By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Maybe it’s time that we all just said no to Amazon

Amazon warehouse. Photo (cc) 2015 by Scott Lewis.

We buy a fair amount of stuff from Amazon. I try to patronize local, independent businesses whenever possible, but I didn’t think there was a huge difference between buying from Amazon and buying from a big-box store. In fact, I’ve refused to set foot in a Walmart for many years.

This story in Vice News has shaken those beliefs. Lauren Kaori Gurley writes:

On January 25, hundreds of workers at an Amazon warehouse in Chicago were presented with a baffling choice: sign up for a ten-and-a-half-hour graveyard shift, or lose your job.

And apparently that’s the way it’s going to be across the company. People can’t live that way. Yes, I’m very familiar with stories about the difficult working conditions in Amazon’s warehouses, but the new policy goes well beyond that. This is unimaginably cruel, and it conjures up the sweatshops of the pre-Progressive era. It ought to be outlawed. Can’t we wait another day or two for our stuff?

Meanwhile, I’m cutting way back on Amazon.


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  1. MagellanNH

    I really hate to defend amazon. You can often buy products they sell for less from ebay or other sellers. Also, I do worry about their market power over both consumers and employees.

    However, over the years I’ve found articles like this are often just hit pieces with an obvious anti-amazon or anti-bezos tone that’s hard to miss.

    One clue in this article is that it doesn’t offer any context on whether working conditions at Amazon warehouses are different from conditions at other warehouses. Also, it doesn’t have any quotes from workers or experts about potential benefits of these longer shifts like 3 days off for ever 4 on and also reduced weekly commuting time.

    So off to google I go and not surprisingly, I find a posting from a Target worker complaining about their minimum 10-12 hour warehouse shifts

    More googling led to articles in specialized logistics and warehousing trade publications talking up the benefits of moving to 10 or even 12 hour shifts now that many warehouses are running 24/7 instead of just 40 hours a week. Maybe these are all Amazon funded articles trying to make them not seem like monsters, but I doubt it.

    Before I get upset with Amazon about this, I’d need to see evidence that Amazon is an outlier and not just following the latest industry best practices. Of course, it’s fine to criticize any employment practices that have bad consequences for employees, but if many firms in an industry are doing something, one firm shouldn’t be singled out.

    • Ilex W.

      I agree: what we need in this country is another real labor movement that improves workers’ lives across the board, not just well-intentioned boycotting of companies that get publicity for their abusive practices while others do the exact same without getting attention for it. Labor rights are rock bottom right now.

      That said, I occasionally get stuck buying books from an Amazon subsidiary like ABE or Book Depository because I can’t find them anywhere else, but I haven’t had an Amazon account for nearly 20 years now, and survive just fine without them. And every time I order something online, no matter who from, I do wonder about what conditions those warehouse employees are working under.

      We all need to consider the harm we’re allowing to be done to the people who work for our convenience under current labor laws.

  2. nahantjim

    I wanted to buy Eddie Baur lined pants to wear when walking in the winter. I checked out Amazon…$64. Then I checked Costco…$32.

    Costco doesn’t carry the immense variety of goods that Amazon does.,.,but it sometimes offers significant savings.

  3. Deborah Nam-Krane

    Please say no as much as you can. I don’t buy from their site, and I don’t sell on their site. (For the record, I don’t go to Walmart, either, and I cringe every time I set foot in a Target.) I do patronize Whole Foods reluctantly, but in large part because they’re the closest grocery store to my home, and the local version has terrible customer service. But every time I look at the WF employees, I think about what’s going on in the back of the store and shudder.

    I’m not sure why “everyone else is doing it, so it’s okay” is a good argument. Of course it’s a problem if other companies are using the same practices, and shocking that it’s legal. Yes, let’s use our power as consumers, but let’s also use our power as citizens and tell our representatives and senators that this is unacceptable.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Good Lord, Deborah. How do you feed and clothe your family? There are no locally owned options for many of the things we need. We do most of our food shopping at Market Basket and Wegmans, but Whole Foods is essential for at least a few specialty items. As for everything else, you’ve pretty much got to pick at least one among Target, Walmart and Amazon.

      • Deborah Nam-Krane

        I have only teenage boys at home now, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. I’m lucky I can get them to put a tee-shirt on most days; pants are usually considered optional. Clothing is really not a problem right now. (More seriously, my husband and I get a lot of clothing at thrift shops; don’t worry, I am not going to make a blanket recommendation that everyone should do the same.) We do manage to order all kinds of stupid consumer items without Amazon; please know there’s always a way to do that.

        I buy books from Barnes & Noble because the local bookstores around me are doing just fine but B&N is the one that seems to be in constant threat of shutting down.

        Food is the big issue if you’re trying to be a perfect, ethical consumer. We live near a bunch of bodegas (there was a big funding push in MA a few years ago, and a lot of them have good options even for specialty items like soy milk, tofu, and gluten free pasta.) I also try to by from farmer’s markets…when it’s not an absolute pain the neck to get to the markets and wait in line. Love Boston Public Market, though their prices are sometimes gasp-worthy. And I love Haymarket, because I’m old-school. I do really like Market Basket, but the one closest to us in Somerville requires a little of a sporting mentality and a *plan*. And then there’s Wegman’s…But what is the right balance between finding the variety your family needs, minimizing driving, respecting labor rights, supporting the local economy, and minimizing consumer waste? If anyone actually has an answer, please let me know!

        My family has so many options, it’s almost embarrassing, and I appreciate that others do not. But if you do, try to exercise them when you can.


    • Dan Kennedy

      The parking lot at the Somerville Market Basket is a nightmare, yes. The one in Burlington is a straight shot for us. I agree with you about Barnes & Noble, and in fact we almost never buy books from Amazon — ironically, it seems like the one item for which there are still lots of other options.

      • Deborah Nam-Krane

        “ironically, it seems like the one item for which there are still lots of other options.”

        And thank goodness!

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