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 2 minutes.
It’s scary how it adds up. And it’s frankly terrifying what I spent it on – £250 on 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 appalled by 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.
Then I read this blog post – and there were a couple of things in it that really, really hit home for me.
First, what sort of employment landscape do I want my daughter to enter as an adult? Because by that time, 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.
Second, where do you draw the line? What was I waiting to hear that would be enough for me to stop lending them my support? When I look at it, honestly, hasn’t the line already been crossed?
I asked friends whether they felt like me. And to be fair – most of them didn’t. Some hadn’t read the newspaper articles or seen the TV programmes. Some of them had but said that Amazon tends to be cheaper than other retailers, and so they have to go to Amazon, even if they’d rather not…
Luckily, 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 shop locally, and if that wasn’t possible, I would buy online from an independent retailer, or a retailer that employs people fairly, and pays taxes in the UK.
So what happened?
Well, it’s certainly not impossible. I’ve gone from virtual Amazon junkie to not spending 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 at just £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. Perfect!
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 how to get it without going 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?
In the end, 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, have I missed Amazon? Not so far.
I don’t intend to preach to anyone else, this really is just an experiment for me based on my feelings about the way Amazon conducts its business. But it’s interesting to find that, overall, shopping off-Amazon hasn’t cost me more, and if delivery is sometimes slower, that’s okay considering I’m saving £50 a year not paying for Amazon’s Prime service.
What about you – could you shop without Amazon? Do you?