I notice that many folks I know tend to set unrealistic expectations for themselves when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions. And while I love the enthusiasm, I personally prefer to set smaller, more attainable goals for myself. At the end of 2019, I decided I wanted to boycott billionaires in 2020. Most importantly, the 1% of the 1%, like Jeff Bezos.
Here’s what I’ve learned and how I’ve managed to live comfortably without Amazon delivery during the coronavirus pandemic.
Why Boycott Billionaires?
Income inequality refers to the increasing disparity between the wealthiest and poorest members of a society. And while some variance in salaries is sensical, drastic income inequality fosters boundaries to adequate education and healthcare, causes higher levels of consumer debt, and puts the most economically vulnerable at risk for financial crises in general. For example, this article demonstrates that some 40% of American’s cannot afford a $400.00 emergency.
I first started paying more attention to the power of my dollars when I learned of the ubiquity of animal testing years ago. Heartbroken, I spent weeks researching cruelty-free and vegan alternatives. And unsurprisingly, I found that many conventional brands (which are tested on animals) are owned by giant conglomerates, which further perpetuates the problem. Corporate consolidation—when large and powerful corporations buy the rights to small, independent brands—not only works to funnel money to the wealthiest in a society. But it hinders our consumer rights to choose where our money goes. John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight has an episode detailing why corporate consolidation is so problematic.
But corporate consolidation is only one problem exacerbating income inequality. Jeff Bezos has increasingly adopted vertical integration in Amazon’s business model. Vertical integration refers to the company’s complete control of two or more stages in a product cycle. In the case of Amazon, the company started out selling books for third-party publishing companies. This model relied on the third-party to both publish and transport the book to the consumer. However, Amazon now publishes their own books and has taken control of all deliveries. By controlling both the means of production, the good, and the transit, Amazon has effectively choked out competition. And keep in mind, corporate consolidation, vertical integration, and forward integration (Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, for example) are only possible for entities who already possess massive concentrations of wealth. This creates an un-level playing field for small business owners who aim to make an honest living they can feel proud of.
Further, billionaires are bad for the economy in general. The more disposable income someone has, the more likely they are to keep that money in savings. Please don’t misunderstand me—having a savings account is great. But when exorbitant amounts of money are stagnant, as with the case with billionaires, that money isn’t stimulating the economy. The money is being hoarded. Billionaires only need so many material possessions. And I think it is important to remind ourselves that we cannot rely on their spending—or charity, for that matter—to keep the economy afloat.
And these problems, like so many we currently face today, feel insurmountable. I personally have friends and family that acknowledge how problematic these systems are, yet they continue to “buy in.” Because they feel that their individual choices can’t really make a difference, the cycle continues. But I aim to remind everyone that these producers are supplying a demand. A perfect example of this is the increasing availability of plant-based foods. We are seeing this shift occur because producers take note when consumer preferences change.
All that to say, if enough of us vote with our dollar, we can stimulate change.
How I Quit Amazon
I used to buy quite a few of my staple items from Amazon, as they were a bit cheaper on Amazon than at the natural-food store I frequent. In fact, Amazon gave me access to things I didn’t think I could find otherwise. (Vegan white chocolate baking bars, for example.) And I did love Amazon’s book prices.
But I knew in my heart that to sleep well at night, I needed to feel good about where my money was going. So, I made my last Amazon order and trip to Whole Foods in December of 2019. I suppose you could say I “kissed” it goodbye.
For the first two months, not using Amazon wasn’t an issue at all. I simply bought the goods I was accustomed to purchasing on Amazon from the natural-food store. As for books, I started going exclusively to an indie book shop in my hometown. The most difficult part was that some things were marginally more costly. But I wish to liken this to buying organic food. I am willing to pay a bit more to feel better about my purchase. It has simply taken some getting used to and some mindful planning.
When the coronavirus and lockdown restrictions hit in mid-March, I did have an “omg” moment. “Who will deliver my provisions?!” But it hasn’t been difficult at all!
For groceries, Instacart is a lifesaver. Instacart is the only delivery service that works with the natural-food store I frequent, but there are other delivery services available. (I’m sure you all know that by now!)
For books, as I’ve mentioned, I like to shop indie bookstores. (Ask for delivery or curb-side pick-up.)
For household products, (lint rollers, light bulbs, vacuum filters, you get it) I order directly from the manufacturer. Example: For filters for my iRobot Roomba, I order from the official website. This was definitely the biggest adjustment I had to make when I first quit Amazon and stayed home. But to be honest, I only had to “adjust” due to how accustomed I had become to being able to order pretty much everything in one place. Now, it feels quite normal. Appropriate, even.
My decision to move away from Amazon and boycott billionaires is a highly personal one. And everyone has the right to choose for themselves. But I do hope this article has helped demonstrate that life can be delivered to your front porch whether you shop Amazon or not.
How do you feel about billionaires?
Also by R. Coker: Why Afrofuturism Can Help Us All Right Now—An Intro To Artivism
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Photo: Micheile Henderson via Unsplash