The quarantine has yanked the rope sharply in the tug of war between online convenience and retail industry. As the likes of Amazon and Walmart thrive in the current climate, many other major vendors have suffered remarkably, knocked flat in an already losing battle. In the US, J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, and more have filed for bankruptcy; a most disturbing development since these are nationwide chains. What hope can there be for local businesses if they fail?
Perhaps this is just the nature of our capitalist, economic model. Perhaps, the truly innovative and adaptable industries will emerge stronger than ever when things get back on track. Perhaps, this quarantine has even just sped things up that were bound to happen.
It’s true that Amazon offers a much faster, reliable, and convenient service than most stores can afford to but are we really serving our greater interests in investing all our purchases through them? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve used this site many times, have a Kindle, and think Audible is great! It’s also much cheaper and that’s in Ireland, where it’s not even at the height of its powers! In America with Prime, you can get your treadmill or shelf or box of Sour Patch Kids sent to you in two days! Why would you go through the hassle of a trip to a supermarket or independent retailer when you know that you’ll have to pay more and even expose yourself to the virus?
That’s a hard thing to argue against. After all, we should be social distancing and with uncertain economic times ahead, we should all be saving as much as we can. Indeed, there’s very little room for some high-minded rhetoric. Or at least there would be, if this kind of thinking wasn’t so short-sighted and narrow-minded.
Monopolies are not good. They’re not even in the spirit of capitalism. They pave the way for uniformity and sheer blandness in the products we buy, effectively reduce employment opportunities, and discourage trade unions and workers’ rights. After all, what real incentive is there for benefits, sick leave, and other amenities when there’s little to no alternative options for your employee?
Amazon’s record on employee treatment is, in this regard, exceptionally bad but I don’t want to focus on the titans of modern industry purely because really, we (or the growing majority of us) are also to blame. We simply can’t expect new businesses to flourish or even some of the older ones if we demand this level of convenience. Yes, customer service is important and sometimes we’re on a budget but even for the pure sake of imagination, how about we exhibit a little patience and try to help the little guy out for once? Our world would be a lot better for it and in time, many of our towns might even lose those tumbleweeds soundtracked by slide guitars.
At present, this seems like an almost irresponsible message to spread given that aforementioned pandemic. With a little common sense though, I think most people can visit their corner shop, local supermarket, or bookstore with reasonable peace of mind. They might not be able to prevent a recession from occurring but they can make things so much better by keeping these local industries afloat. Even, the other major retailers in competition with Amazon and Walmart deserve our business. It’s better to have five titans than two!
The choice is yours… for now. I will, personally, be making an effort to shop locally as much as possible when businesses attempt to reopen this summer. Will I buy anything online? Of course. Sometimes I need to for presents if they’re not available nearby and have a date to order by. But if you can’t resist that urge to splurge while browsing then at least have the decency to not buy your Sour Patch Kids through Amazon.