I’ve been trying to pinpoint the exact moment in time when shopping for items became a meditation on Conscience and Responsibility. Not that the timing matters very much, compared to the actual Fact of this shift in reality. While I’m not a completely shameless consumer, my Prime membership is pushing me closer to that precipice.
A couple of days ago I bought a pair of shoes (a blue “vegan” suede, as it happens) online from a company I’d never heard of. In the Checking-out process I noticed that I had the “option” of Amazon-Pay. Lately I’ve felt like Amazon is crowding me a bit: so ubiquitous that it’s almost creepy. So I skipped this payment method, feeling smug. But wait – there’s more: when the shoes arrived they were in the unmistakable “smile” bag of this nefarious company. What the…?? Bypassing this annoyance for a minute, I tried the blue vegan wonders on and instantly realized they were too small. Back you go, Cuteness. To Amazon. Which now, by the way, allows me to take the shoes, sans box or bag or wrapping to any UPS – and UPS takes care of everything for me. I hope I’m not the only one that finds this unsettling and weird.
Returning to what I’m now thinking of as Shopping Seduction: Who doesn’t like 2-day shipping and a totally indulgent Return process? But recently I saw an exposé (was it Vice News? I can’t remember) about working-conditions at this company. Am I going to thumb-my-nose at this story, disregarding the unfortunate Pickers (Fulfillment Center employees) who’re on their feet almost non-stop to meet impossible quotas, not risking bathroom breaks when they need one, for fear of being written-up by Management?
Now I have to think and also feel while Consumer-ing with any company that may have a veiled sort of partnership with Amazon. (You literally never know) I mean, I’m already posing critical questions with most of what I buy: Is it Fair Trade? Check. Does the company pay a living wage? Check. Is the celebrity spokesperson for the product secretly funding a sweatshop? No thanks. Is my food the product of toxic or harmful practices? Nope.
Not too long ago I was in my front yard putting out some “FREE, please take” items. A battered, older truck pulled up and a man got out. Super-friendly, super-talkative: my antennae went up. We started talking. Turns out he was a “Prepper”, trying to make enough money to get to a piece of property he’d inherited (he said) from his mother, in a remote area of Washington state. The man offered to clean all of my windows on the outside of my house (actually, he wanted to do ‘inside’ too, but that felt beyond my comfort level). We settled on a price and he got to work. (So…he just drives around, collecting old stuff, with all kinds of window-washing equipment – just in case? Strange, but I rolled with it.)
What an amazing job this man did. As he worked, I cleaned out my garage, which gave him ample opportunity to “school me” on what Preppers are all about. It’s not just preparing for The Apocalypse: it’s also (in his case, anyway) a rejection of the very Consumerism or never-ending consumption that leads to having to question oneself constantly about the ethics and sustainability of Choices. Yes, I can relate.
Back in the Day, this is what communes were pretty much all about. I lived through (and participated in, for a while) the obsession with Back to Nature in every sense. I respect anyone who chooses this lifestyle, or variations of it. Having said that, at this point in my life I’ve grown accustomed to a few things: technology, and the ease it brings being a Biggie. It’s a balancing-act for sure, but I just can’t escape the feeing that Amazon’s winning this tug-of-war. Which doesn’t mean I’m letting-go of the rope.