This post is for you if, like me, you’re trying to spend less at Amazon.
That’s how much money I spent on Amazon.co.uk last year. Plus $66 on Amazon.com for a really cool popcorn bowl that lets you pop corn in the microwave in two minutes, and $100 for some Sephora cosmetics.
It’s scary how it adds up. And it’s frankly terrifying what I spent it on – £250 on multiple pairs of Converse, and £1500 on electronics of various sorts – a new camera body, a tablet for my Mum, a new mobile phone, another new mobile phone to replace the first mobile when I left it on a plane, £70 for a spare mobile when I realised I needed a second handset that wasn’t linked to work…
Some of it was fairly random. Automated cat feeder – £37.90 (surely it must be cheaper to train cats to open tins). Then there was a new guitar and guitar stand, a life jacket, a mug shaped like the Tardis and – why not? – a box of grits. As you do. Amazon was my go-to store for all sorts of things.
Somewhere before Christmas, though, I started to wonder if it wasn’t time to wean myself off Amazon.
I was always slightly uncomfortable with the derisory amount of tax that Amazon gets away with paying in the UK. Then I started reading articles about the way Amazon runs its fulfilment centres, the lack of employment rights and benefits – or even contracts. I chatted with friends who run independent businesses and they told me about the pressures of trying to compete with Amazon – and the equally tough pressures of selling product through the site.
And so this made me wonder about spending less on Amazon.
First, by the time Flea grows up, Amazon could be pretty much selling everything we need. That means more fulfilment centres, and fewer real world shops and websites that employ people and pay benefits, and tax, and all that good stuff. A healthy, diverse retail economy is important.
It’s not about saying NEVER shop at Amazon. It’s about saying let’s shop at Amazon when there isn’t a local, physical, independent or socially conscious alternative.
It’s not something me or my friends have really talked about a lot. Some friends haven’t read the newspaper articles or seen the TV programmes. Some of them said that Amazon tends to be cheaper than other retailers, and so they have to go to Amazon, on that basis.
I’m never one to let everyone disagreeing with me stop me from doing something, so I decided that, wherever possible, in 2014 I would mix it up. To try more often to locally, or buy online from an independent retailer, or a retailer that I know contributes to the broader economy.
So what happened?
Well, it’s certainly not impossible. I’ve gone from virtual Amazon junkie to not spending much money there at all. I’m lucky to live in a town that has incredible local shopping. I can pretty much buy most of what we need and want within a 5 minute walk of my house. But sometimes I do need to buy online.
My first challenge – I dropped my camera and urgently needed a replacement lens – usually something I’d have picked up at Amazon. But I found the lens I wanted on Jessops’ website (although it was £8 more than the same item on Amazon).
With a new lens I needed a new camera bag – again, something I’d typically buy at Amazon, but I bought from Camera King for £9 less than the same product on Amazon, and I got great delivery, including emails from Royal Mail when the bag was out for delivery. I felt like this cancelled out the more expensive lens!
Next up – we’ve booked a trip to California this summer, and I wanted to get some detailed road maps and guides to the area – I found the exact maps and books I wanted on both Waterstones and WHSmith, but the price on WHSmith was £5 cheaper than Amazon. SCORE!
The biggest test, though, was buying a wall decoration. I found a decal of one of my favourite EVER quotes on Amazon.com – I’ve had an eye out for something just like this for several years, with a view to putting it on my bedroom wall. But is this the sort of thing better bought through Amazon?
I did some Googling to find the original retailer, and went to them direct. This guy wouldn’t ship to the UK, no matter how nicely I asked. What to do?
I asked a friend in the US to accept delivery of the decal then post it on to me. This added a week to the delivery process, but in the grand scheme of things, no big deal – and buying direct saved me $15, which covered the additional postage cost. Although buying direct meant I was tempted into buying a second decal for the new kitchen, when it’s finished, so…
So one month in, I’ve managed to spend just £20 on Amazon, sending a gift to my Mum. One of the things that’s sometimes hard to do on other websites is have items gift wrapped and sent direct to the recipient.
It’s interesting to find that, overall, shopping off-Amazon hasn’t cost me more. Although the £79 I spent for Prime looks more expensive when I’m not using so many deliveries.
What about you – could you shop without Amazon? Do you?