I will confess to being an avid Amazon Prime user. Like eating meat and Tweeting whatever thought comes to my head, I know for a fact that society would benefit from me abstaining from my habit, but I just can’t seem to stop. When you cannot see the unintended consequences of your online purchases for yourself, it’s almost too easy to rationalize them.
Services like Prime are especially tempting for college students. In this day and age, we like our purchases cheap and delivered to our doorstep in two days. As a society, we should be more mindful of the unintended consequences of our online shopping habits.
The Verge reported in April of 2018 that Amazon Prime has over 100 million users. This was the first time CEO Jeff Bezos disclosed the service’s subscriber count, and he also shared that Prime shipped over five billion products in 2017 and had its highest number of new subscribers in the 13 years that Prime has been available. We are delivered what we want when we want it without having to lift a finger, but it comes at a cost.
Unfortunately, in this case, the cost is the well-being of Amazon employees. In 2015, The New York Times published a report on the workplace environment after interviewing 100 Amazon employees, describing deeply competitive and cutthroat management practices. Reporting your coworkers is encouraged, and long days and nights are expected. Employee Bo Olsen even reported that “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” Those working in desk jobs with the company, involved with business metrics or software development, have since reported less-than-ideal working conditions through various outlets in support of the article. Bezos renounced the reported practices.
When we crave speed, the company has to move faster than our primal brains and anticipate our wants. We do not consider the price.
These conditions pale in comparison to how Amazon treats its employees that are not paid a high salary.
James Bloodworth experienced the ‘Zon in full force, going incognito and working in a warehouse to research his book “Hired: Six Months in Low-Wage Britain.” Ironically, you can purchase the book on Amazon. Mental health in the distribution warehouses seems comparable to mental health in the Amazon office, with 55 percent of low-wage workers reporting experiencing depression during their stint with the company. Bloodworth reported workers using bottles on the warehouse floor because the toilet was far away and they didn’t want to be chastised for loitering or taking an unscheduled break.
Corporate culture focused on speed obviously leads to dangerous and unhealthy business practices. Bezos is the richest man in the world. It doesn’t make sense for him to invest in better conditions because the current climate is contributing to his massive net worth. Ridiculously, the ball is in our court. As difficult as it is, it is worth our time and energy in this increasingly capitalist society to reduce our Prime consumption for our sake, for the sake of those employed by Bezos, for the sake of the environment, and as a good unintended consequence, for the sake of our wallets.
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