I see the trucks every day cruising up and down the streets of my condo complex. Identified on their sides by the word Prime and the Amazon smirk, they deliver goods to my neighbors.
On any road trip anywhere, I encounter Amazon trucks making their delivery runs. Those runs don’t seem to be well organized. If they were, the deliveries would come twice a day or so. But Amazon trucks are ubiquitous, running around all day, any day.
They do not often come to my house.
Shopping from Boredom
During last year’s Covid-19 lockdown, Amazon trucks buzzed around the entire country like bees in my garden. Orders went up 220 percent as stores closed and people bought goods online instead of going out.
Online shopping replaced all the busy things that once filled up whole days. It was fun and made them feel better. Also, expecting a delivery gave house-bound folks something to look forward to. “Has the truck come yet?” “Is that the truck?” “Has it stopped here?” “Is that box my thing or your thing?”
I avoided that trap because I’m always busy right here at home. Between writing novels, short stories, and blog posts, I have plenty to do just sitting at my computer. And when I get tired of sitting, I can always do laundry, clean up the kitchen, work in my garden (seasonal), organize the pantry, bake, make dinner, etc. You get the picture.
There are other reasons why I don’t order much from Amazon, though, and seven of them have nothing to do with pandemics or boredom or even Jeff Bezos’s sub-orbital ego trip. Here are all eight.
Touchy, Feely, Happy
First, I like to see and possibly touch what I’m buying. Yes, those beautiful photos in the catalogs and on websites seem appealing but somehow the real thing often disappoints. It’s bigger or smaller, the color is darker or lighter, the dimensions are off, or something else makes the object that appears on my porch not quite what I wanted. Sometimes it arrives scratched, dented, or in pieces because of poor handling.
When I can see what I’m buying, I know that I’m getting what I want. Before I leave the store, I can check to make sure it’s the night size and not cut or scratched or broken. Sure, to do this I had to wait until things opened up again. With the exception of food and medicine, however, there were few things I absolutely had to have. After all, we weren’t going anywhere.
Support Small Business
Second, I prefer to support my local merchants. These folks prop up youth sports and fundraising events, spend their money in the community, and pay local taxes. They also know who I am and what I want to buy. Local merchants are friendly and helpful. They will special-order something I want that may not be in stock. Or go into the back room to see if they can find it.
Third, by shopping locally I can bundle all my errands into one trip. Anyone who is organized doesn’t waste time and gas buzzing around multiple times a day. You go out, run three or four errands, and come home again. Done.
Over Packaging / Under Recycling
Fourth, I can shop without excess packaging. Re-usable shopping bags come with me to the supermarket and I often carry a purchase home in my very own hands with no bag needed.
Amazon orders, on the other hand, arrive consistently over-packaged. Boxes get put inside larger boxes and surrounded by Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap or plastic pillows. Then there’s tape and labels. One order generates a lot of trash, most of which is non-recyclable. Only the cardboard meets the recycling criteria while the rest goes in the trash—often to a landfill.
Stifling the Porch Pirates
Fifth, it’s more secure. Porch pirates get nothing from me. I have seen Amazon boxes left out by mailboxes where it’s easy for anyone to just stop by the side of the road and scoop them up. Even when Amazon drops them on the porch, these smiling boxes sit right out there where anyone can see them and, possibly, help themselves.
The internet is full of videos taken by doorbell cameras and even neighbors of the thieves helping themselves to someone else’s order. Sometimes, thieves even follow the delivery truck and hit houses that look unoccupied. The thefts are so brazen that Amazon customers have come up with ingenious ways of stumping thieves or getting their revenge on them. These run from creating exploding packages to yelling at porch pirates over smart doorbells.
My porch remains free of temptation for thieves and pirates. The goods come home with me and they stay with me. The only things on my porch are flower pots and chairs.
Sixth, I save money. Ordering from Amazon is so quick and easy that you can spend money before you even realize how much has left your account. Then there are the shipping costs. Wow. Those can really add up, especially if you’re ordering something perishable. I once sent two lobsters as a birthday present and the shipping cost more than the live Homarus Americanus.
Sure, it costs money for me to go out in the car. And it takes time to do it. Both of those can act as reasons to think twice about whether I really need that item or am just making myself feel better short-term.
Getting Rid of Stuff
Seventh, we’re at the phase of life when we’d rather get rid of stuff than acquire it. The kids are grown and we have all the things we need. Anything else we acquire replaces something that has worn out, broken, or ceased to function.
Besides, we would rather spend our disposable income on travel (assuming that becomes safe again) rather than stuffing our house with inanimate objects. We can enjoy the travel but our kids will have to clean out the house when we’re gone. I did that for my father and we emptied my MIL’s apartment. I wouldn’t wish that task on anyone, much less my kids and grandchildren.
Bezos Doesn’t Need It
Eighth, Jeff Bezos doesn’t need my money and I don’t need to put any more money in his wallet. He’s already the richest man in the world with a net worth of $177 billion. I might feel different if Mr. Bezos used his money to do something positive for the world, wildlife, the climate, or his fellow human beings.
Instead, he spends it to improve the life of Jeff Bezos. I don’t want to help him with that selfish effort.
Convenience Ain’t Everything
Those are the eight reasons I can think of right away. There may be more. In the meantime, I will buy what I need when I need it, mask up to buy it from local businesses, keep boxes off my porch and add nothing more to America’s already overloaded waste stream.
Convenience ain’t everything, folks. Just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should do it. I might feel differently if I were still working full time and personal time was a scarce commodity. I remember well the days when all family business got crammed into the weekends. The siren song of Amazon might have sounded more attractive then.
But this is now, and I have the time. I can even shop during the week when stores are largely empty. That’s both a privilege and a gift.
You can still put some thought into what you consume, when you buy it and from where. The fewer boxes that land on your porch, the more your local shops and markets will prosper—and appreciate your business. Besides, the porch pirates will have to look elsewhere for their booty.