I cancelled my Amazon Prime membership today. The second that I clicked through the seemingly never-ending chain of cancellation options I felt a tidal wave of relief.
The service costs £79 a year for those living in the UK and $199 in the US (with discounts available to students or those with an EBT or Medicaid card).
I wish I could say that I was cancelling the subscription out of a desire to express solidarity with Amazon workers, whose poor treatment frequently makes headlines. If I’m completely honest, though, I cancelled my subscription primarily to put that extra money towards an upcoming holiday.
It was only after remembering that it’s my brother’s birthday this week that I realised exactly how dependent I’d become on the retailer to furnish my flat, to send a last minute birthday present to friends and family, and to do my Christmas shopping for me. I realised I was paying £79 a year to be lazy, and to remove the level of thought I used to put into making purchases — especially important ones like gifts.
With 100 million subscribers around the world it is self-evident that we are living in an age of convenience, with consumers wanting products that arrive on their doorstep the next day, or even in certain regions, within a couple of hours.
There are certainly occasions where I can see why such an efficient delivery service is useful e.g. going on holiday and losing your suitcase and wanting underwear to last you the duration of your trip. There have also been moments where I’ve been hungover and I’ve run out of juice and dearly wished someone could bring it to my doorstep.
Scrolling through my purchase history, though, there are very few items other than printer ink where I have desperately needed the product within 24 hours. But even on those occasions there were local services such as the Post Office, or the local library, which could have just have easily met my needs.
The books I’ve bought online could have been purchased for less by taking advantage of my student discount in Waterstones, or my alumni discount in Blackwells, had I only been bothered to walk into a physical retailer to make the purchase.
I do have a Kindle, which must be about 10 years old now. Its main function was to make my suitcase lighter when going away, but I’ve found that it gets overheated in the sun and the LCD screen can’t handle the glare so the Kindle eBooks I bought on it turned out to be a colossal waste of money.
There have been times I’ve ordered a phone case online, having given reviews a cursory glance, only to realise when it arrived that it doesn’t protect my device as much as I would like, which I would know if I had bought the case in an actual shop.
I wondered exactly how many of these disappointing purchases I’ve made since being a Prime member, where the temptation to throw the product away is more appealing than trying to figure out how the returns process works.
The same applies to online clothes shopping with boutique retailers, where I’ve ordered five dresses and all but one have fitted, and the unflattering attire has languished on a chair in the corner of my room far beyond the returns window — simply because it’s too tiring to research how the returns process works, bag it up, print the label and go to a shop that offers the service.
It sounds laughable that I would rather throw money in the bin than get reimbursed for something which doesn’t meet my needs, but that’s precisely what is so dangerous about services like Amazon. I feel like the ease of a service like Prime has turned me into the most apathetic customer as regards quality and functionality.
Of course, I could do more homework when buying products online to ensure that what arrives is what I’m after, but with promotional periods such as Amazon Prime Day it’s easy to jump the gun and add something to your cart simply because it’s cheap. At £7.99 a month, the Prime service itself is pretty affordable — but that’s how they were able to hook me in in the first place.
Now that I am free from Jeff Bezos’ grip, I resolve to become a more discerning consumer. I will look at products in physical stores before I buy them, rather than complaining about why the local high street looks so empty these days. I will think about what to buy friends and family for their birthdays and special occasions more than a week before the date. I will keep my receipts and return products which don’t live up to their desired function, keeping my bank account and the planet happy.
I will not be re-subscribing to Amazon Prime.
Well, unless I forget my flip-flops on my holiday, of course…
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