Why it’s imperative to continually examine companies like Amazon and become conscious consumers
Cam Loeschmann // Contributor
I’m sure that no one needs to be preached to about the sins of Amazon. Unless you have been living under a rock, their human rights abuses are no secret. Warehouses from China to Australia to the US are affected by working conditions that have been described as a “hellscape,” featuring timed bathroom breaks, fear of unemployment, and workers being silenced when they have the audacity to speak out. Have you used Goodreads, IMDb, or Audible lately? Or shopped at Whole Foods, or read something on the Washington Post? Well, if you at any point made a commitment to limit what portion of your paycheck goes to Jeff Bezos’s ten millionth yacht, you have failed.
It takes a certain kind of privilege to be able to boycott Amazon, however. Vancouver is a paradise of capitalism, where Amazon is unnecessary for me to have a good quality of life. When I was a closeted teenager in a small town hiding a chest binder from my mother, I ordered one online. Here you can buy them in stores like Little Sister’s on Davie. I have never been a student who needed to order textbooks on Amazon to get through my classes. I have no problems with mobility or social anxiety that would require my basic necessities to be shipped to my door. I am also not yet desperate enough to get Amazon Prime so that I can watch the Good Omens TV series, no matter how good the fanart is and how much I want to get in on it. Will I get Prime one day? It depends. Do they have a free trial so I can slam through Good Omens and then cancel it before I owe them money?
So does this make me a paragon of leftist virtue? Oh, definitely. Except that by slapping a sticker on our morals and shouting: “capitalism is dead because I say so!” we are ignoring the larger issues at play. In 2018 Amazon spent $14.2 million USD on lobbying government entities, a record high for the company. They spent $14.2 million more than they paid in federal taxes. Alongside companies like Google and Facebook, Amazon paid to lobby for issues of security, immigration, and the US Postal Service. Together they paid over $65 million USD.
Where does this leave us? What can we do to stop the monopoly Jeff Bezos has over all of our lives? Are we doomed to having alerts set on our phone whenever Amazon buys our favourite companies? Well, aside from pirating Good Omens, supporting small businesses and public libraries is a good way to be a thorn in Jeff’s side. The most important thing, however, is not something that can be done on an individual level or even a community level.
Amazon thrives on the way that it controls information. If we do not see the modern slaves when their Twitter pages are shut down, if we do not see the back room deals that get made with some of the biggest government and corporate powers of our time, then they do not exist. The only way to break out of this Truman Show-esque nightmare is to talk about it. Keep at the forefront of our minds the tax bills, the articles criticizing the US Democratic Party that come from the Washington Post, and the way that Amazon’s online bookselling drove an entire industry underground. Do not let them get away with it.
Maybe I will bow down to the temptations of Amazon Prime one day, but one individual spending or not spending money is hardly enough to shake down Jeff’s empire. All we can do is keep talking about it, keep reminding ourselves of the modern day slavery that happens where corporations don’t want us to look, and make conscious consumer efforts that can help small businesses. But if the only way to afford textbooks is used on Amazon, then that is just the way the capitalist cookie crumbles.