The Book You Need To Read About Amazon
Before you do all your holiday shopping there
Over the last few weeks I spent some quality time reading Alec MacGillis’s new book Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America. It is about Amazon, but more broadly, it is about how Amazon is ruining many aspects of American life. It is a super-depressing read.
I absolutely adore journalism, history, and sociology books that help me see what I call the “big picture” — how specific actions, policies, and habits contribute to large-scale cultures and situations. To me the gold standard of this kind of writing is that done by Brian Alexander — whose investigative books Glass House and The Hospital showed me how capitalism and health care, respectively, both suck in America.
If you didn’t want to call these books “big picture” books, I suppose you could call them “journalistic accounts that help you view the macro through the lens of the micro,” but I would never say that because I hate the phrase “through the lens of…”
I got about 75 pages into MacGillis’s book, when he was talking about how Amazon the company and Bezos the head of Amazon impact housing costs, manufacturing, and even the massive amounts of money to be found among the upper-class in Washington, D.C. The book at that point was so “big picture” that it was actually a little hard for me to follow, but I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did, because it is really a comprehensive and well-researched book.
It’s gross. Amazon is gross from start to finish, and so is Jeff Bezos. I can’t even pull out a representative quote for you because all of the book’s stories rest on other stories and numbers and research and it all kind of has to be absorbed together to be believed. But trust me: the lengths to which this company will go to sell you absolutely everything — at a fairish price now but most likely at a nightmare-ish price later — are astounding. Forget about all of us citizens being fucked at both the national and state levels of politics, where money rules. Amazon reaches right down into local governments and seeks to remove all of your rights at the level of where you live.
So here are my suggestions:
- Read the book (of course). It’s a challenge but stick with it.
- Stop shopping at Amazon. If you can’t stop cold turkey, at least delete your Prime membership or don’t sign up for one. More than anything, Jeff Bezos wants you to sign up for Amazon Prime. Don’t do it. I’m begging you.
I have been trying to avoid shopping on Amazon this summer and year and I have mostly been successful. Sometimes you are going to pay more and wait a bit longer for merchandise, but you can do it. Sometimes you might actually find things elsewhere a little cheaper or nearer by you in a bricks-and-mortar shop. Either way, just try it.
And then, as you’re keeping just a little bit of your money and your personal information out of Jeff Bezos’s clutches, say, “Fuck you, Bezos, and the soul-destroying company you rode in on.”
It’s fun, and personally that gives me a bigger shopping high than even quick Amazon Prime shipping.
Sarah Cords is the author of Bingeworthy British Television: The Best Brit TV You Can’t Stop Watching. Fellow curmudgeons welcome at citizenreader.com.