, instead of using bubble wrap or styrofoam pellets, Amazon packers use one or two long pieces of brown paper. It’s great for the environment, certainly, but not great for the products we buy.

Two years ago, I ordered a set of Prismacolor pencil crayons for my son’s birthday. When it arrived, the pencil crayons had escaped their packaging, and were scattered all over the Amazon delivery box. Because some of the pencils were missing, I returned that set and got a replacement. The new set arrived in exactly the same condition: out of their packaging and all over the box. Again, I was not impressed.

More recently, I ordered four cans of coconut milk and a flashlight. As usual, the only packing material employed was a piece of brown paper. The metal cans of coconut milk had been rolling free all around the box, bashing against each other and against the flimsy flashlight packaging probably hundreds of times. Thankfully, the flashlight was tough, and didn’t seem at all damaged by its abusive boxmates. Nevertheless, that was a pathetic packing method. I don’t know who in the company made the executive decision to switch to brown paper as a packing material, but he or she should take a few turns being on the receiving end of it.

Reason #3: Amazon has been unfairly benefiting from a double standard.

During the lockdowns, many businesses and institutions have been targeted by the media and government officials as “hazards” to public health. Eat-in restaurants, small shops, B&Bs, all have had to close their doors to the public and take a huge hit. Churches have been forced to 10-person limits or meeting online. Some larger retailers, factories, and even meat packing facilities have been centred out for public scrutiny and interference as well. But huge box stores such as Costco and Walmart, and giant warehouse-based retailers like Amazon have, inexplicably, been able to carry on with thousands of people inside their walls. I’m not in favour of lockdowns, but I certainly don’t appreciate a double standard that favours retail giants over small business. It’s not right.

Reason #2: Amazon is among the ranks of tech giants engaging in censorship. A quick search online will reveal a number of headlines to demonstrate this.

Amazon has been yanking down books and documentaries from its website, and even removing its web hosting from social media platforms like Parler. Some have been restored after public outcry, but nevertheless it is a dark and dangerous trend when a retail giant is attempting to stifle views and opinions it does not like.

Reason #1: Amazon is becoming a monopoly.

I recently discovered that both Amazon and its founder/CEO Jeff Bezos are among the top ten for the world’s richest companies/people. That in and of itself ought to give you a clue that Amazon is making billions of dollars in revenue every year.

While I don’t resent Jeff Bezos or Amazon for being so successful (there are some good reasons why, as I mentioned at the beginning of my post), I do have some cause for concern. Monopolies have a negative impact on the economy; they are particularly disadvantageous for the consumer and the employee. Without free market competition, efficiency declines, production standards drop, working conditions deteriorate, and prices increase. The company with the monopoly focuses on maximizing its profits, showing little concern for their employees or customers, as the latter have nowhere else to go.

By shopping from a wide selection of stores, we help to prevent monopolies from establishing themselves. Yes, there’s a certain amount of inconvenience involved. Comparison shopping is time consuming, as I’ve learned. But it’s also rewarding, as I have discovered that I can get better prices, better quality, more specialty items, and (at present) better delivery times than I would shopping at Amazon. On top of that, I have the satisfaction of knowing that, at least for some of my purchases, I’m supporting local businesses.

In closing, I would strongly encourage you to shop around for the items you need, too. Let’s support free market competition, not just in theory, but in practice.