Taking Inventory of Online Spending: 6 Reasons To Skip Amazon

Amazon is the world’s biggest online retailer, with over 200 million Prime subscribers as of April 2021. The second-largest company in the world (Walmart is still No. 1), Amazon saw a 38% revenue growth in 2020 and raked in $21.3 billion in profit off of upward of $386 billion in sales. With growth like that, one wonders: “Can Amazon ever slow down?” 

Read: 15 Times You Should Splurge, Settle or Skip When Shopping
Shopping: 23 Secret Ways To Save Money on Amazon

That’s for consumers to decide, and honestly, they have good cause to pump the brakes. Amazon isn’t always the best shopping platform for a variety of reasons. GOBankingRates talked with business experts to learn when and why shoppers should veer away from Amazon and give their money to another company. 

This advice is especially applicable to Gen Z consumers, who are obsessed with digital convenience, but also deeply ethical — devoted to seeing a cleaner, healthier planet as the wrath of climate change intensifies

Amazon’s Shipping Logistics Are Destructive

Paul Moody, logistics expert and founder of ProMoverReviews points out that when it comes to shipping, Amazon’s practices are taking their toll on the environment, and the labor industry at large. 

Make Your Money Work for You

“Most US Amazon deliveries are made within four to five days of purchase, which is still lighting quick in the logistics industry,” Moody told GOBankingRates. “These two-day, one-day and even same-day shipping and delivery logistics come at a steep labor and environmental cost. That’s especially true when you factor in same-day or one-day delivery orders of single-use disposable items, which require more expedited labor and logistics resources yet don’t make up the difference in actual product lifespans. 

“Amazon makes its environmental and labor toll worse with its recent moves to eliminate minimum purchasing rules,” Moody continued. “Before, you had to make a $25-dollar transaction minimum in order to qualify for its shorter delivery timelines. As recently as last year though, Amazon has been rewriting its minimum purchasing requirements. I fear this will only incentivize people to pick these hyper-quick delivery timelines with the steepest environmental costs.” 

Amazon’s Perks Are Far From Free — and Can Lead To Overspending

Everybody loves Amazon’s rapid (and detrimental) free shipping and returns, but they tend to forget they’re paying for this as Prime subscribers. Or, did you forget that you signed up for that “free” trial? 

Prime members pay $12.99 a month or $119 a year — plus taxes

“Although it may seem to make sense that you pay a fee to access free deliveries and television shows, is this actually such a good thing?” said Baruch Silvermann, CEO and founder of The Smart Investor. “When you have free delivery, you may fool yourself into thinking why not make an impulse purchase, after all, it’s free shipping. Unfortunately, this can add to unnecessary spending.”

Silvermann points to Amazon’s expert ability to drive consumers to buy more than they may have intended to when hopping on the site. 

“Amazon makes it very easy to quickly make purchases,” Silvermann said. “You can store your card information, so you don’t even need to pull out your wallet to buy something. In fact, if you use Amazon Alexa, you don’t even need to open up your laptop. This means that you may not realize exactly how much you’re spending with Amazon until you check your monthly bank statement.”

Make Your Money Work for You

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Amazon Is Drowning the Oceans in Plastic

“Unfortunately when it comes to reducing its single-use plastic packaging, Amazon is falling short, and this is having a devastating impact on our oceans,” said Matt Littlejohn, SVP for strategic initiatives executive committee at Oceana. “Our research estimates that the equivalent of a delivery van load of Amazon plastic packaging ended up in our oceans every 70 minutes in 2019. And that figure, given Amazon’s rapid growth, looks to be even worse for 2020. Amazon shoppers overwhelmingly want the company to take action to reduce single-use plastic and many of Amazon’s most important younger customers — 92% of its youngest, wealthier customers  — want it most of all.”

Amazon Is Endangering Bookstores

Shopping for your next book? It’s tempting to buy from Amazon because they usually offer slight discounts on new titles. But buyer beware: this is killing independent bookstores. 

“We are fighting against a current of consolidation and monopoly power that makes it difficult for small, local businesses like bookstores to be sustainable,” said Andy Hunter, CEO and founder of Bookshop.org. “But human happiness is found through the meaning and community that places like bookstores offer, and corporate behemoths do not. I started Bookshop.org to help local independent bookstores compete with Amazon online. We make it just as easy to buy books as on Amazon, and we ship fast too — so book lovers don’t have to make sacrifices when they shop according to their values.”

Amazon Hurts Small Businesses — and Has a Rep for Treating Employees Horribly

It’s not just indie bookstores that Amazon is threatening, it’s small businesses in general. 

“Amazon is a massive global entity, so it is not only making it more difficult for smaller local businesses to survive, but it also has a reputation for treating its workers unfairly,” said Silvermann. “This means that while you may enjoy your purchases, they may not be the most ethical choice as you’re supporting a company that pays very little tax yet competes with tax paying local businesses in your area.”

See: Supermarket Buys That Are a Waste of Money

There’s Almost Always an Alternative

Unless you’re shopping for a product made by Amazon (like an Alexa device, for example), you can find whatever you’re looking to buy directly from a small business, or from a platform like Bookshop.org, which works with indie establishments.  “There are a lot of other e-commerce websites out there like Thrive Market or Hive which better support small businesses,” said Elisa Bender, co-founder RevenueGeeks. “Gen Z shoppers should shift to buying directly from these small businesses instead to better support them.”

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Last updated: Sept. 14, 2021

About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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