I love shopping on Amazon.
But Amazon is a very, very dangerous thing.
Amazon just plain makes buying too easy. Not only does the giant online shopping site offer the “Buy now with 1-Click” feature — meaning that with one little finger twitch you can make your purchase; Amazon simply ships straight to your saved address using your saved credit card information — but the other problem is that you can find anything you can dream up, anything you could ever wish to buy… all only a wiggle of your fingers away, all thanks to Amazon.
Oh, you want a buffalo hide? Amazon sells them. Oh, you want ingredients for a traditional African dish? Amazon will send them, and they can be here in two days if you enroll in Amazon Prime (for the low price of $99, two-day shipping is “free” all year long for Prime members; plus, you get access to the Prime Pantry, through which you can have cartloads of groceries shipped to your front door; and what’s more, through Prime, you have access to online music, books, and movies).
That rare, out-of-print childrens’ book that the library doesn’t carry? You can find it on Amazon — sometimes a used copy for just a penny, though the shipping cost will be $3.98 more than the cost of the book itself. Maybe you forgot to get a birthday gift for the party at the end of the week. No problem — just order it off of Amazon and have it shipped direct to the birthday kid with a gift receipt attached.
Amazon makes it too easy for me to sign my life into somebody’s cyber-hands. I could get the Amazon credit card and save big, even earn money back! OR, through Amazon Family, I could get a 20% discount on diaper subscriptions — and (bonus!) they’d automatically send lots of friendly “offers” on other baby-related products I’ve just got to have. Need more than baby stuff on a regular basis? Try Amazon Subscribe & Save. You simply sign up for Amazon to automatically charge you and ship items to you on a monthly basis — toilet paper, paper towel, laundry detergent, tea bags… the UPS man will bring it all straight to your front door. And the more items you subscribe to, the deeper your discount. Of course, the goods just keep on coming on a regular basis, so before you know it, you’re stockpiled with a 3-year supply of paper towels. But who doesn’t feel better with a 3-year supply of paper towels on hand?
Then there’s the creepy way in which whatever you’ve been browsing on Amazon shows up in an advertisement on your Facebook page. I tell ya, these people are tracking us.
But the scariest part is that I’ve noticed for a while now that “shopping” on Amazon has become a comfort for me. I like to sit down at my computer and ignore my kids for a minute and do some “important” looking online for things we “need.” When I find something that interests me, I just click “Add to Cart,” and I feel wonderful in the aftermath! Even if I don’t make the purchase right away, Amazon will handily save all the items in my cart, so I can always go back later and click on “Proceed to checkout.” That stinking Amazon cart on my computer will regularly be filled with $500 (or more) of junk. The truth is, a lot of that dreamy junk will never fit into our real-life budget… so when the time comes to actually order something we really, truly need from Amazon, I just move a lot of those things to the “Save for later” portion of the site. (Of course, I might manage to sneak in something I WANT — like that book I’ve been pining for — when I order a few things we NEED — like diapers and wipes. Who’s to know?) In the meantime, I tell myself, having all that stuff in my virtual cart is no big deal because I’m not actually going to buy it. (My husband’s fear is that the kids will accidentally-on-purpose press “Buy now with 1-Click” and charge $500 to our card some day… that’s honestly not a concern for me, because would it really be a bad thing if all those things I long to hold and have in my house came in the mail? We could always sell one of the kids to pay for it all, right?)
You know what else? For reasons I can’t explain, just finding a beloved item on Amazon and saving it in the “Save for later” cart is, for me, almost as good as actually buying it. It’s just so fulfilling to fill that bottomless cart up with the things I like. Amazon, I’m ashamed to say, is like an online list of “things” that make me happy. And adding another something to that official list makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something important.
Now, I know this all sounds totally crazy, but let me tell ya, I’ve talked to other mamas and I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who has an Amazon problem. We could start a Stay-at-Home Mom Amazon Addiction support group. We could meet right next door to the Facebook-Borne Insecurities support group. Sigh. Technology. What has it done to us? Turned us into a bunch of blithering idiots addicted to glowing screens. And I — yes, I — have joined the crowd.
Last year I totally overdid on Christmas. I ordered a ton of stuff online — way more stuff, in fact, that my kids really needed. You know, the people who work at Amazon aren’t exactly smart when they ship stuff. Sometimes you’ll get a single measuring cup and a box of diapers packed together in a giant box. Then, the next day, the rest of the measuring cups will come in a second box. Last Christmas, of course, we were living at the VX, 17 miles up a dirt road from Ingomar, which is about 999 miles from civilization itself. Still, the UPS man rolled over frozen, snow-dusted roads to our cow camp almost every single day for the 12 days of Christmas. The kids became very friendly with the UPS man — calling him by name even and watching with excitement for him to come up the road each afternoon with something wonderful in his truck. I made him many Christmas treats (I wonder if he ate them or if he was somewhat afraid of anything the crazy, rural, stay-at-home mom might hand over in a Ziploc bag) and always tried to have some token of appreciation waiting for him when he showed up — because I was feeling a little like I’d abused my privileges. Having somebody else basically do my Christmas shopping for me? Convenient. But this was a little over-the-top, even for me.
So, add social irresponsibility to the possible side effects of Amazon use. Then there’s my checkbook to consider. You bet Amazon is handy, but is it good for the checkbook? Are the so-called savings really there? I’m ashamed to admit it, but the truth is I usually don’t even cost-compare what I buy on Amazon. In an ideal world I would compare Amazon’s prices to other online sites, like Wal-Mart’s and Costco’s. I could even get really organized and compare to similar items purchased right from the real store. (Like, I drive there, I walk in, I walk out carrying the stuff and put it in the vehicle and drive home… whaaaaa?) But I just don’t cost compare at all. I could say it’s because I know that convenience has its price, and as a rural mother of three littles, I’m willing to pay that price.
But the truth is, I’m just lazy. And Amazon is just too easy. Yes, I love Amazon. The trouble is, I’m not sure it’s the most efficient use of our family funds. And the bigger trouble is, I think I might be addicted.
© Tami Blake