Whilst travelling, I decided it was time to quit Amazon.
But why? After all, I’ve known how unethical Amazon is for a long time. It’s not exactly a secret. Exploitation of workers. Tax avoidance. Anti-unionisation. The list goes on. And still, I continued to use their services.
Because aren’t the big four (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) all as bad as each other? What difference would it make for me to boycott them? Isn’t it impossible to avoid them nowadays anyway? Is there any point in trying. Why bother?
Table of Contents
What changed my mind
Gentrification & creating homelessness: Seeing the huge swathes of Amazon office buildings in Seattle. Hearing about homelessness and gentrification in the city.
Seattle has the third highest homeless population in the USA, which would be bad enough. But also, that’s seriously disproportionate to the total population:
- New York and Los Angeles are #1 and #2 for homelessness, but also #1 and #2 for total population size
- Meanwhile, Seattle is #3 for homelessness, and #18 for total population size
- Homeless population in USA data (2018) from Statista, via Forbes
- USA population data (2017) from USA census, via Wikipedia
- Thank you Christina for educating me about this in the first place, and inspiring me to learn more about it 🙏🏿
Monopolising & undercutting: Watching an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act in which he dissects Amazon’s business practices. Learning why anti-monopoly laws are defenceless against Amazon’s devastating behaviour.
Convenience is the commodity that matters most to our generation.Hasan Minhaj, Patriot Act
What I’m doing
- Audiobooks: Audiobooks.com and Librivox, also podcasts. I stopped my Audible subscription last month.
- Book cataloguing: OpenLibrary, I think. Maybe Libib, or something else. (Note: Amazon owns a majority share in LibraryThing and Shelfari). I exported my data from Goodreads this month.
- Streaming films & tv shows, Netflix, maybe. My Prime Video subscription ends in September, and I won’t be renewing it.
- Organic & vegan foods, USA: Trader Joes. No more Wholefoods for me.
- Buying stuff. I’ll do what I did before Amazon Prime was a thing, and buy elsewhere and/or consume less. I enjoyed visiting anarchist, queer and feminist book shops whilst in Seattle and New York, I’ll continue in London.
Does it make a difference?
I recently learned that New York City successfully resisted Amazon by asking the business a lot of questions about its plans for new headquarters. Thank you Shadé for letting me know about this, and so strengthening my resolve.
Because Amazon is huge, and grow ever larger; but it’s not irresistible.
What you can do
- Check out some alternatives to Amazon from Ethical Revolution (UK), The Guardian (UK) and Digital Guide (US). If you subscribe to the Ethical Consumer service, you can see their alternatives too. If you’re in a position to stop using Amazon, or reduce your usage, why not do it?
- Let Amazon know what you think of their practices and how you’re protesting them
- Grapple with some interesting, and difficult, considerations: Reform unethical companies because there’s ‘no ethical consumption under capitalism’? Avoid less ethical companies because “boycotts can work, consumers have power”? (P.S. Why not both?)
What I plan to do next
I still have some data to transfer and some accounts to close.
I’m considering what to do about Amazon Kindle. I’ve been using it extensively whilst research for the secular companion to The Artist’s Way that I’m writing. Here’s where I’m starting with my search.
And I still have the behemoth that is Amazon Web Services (AWS) to consider… It’s the service that holds most of the websites on the internet. Some useful info on where to start with avoiding them.
I’m not expecting to eliminate Amazon from my life completely. Slack, a workplace communication platform I use extensively for work and community organising uses AWS. Netflix uses it. Actually, it might be faster to list sites that don’t use AWS…
It’s difficult, but I can still try. It might not be feasible to avoid it altogether, but I can still reduce and limit my usage as much as I can.
Any recommendations? Tweet me!
With thanks to Laura who inspired me to avoid Amazon some time ago, and who continuously reinforces my determination to boycott unethical business.