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What’s wrong with Amazon?

This week I was on LBC talking about “Amazon remorse”, the feeling of buying on Amazon and then regretting it. In their hearts people want to support independent retailers. However, that isn’t the reality. Because although a certain percentage do feel remorse, they still buy from Amazon.

During the Covid pandemic we have obviously seen a record number of people buying online. People want the here and now. We have got used to next day delivery and sometimes even same day delivery.

Amazon Prime members feel guilty

In a Sitecore survey of over 2,000 UK consumers, it was found that almost a third (32%) felt guilty after they’ve shopped on Amazon. Despite this, 59% of those people are Amazon Prime members and 46% said they go to Amazon first when shopping online before checking any search engine results.

The younger generation felt the most remorse about their Amazon purchases, with millennials the most likely to feel guilty 44%. This is in stark contrast to 82% of baby boomers who said that after shopping on Amazon they “feel pleased I got what I wanted end of story“

At first glance, the survey would suggest that the younger generation are moving away from Amazon and supporting independent retailers instead. However there is a long way to go from feeling guilty to not doing it at all. How many of us feel guilty for eating chocolate and still carry on?! And where we shop, one could argue, is a far bigger decision when it saves time and money.

Remorseful or indifferent?

Many of us loathe Amazon, questioning its tax affairs, believing it is the killer of small business, treats its staff appallingly and, unless complaining about something simple like faulty goods or a delivery, their customer service can be shocking. But we continue to use them.

When I asked consumers if they felt guilty about shopping at Amazon, there was a mixed reaction. However, this could be because people feel like they couldn’t comment as it isn’t a popularist view when clearly more people are using Amazon more than they say they are! [this last sentence isn’t clear – what are you trying to say?] Those keen to express their dislike of Amazon included Jane Mills, who said “online shopping isn’t my first choice. I live in a small community and try to support local businesses.”

Suzy Jones put it strongly, “I absolutely avoid Amazon like the plague, unless it’s a no-other-last-ditch-do-or-die-absolute-necessity. I can’t remember the last time I bought from them & intend it to stay that way. Small business all the way.”

Is Amazon an ethical choice?

At Christmas last year Ethical Consumer wrote a guest post Christmas shopping in a lockdown – how to avoid the unethical online giants. In it they talked about ways to shop ethically and how and why not to use Amazon. They said in this article that

“Online giants like Amazon are the death of independents. By driving low prices – largely through avoiding tax, and taking a big cut from marketplace sellers – Amazon continues to increase its market share.”

For years, Amazon has been associated with pretty much every kind of alleged unethical business practice, from alleged unfair working conditions in supply chains to alleged tax avoidance schemes. Ethical Consumer has been leading an Amazon boycott since 2012.

By spending money this way are we complicit? Is it a necessary evil?

How are Amazon prices so low?

5 Valuable lessons we can learn from Amazon’s pricing strategy provides an in-depth analysis of how Amazon prices its products and how and why it makes 2.5 million price changes a day. It is very aggressive. Smaller companies just don’t stand a chance.

UK Money bloggers on Amazon

Reducing the Amazon spend

Andy Webb headshot

 

Be Clever with Your Cash blogger Andy Webb wrote a really interesting article about Amazon. He is trying to reduce his spend at Amazon, citing the following reasons which he details in his post

 

 

Reasons not to shop at Amazon:

1) Amazon isn’t always the cheapest

2) Amazon try to lock you into their “eco-system”

3) Prime makes you more likely to spend money

4) Amazon hurts the High Street

5) Amazon is not an ethical company

Of particular interest is the cost of postage stamps! Yes, they are sold on Amazon for far more than the face value for which you can purchase them at the Post Office and other places! Amazon takes advantage of them being an easy filler when you probably don’t know what the actual price is.

Amazon for people with disabilities

“Choice is a luxury and not a privilege that everyone has” says Lisa Kaveney who blogs at Alieshia. She provides an interesting perspective. “As a disabled person, I see massive value in Amazon Prime. The speed of delivery and the fact it has no minimum order limits makes them incredibly accessible. I am acutely aware that the company is perhaps not the most financially ethical; however, I do not have the luxury of choice that people who are able-bodied and in a higher income bracket do.

If I were to run out of an essential item, e.g. toothpaste, it would take a lot of planning and energy to get out to a shop. I would require the assistance of another person. With Amazon Prime, I just click a button, and it is delivered to my doorstep the next day. Complete independence and I have the energy left to do stuff I actually want to do.”

Admiring Amazon

Funding her Freedom blogger, Steph Punfield, has no problem with shopping at Amazon, though. “Personally, whilst I love shopping local and everything it stands for, as an Amazon seller with a couple of private label products listed on the platform, I don’t experience guilt when purchasing through them as there are thousands of UK businesses also selling their own products. They are making the most of the reach they have.”

Amazon as a necessary evil?

However, as an author Amazon for me, it is a necessary evil for selling. I sell both my books on my website and on Amazon. Amazon takes a huge cut and reduces the cost of the book. I therefore cannot sell the books at full price. Why would people pay an extra couple of quid just for my signature?! There just aren’t enough people ready to support small businesses. And, as for not selling a book on Amazon, that’s just never going to happen for any author.

Revive the High Street by shopping locally

Even as we come through Covid and some people don’t want to return to shops yet or have got used to the ease and speed of online delivery there are ways forward. We need to bring creativity to the High Street and Town Centres such as the ideas in The Art of reviving the great British High Street.

In addition, Julie Ashworth founder and director of BroadReach Retail consultants says

“Online doesn’t always have to mean Amazon! It could mean social ownership, shared local websites alongside not for profit communities. Have a heart…think community, think diversity, think about investing in the High Street.”

Dan Ericsson from The Financial Wilderness provides a number of Reasons why not to choose Amazon when shopping online. He even mentions books that you can get cheaper elsewhere!

Do boycotts even work?

Even if individuals do boycott Amazon, does it make a difference? Probably not, in fact, definitely not.

So, for the short-term at least, people will still be buying from Amazon. For both price and convenience, even where people don’t realise they may be paying over the odds. If you want to check if you are paying a good price for an item from Amazon check out Camel Camel Camel. This site tells you all the different prices an item has been at, and when, and will notify you when the price drops.

For businesses there is the opportunity to try and fill the slowly growing market for an alternative to Amazon. However, it will be important for businesses to realise that in order to do this they will need to up their game in terms of personalising shoppers’ experience and providing excellent customer service, as consumer expectations are high.

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