American consumers are just plain easy. We talk a lot about hating greed but seem reluctant to play hard to get with amazonian entities that want to — cue maniacal laughter here — rule the world.
And on the topic of gargantuan businesses, take Amazon, please. Not satisfied with obliterating nearly every local book emporium in America, they are now going after all other retailers, until there is only — Amazon.
You can't blame them. That's what empires do, whether they're countries or companies. But we don't have to line up for this march to monopoly. We have the power of the purse and can exercise it by refusing to participate in this greed machine. It is no secret that small, local companies are the real job creators, and instead of all the money going to a handful of guys at the top of a corporation that may not even pay taxes, shopping locally keeps the money in the pockets of your neighbors.
We already know this economic fact, but in the dim light of our favorite tech device late at night, it's hard to resist the overtures of enormous retailers. Buy me, they whisper, and we'll ship your stuff for free. Just lie there on the couch, they coo, and we'll even bring it to your door. Before you know it, your wallet's out and they've got your (credit card) number.
Do we really want to be that easy?
After Amazon is through with us, what do you think they'll do with prices once they have effectively become our only online option?
The free market isn't very free when there is no competition. If Americans think goods are so expensive now that we will sell out for slightly more than the price of a fancy cup of coffee, try living in a world where we can have any item we want — so long as we're rich. The communist oligarchs in Russia were small-time compared to multinational corporations like Amazon.
So this year, as the annual shopping season approaches, instead of just showing up at whatever store has the lowest price and the glitziest advertising, shop strategically and spread some love around to local merchants and the labor force they employ. Yes, Independence Day is behind us, but we can still do something patriotic: pull out our smart phones and use them to look up the phone number and address of a local merchant and text it to our friends. Suggest that they buy the book or whatever from them instead of Amazon.
We will probably pay a bit more for the items, but we won't pay shipping. And no, Amazon's "free" shipping isn't — it's just not delineated on a separate line. Besides, having a smart phone means we're not poor. And if we want the rest of America to have a fighting chance to dodge the poverty that we seem to be avoiding, the few extra dollars we spend today will benefit us in the long run.
So, let's make a pledge to stop being such cheap conquests. Let's flirt with our independent bookseller or other merchant. Go ahead, give them our phone number. That way, they can call us when the item comes in. The sales associate will be glad to see us, and no tech device or website in the world can personally greet us. To paraphrase the country song, lonely merchants make good lovers.
Yes, we will actually have to get off the couch to pick up our stuff from the store, but didn't our mothers tell us to turn off the TV and go outside? Besides, lounging in our jammies while bathed in the seductive light of Amazon's home page means that we have zero chance of meeting our soul mate or a new friend in the checkout line. Not to mention that it gives us an opportunity to see if we like the same books, which is a great way to get to know someone.
Best of all, we won't hate ourselves in the morning.
Ruth Ogles Johnson is a frequent Flyer contributor.