Boycott Amazon for Prime Day

Five reasons to give this capitalist "holiday" a miss

“Prime Day” is a “holiday” made up by Amazon to juice their bottom line by encouraging shoppers to lock themselves into the Amazon ecosystem by paying $119 a year for membership in a club that gets them fast free shipping on purchases made from the website, along with access to certain shows, movies, music, and other media for no incremental cost.

If you’re considering shopping at Amazon on Prime Day, here are five reasons to reconsider:

1: Workers in Minnesota are striking on July 15th, aka Prime Day

I encourage you to read this whole Vox piece, but here’s the crux in two quotes:
“Warehouse employees, who have long complained about punishing work conditions at Amazon’s fulfillment centers, are upset about the company’s recent decision to offer one-day shipping to Prime customers — putting unrealistic pressure on warehouse workers.”

“The $800 billion online retailer launched one-day shipping in May, as part of an effort to get an upper hand on competitors like Walmart and Target. But the plan outraged some warehouse employees. Such a quick turnaround, they say, will take a toll on their health and put their safety at risk.”

Amazon's labor practices have long been criticized by employees at all levels, from the warehouses to the white collar office workers. (Remember this New York Times article where book marketer Bo Olson admitted “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk”?)

If this alone isn’t enough to convince you to give this shopping day a miss, here are a few other reasons.


2: Amazon takes but never pays back into our society 


Amazon built its current massive scale and e-commerce dominance by strategically refusing to pay state sales tax for years. This gave them a competitive advantage of 5-10% over other retailers who were born in the brick and mortar space and already paid their fair share. Until 2017, a full 23 years after Amazon’s birth, the company didn’t charge or pay sales tax in all states that had a statewide tax. (CNN Business)

This gave Amazon a financial advantage as it was hollowing out our Main Streets, competing against small booksellers and grocery stores that did have to collect and pay those taxes.

Amazon also paid $0 in federal taxes in 2018, so they’re still up to their old tricks.

3: Amazon has used its scale to bully the competition and sometimes even buy them at fire sale prices


Amazon has used its size and its investors’ extreme tolerance of years of losses to undercut competitors and then snap them up on the cheap. For example, when Bezos wanted to acquire Diapers.com, Amazon actively undercut their prices and even rolled out a sweetheart program called Amazon Mom to steal their market share. (The benefits of this program were slashed after Amazon purchased its competitor.)

You can read the full story here in this Slate story which draws heavily on Brad Stone’s book, The Everything Store.


4: Amazon unilaterally set ebook prices at $9.99 and punished book publishers who disagreed with their decision.


When Amazon launched the Kindle, Bezos decided that $9.99 was the appropriate price for ebooks and refused to honor publishers’ attempts to set the price higher, even if it meant Amazon losing money on ebook sales. (Anyone else seeing a pattern?)

When Big 6 publisher Macmillan pushed back on this, Amazon removed the buy buttons for all Macmillan titles from the website as a point of leverage in their negotiations. Authors, obviously, were extremely upset. Years later, $9.99 is the max price for most ebooks, even if that makes it harder for publishers to recoup their costs and pay authors a fair price for their work.


5: Amazon is a barely regulated monopoly that is harming our country. 


When a single sales channel is too powerful, it can exert control on a scale that's almost impossible to resist. Let’s try to resist giving them more money and more power as much as we can.


Instead of shopping on Amazon for Prime Day, here are a few better places to spend your money if you’re so inclined.

Indiebound

This is a directory of independent bookstores where you can put in your zip code and find a store near you, or even order books online.

B Corp Directory
B Corps (or Benefit Corporations) are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

You can sort this directory by business type, finding apparel companies such as Toms and Athleta, food companies such as Stumptown Roasters, and more.

Brooklyn Public Library (or your local library)
Chip in a few bucks to your local library and it will help everyone in the community enjoy books, media, and free programming.


If this information is up your alley, consider subscribing to On the Books by Margot Atwell for explorations about money and publishing.