May 28, 2018

Amazon Revolutionizes Shopping, But At What Cost

Amazon packages dominate the Gordon College mailroom. Photo by Owen Haworth.

By Shinae Lee ’19
Opinions Editor

I think it’s safe to say that college students like to buy things from Amazon.com, Inc.

If you look inside Gordon’s mailroom, you’ll be surrounded by that all too familiar Amazon arrow. Who doesn’t use Amazon prime these days? And how would college students survive without it?

We can buy everything, and anything, online if we wanted to. Students can buy TVs, groceries, sports equipment, clothes, shoes, books, or even furniture, all at the click of a button or touch of a finger.

Of course, Amazon isn’t the only source of our online shopping, but it’s convenient, popular, affordable, and ingeniously designed to encourage us to buy things that, perhaps, we don’t need.

For example, just look at the deals, such as the lightning sales page. Do you honestly need to get three 5 lb bags of jelly beans? Or a 200 count pack of key rings? And unless it’s for a project or something, why would you need an infrared camera?

That’s not to say that Amazon isn’t great for some things.

There are reliable and affordable electronics, cleaning supplies, kitchen supplies, command hooks, socks, phone chargers, other cords, etc. And the little crossed out prices that tell you how much money and what percent you’re getting off? It’s exciting!

I can buy a $179.59 pair of headphones for $19.84, saving 89%; that’s a solid “A-”. Who wouldn’t want that?

And not every student has a car, or the time to go to the mall or store. So how could we resist two-day shipping?

However, (there’s always a however) we do need to be careful. We don’t always know what we’re going to get, who made it, and how they are treated? Who knows if a particular product or material is safe in the long run? And where is our money going? What about our privacy and security?

If we put too much trust into one thing, we’re taking a large risk. What if something happens to Amazon’s security, and people’s phone numbers, bank account information, home addresses, or any personal information gets into the wrong hands?

I ask these questions because Amazon also owns Zappos, the Washington Post, Whole Foods, and many other companies… meaning that a single company owns and has influence over the things we put in our homes, the clothes we wear, the buildings in our cities, what we see in the media, and the food we put in our bodies.

Consider Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.com, Inc. He currently has a net worth of 120.5 billion dollars, or $120,500,000,000.00 (according to Forbes.com). That’s a lot of zeros, and a lot of power and influence, for one person, connected to so many aspects of our daily lives.

What will happen to small businesses faced with this competition? Local shops, bakeries, pet stores, specialty food stores, record shops, art supply stores, farmers markets, local newspapers?

When I go to the local shops in my area, it’s an experience just to walk inside a building where people put a lot of effort into making the store look nice and to hear the bell ring as the door opens.

There are unique items that you can’t find anywhere else, and to see up close or hold the products in your own hands. And there are other people in the store to help you (and if they’re cute, maybe flirt with). The cashier will even look you in the eyes and ask if you want a receipt. This is a much different experience from that of Amazon, and it has a different purpose other than quickly buying something on our phones.

This is what we miss when we shop exclusively online.

But this is not about if Amazon is good or bad. This is about you; the individual choices you get to make every day, and how you have control over where your money goes.

I hear so many people pick up their Amazon boxes, saying, “I don’t even know what this is.” Is that healthy?

As always, I want us to challenge what we think we know, push each other to look at our actions and encourage each other to have open minds to try new things.

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