Is This Amazon’s Big Year?

I had an interesting conversation with Bruce Reyes-Chow last night.  His family is trying to do half their shopping on Etsy, and half on Amazon.  He said it’s hard, because they could easily get everything from Amazon, but they want to support small businesses as well.

As for me and my house, we’re getting almost everything from Amazon.  How about you and your family?  Are you still going to the mall, shopping on Amazon, or supporting local businesses?

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  • It was tough this year. Our big purchase was a TV, and the big box stores and Amazon were much cheaper (30%) than the local business. Finally I bought an LED TV instead of LCD because the prices were closer, it freed me somehow to buy local, and the lower energy costs help support the environment and the price difference. But I felt like I had to rationalize it or it was going to be hard for a cheapskate like me to do what I thought was morally correct.

  • As an indie bookseller it breaks my heart that you even ask this. In light of the many articles and conversations on line this very week. And you guys write about justice and human relationships as core to the reign of God? I am baffled and discouraged.

    • Byron, How is it unjust to shop at Amazon? I’m asking this sincerely.

      • Marshall

        Amazon sure ain’t about human relationships, and how can you have social justice without human relationships? At least WalMart is giving jobs to people in town. I buy everything I can find in town, in town, and for local stores I pay cash.

        What I mostly can’t find out here in the sticks is books, so I’m grateful for Original Amazon. Since I’m at least 20 years behind in my reading I can get most of them off the used queue; as Todd says Amazon gets credit for connecting me with independent used bookstores, which often scrawl a human “Thanks!” on the shipping invoice. A sort of distributed localness, an interesting model that Etsy also supports. But that doesn’t apply to buying small appliances and knickknacks.

    • I’ve been an independent used bookseller for years and Amazon gave me a platform to connect my books to customers that I never would have been able to find on my own. I sold on Abebooks, Alibris, ebay, Biblio, and more, but 60% of my sales or more were from Amazon. Amazon can give independent sellers a platform as well. And now they are giving independent authors a chance to connect with customers without going through the big publishers. And bloggers, etc can make money through their Affiliates program. I’m sure there are good reasons to be concerned about Amazon, but consider these benefits they provide as well.

  • Seth

    If I had a “guilty pleasure,” it would be shopping at Amazon. In reality, they’re no better then Walmart at destroying small business and buying out everyone for the unseen price of their legs. I justify myself in stating that I’m now in the “middle of nowhere” in East Texas, but if I lived my convictions I would drive an hour and prove my beliefs as functional.

  • Tim

    Amazon delivers its prices by squeezing publishers, and ultimately authors, unmercifully, and treating those workers who package the goods for shipment like virtual slaves.
    Amazon isn’t an option to consider anymore.

  • NYTimes on the high cost of low prices and convenience of Amazon:

  • i checked out some of the seller choices on amazon. you could list your own products if you purchase their standalone site service. that would be the same as having an etsy store, which i have now.

  • Larry Barber

    I’m torn about using Amazon so much. On the one hand they are big corporation now, and like a big anything, be it business, government, church, or whatever, it can be exploitive and oppressive. I really doubt that Amazon is any worse than any other big company, though. On the other hand, they carry books I couldn’t get anywhere else, or at least not nearly so easily. I live a few blocks away from what is purported to be the biggest Barnes and Noble in the world, but they can’t come close to matching Amazon’s selection. And then there is the matter of Kindle titles, I really love my Kindle.

  • One alternative to Amazon is for books, a huge independent store in Portland. But I still use Amazon a lot, and I am sympathetic to the reasons Tony named about promoting your books and Indie publishing opportunities.

  • Jason R
  • Here’s more of the Amazon conversation this week–a response to the NY Times and Slate articles noted above:

    Amazon Doesn’t Care About Your Local Bookstore
    By Tim Carmody
    December 15, 2011

  • Thanks, Jason. Very interesting article. Doesn’t answer the ways Amazon is in many ways like Wal-mart for non-book items. But the Slate writer makes some solid arguments against local bookstores and for how Amazon helps literary culture.

  • Calvin

    My partner worked in their warehouse for a few months. It was INTENSE. People were constantly urged to nearly RUN from place to place, to fill orders “with a [constant] sense of urgency.” He is a very eager guy, no slouch at all, yet was rated every hour by their picker software and reprimanded if performance was not constantly improving. You forget to clock out to go to the restroom for 2 minutes? You get dinged. Yes, just to pee.

    That article everyone was discussing a few months back
    about awful warehouse conditions was NOT AT ALL OFF THE MARK. My partner read it and was stunned how accurate it was, for the warehouse he worked in in Bellevue, WA.
    They hire contractors at minimum wage for ALL warehouse jobs. There is no time off and the healthcare offered is VERY expensive and has caps of less than $10K in benefits per year IIRC. I have worked in IT my whole life and I couldn’t believe Amazon would offer such garbage, albeit thru a contractor. It is horrifying.
    This is WAY overboard for such a big, profitable company that sells an image of fairness and coolness to a new hip generation. If people only knew how awful it was.

    O, he was terminated 4 months into his work there, days after his local supervisors were stopping him to compliment him on great performance, because an amazon manager across the country decided his numbers didn’t meet their standards. This was after many system glitches they acknowledged were unfairly penalizing him, but refused to fix.

    We do NOT shop at amazon. Primarily for this, but the cutthroat sales tax tactics just to stay ON TOP of their dominant position in online retailing just are WAY too greedy. As states struggle for revenue for the least of these, Amazon leaving states who won’t cooperate for their freeloading just makes me sick.

  • toddh

    One of my good friends also worked for Amazon in the Bellevue warehouse over the holidays last year. He said it was a pretty demanding, performance-oriented environment, but he didn’t really think that the working conditions were unfair or unjust. I think he wanted to be one of the lucky ones who could keep working there after the holiday season, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.

    Our family has done A LOT of our shopping at Amazon over the past month or so, where in years past we didn’t. Maybe this is their big year.

  • I bought almost everything on Amazon. Free shipping was a carrot I could not refuse.

    Shamefully hanging my head in my part of destroying small business. Sniff.

  • An up and coming viable alternative to Amazon is . GEMM is very popular in some other countries.