Prime Day is This Week. Here’s Why You Should Stop Using Amazon
Amazon’s now-legendary “Prime Day” is July 11-12. Boy that sneaks up on you fast when you avoid them and don't have ads in your life. Much like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, this means sales on lots of items on Amazon’s vast marketplace, and as such many people flock to the giant’s website to get sweet deals on everything from computers to small kitchen appliances and more. But this year – as with all years, hence why this repost – I urge you to resist the allure. Far be it from me to compel you by force what you to spend your money on or where, but in this week’s post I hope to lay out a convincing case for everyone for why Amazon is full-stop evil, no caveats, and is undeserving of your money on a moral and ethical level. Amazon needs to be stopped, and legislation will not do so. Only its loyal consumers – who keep the beast alive – can do that by taking their money elsewhere. No matter your political or ethical beliefs, I'm certain Amazon violates them in one way or another, and you should vote with your dollar by buying from other places whenever possible.
Here are five reasons that you should stop supporting Amazon with your money and purchases.
Amazon Is An Enemy of Civil Rights
Do you believe that black lives matter? Do you think police have too much funding, too little oversight, are a tool of an oppressive regime, and/or are a private police force for the rich to keep the poor and minorities in line? Well guess what: up until 2020 Amazon proudly sold their facial recognition software (called “Rekognition”) to law enforcement agencies all cross the country. Like every other facial recognition software out there, this system was notoriously bad at accurately identifying minorities, mainly people of color and women (if you have Netflix, there's a whole movie about this called Coded Bias, I highly recommend it). Amazon only stopped for PR reasons at the start of the George Floyd protests, and even then they only issued a “one-year moratorium.” This has since been extended indefinitely, but frankly that doesn’t matter. It’s still just PR. Why do I say that? Because for one, that ban only applies to the US. Amazon is still free to sell their faulty facial recognition services to other countries and industries. Second, Amazon still gives police across the nation unfettered access to Ring doorbells, allowing police to have vast real-time surveillance networks paid for by private citizens who may not even know law enforcement has this sort of access. Amazon is actively helping police spy on and identify – poorly – everyone, even peaceful protesters.
Amazon Is An Enemy of Small Businesses
“Well I think all lives matter,” you may say to yourself, “and I support our law enforcement officers.” That’s cool. If you’re more right-leaning, you probably believe in the free market and you’ll likely be furious to know that Amazon actively crushes small businesses. To be clear, I'm not talking about the free market where they simply provide a better product/service and win over customers from the other guys. Amazon has been repeatedly proven to use data gathered from small merchants who use their marketplace to create competing products, avoiding the financial hit of the mistakes that those smaller businesses may have already made in marketing, pricing, or production. (I believe this is the exact sort of data that would be covered by nearly every standard non-disclosure agreement that nearly every company uses these days, by the way.) Not that it matters, because Amazon can also just use their massive empire to undercut the competition, selling products at a massive loss until the competitor is eventually driven out of business, then bouncing prices back up to profit-making levels once there’s no alternatives to compete with. The use of this data in the first place isn’t just free market sorting itself out, it’s straight up corporate espionage. It’s one thing if I left my job to work for a competitor and said “we learned that our customers respond better to blue than red.” It would be completely different for me to take a copy of all our business records, marketing documents, and passwords with me. That’s basically what Amazon does. They leverage their highly-invasive platform (which is so ubiquitous that to NOT sell on Amazon is practically a death sentence) to harvest sensitive business data and then use their resources to take the hit until the smaller guys can’t anymore and fold. In any other scenario, this would be corporate spying and illegal monopolizing. Even if it wasn’t illegal, I’d have a hard time believing any free-market enthusiast actually has no problem with this.
Amazon Is An Enemy of Human Rights and Workers
Maybe you’re an apolitical person (there’s really no such thing and that’s actually a very “privileged” stance to take, but I digress). In this situation, you can probably agree that we’re all human beings. We all deserve to be treated with respect, no matter what. Well, Amazon is unbelievably hostile to worker’s rights. For years, Amazon Prime delivery drivers have been reporting unrealistic expectations like being expected to deliver 200 packages in a 9-hour shift (that’s about 1 package every 3 minutes), missing pay, intimidation, favoritism, and buggy AI tracking their “performance” (even off the clock). Many of them have reported having to pee in bottles to try to stay on schedule. One reported a hospital-worthy injury where he was advised to finish his deliveries (several hours’ worth) before seeking medical treatment. Warehouse workers report timed bathroom breaks and not being allowed sit down for a few minutes outside of breaks. I’m all about hard work ethic, but you’ve seriously never had a day where you just needed five minutes to gather yourself? Amazon took it one step further with patented wearables in the workplace to spy on employees and make them work even harder. (For the record, there’s no evidence they plan to roll this out yet but the fact that they expressed an interest in controlling the rights to this technology is unsettling.) When workers expressed an interest in unionizing so they could force more humane working conditions (aren’t there already supposed to be labor laws in the first place?) Amazon used their powerful surveillance network to spy on and infiltrate those groups and even attempted to put cameras over the ballot boxes during a union vote to “ensure integrity.” Amazon doesn’t give a crap about their employees, it’s all about the bottom line and quite frankly I’m surprised they haven’t just moved overseas to sweat shops.
Amazon Is An Enemy of Democracy
“Wow, we really need some regulation on Amazon!” you might be thinking. Yeah, that’d be cool, except that at this point Amazon is more powerful than the US government. Amazon spent $18 million in 2020 on lobbying, and then increased it to $20.3 million in 2021. It decreased slightly in 2022, down to $19.7 million (the article says it was an increase from 2021, but that contradicts other sources I found, either way it's a ridiculous sum of money). Total Big Tech lobbying was $69 million in 2022, enough money (according to this article) to pay for 3500 soldiers for a year, 1.4 million electric bills, 46000 decent-spec laptop computers, 350 heart transplants, 233000 weeks worth of groceries, and 1750 police officers for one year (or 175 for ten years), among many other interesting things. For context, the US federal government spent $53 million on public education in 2022. Big Tech spent more money trying to write laws than the government spent on funding education. For those who live outside the US, “lobbying” is a fancy word for “legal bribery.” I’m not making that up. It started off with good intentions and it does make sense, but it gets abused constantly and in laughably transparent ways that make every American citizen wonder how the hell this practice is legal. Anyways, that’s not the point. Have you ever wondered why the “settlement” amounts in corporate lawsuits are always so obnoxiously low? It’s because corporations hire GOOD lawyers. They can afford to hire lawyers who are field experts and can pay them to focus all their time and attention only on that one company and that one subject/department. Then they can pour even more resources into filing new paperwork, doing research, fighting the case, etc. Eventually the court costs start to pile up and the idea of dragging this out for years and spending millions of dollars becomes arduous, frustrating, and impractical. Look at the recent Home Depot data breach settlement – 10 years later! This is compounded even more when you’re an elected official. “You’ve spent HOW MUCH taxpayer money on fighting over some silly case that doesn’t even concern me – the voter – in a way I can tangibly see and understand when that money could’ve gone to better roads, schools, healthcare, national defense, etc?” The fact is that these cases do matter and do concern everyone, but it’s hard to care when you’re buying new tires multiple times per year because you damaged the old ones on a pothole, or when your kid brings home a history book from 1989, or when you work 60 hours a week and still can't afford basic healthcare coverage (the fact that we're the only developed nation that doesn't have free healthcare is a completely separate issue). Amazon can’t be reigned in by regulation because they can outspend the government in time, fines, lobbying, and any other area that they need to. The government has to answer for their tax money spent (in theory). Amazon only has to answer to shareholders and only one question: “how much more money did you make me this quarter?” They can afford to hire lobbyists who shape the laws – literally – and if they fail that they can always drag the court case into oblivion until it just gets settled.
You Are Part of The Problem
Do you remember when Chris Brown beat Rihanna? When that was still top news and I met people who listened to his music I’d always ask them “don’t have you an issue with him beating up Rihanna?” and without fail they’d always answer “Of course! But I just like his music, I don't support what he did.” Here’s the thing though: it’s impossible in situations like that to benefit without supporting the person in question. Every album purchase, every stream, every shirt purchased, every YouTube view, these are all metrics his managers can use to justify his popularity and book large venues with large payments. Honestly I’d even leverage illegal downloads if I was his booking agent. “They can download a song but they can’t download a concert. Those are potentially paying fans.” The same is true with Amazon. In no way can you give any money to Amazon and NOT be directly contributing to these problems I’ve listed above. Every penny you spend can be directed towards developing new surveillance tech or hiring new sales people to score new government contracts. Every purchase you make says that you’re okay with how things are currently working at Amazon and shows them that you’re willing to spend money there. Even using Alexa is sharing your data, which Amazon then uses to refine their products or serve you more ads (which they get paid for). There is absolutely no way for you to use Amazon that doesn’t tell their shareholders “I’m okay with this. Keep the course.” The only way that we can ever hope to affect change is to force their hand by taking your money elsewhere.
Reality and Next Steps
Look, I’m a realist, okay? I know that sometimes there are things that you absolutely cannot get anywhere else except Amazon (or if you can, it costs significantly more). First off, I’d ask you to weigh your definition of “significantly.” Paying $5 more on a $100 product – especially a luxury you can live without – is not “significant.” Furthermore, depending on your financial situation, paying $5 more on a $20 product may also not be much for you. In these cases, I urge you to take the ethical path and not give into Amazon. It’s worth paying a little extra for a good cause. Having said that, if you must use Amazon, here’s my suggestions: first off, if you already have an account, you’re probably fine to leave it active. Your history will stay there, but frankly if you create a new account, it’s likely to get flagged and suspended or if you do it wrong Amazon will still trace it back to you anyways. Feel free to keep your current account, but go ahead and make sure you use good practices like strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and alias e-mail addresses.
If you’re making a new account, I recommend using a masked email address or an old, already very-publicly exposed email address for credibility purposes (like an old Gmail address). I’ve had good success with buying pre-paid Amazon gift cards in cash at 7-Eleven and using those to make my purchases, however I’ve heard some people have still had their accounts flagged regardless in those situations, so don’t put too much money in right away in case that happens. You can attempt to make new accounts for every purchase (since ideally this should be rare for you anyways), or you can attempt to make one account and just keep topping it up as needed. Michael Bazzell offers more details on what's worked for him on this podcast episode.
Last but not least, I encourage you not only to avoid Amazon itself, but avoid their subsidiaries as using them will still contribute to Amazon’s unethical empire. Unfortunately this includes popular brands like Twitch, Audible, IMDB, GoodReads, Zappos, and over 100 others. I know it’s a lot and it can be hard, but as I outlined before we can’t keep hoping someone else will reign them in. It’s going to take a collective, serious effort to hit them where it hurts (the wallet) and force them to start being a more ethical company.
Prime Day is this week. Please, avoid it. Be the change you want to see in the world. A drop of water alone isn't much, but enough of them together can make an ocean.