Waging war on the Amazonians

Dear Jeff Bezos,

Why what you and your company are doing has finally become unacceptable

I’m a pragmatist when it comes to economics. A purist in my politics, I nonetheless see that all commerce is to some extent tainted by people being shitheads. Besides, the markets eventually bury anyone guilty of gross stupidity or overweening hubris. With this in mind, when you started the idiot behaviour of patenting clicking on links, I swallowed my bile and still used Amazon. I’ve had such terrible treatment from high-street stores in the past that, frankly, it’s a toss-up as to which actions to punish and which to reward with my pound-sterling.

When you started shipping products to and from Jersey in order to avoid paying tax—the outgoing journey in large containers as a non-taxable export, the incoming journey through the standard postal service—I had to think again.

Exploiting a tax loophole in public view is just offensive: every UK citizen who visited Amazon.co.uk was in effect being denied public services by the behaviour of your company. Not only that, but it was an example of wasteful selfishness: burning gallons and gallons of fuel for profit, because fuel is still, despite weak taxation, far too cheap for the damage its consumption is causing. Reasoning, though, that the best place to change the system would be within it, I carried on buying non-Jerseyfied products, waiting for the loophole to be closed.

Now I find that you’ve bought a big tin can and are recklessly and wantonly burning petrol in it. Given that we may already have reached peak-oil in the world, and that the next ten years are crucial if we want to tackle global warming and save hundreds of millions of lives, and that the average UK inhabitant has already in the past eight days consumed the same amount of carbon as their third-world equivalent, what you’re now doing in flying a private space rocket around the place is tantamount to vandalism and delayed physical violence to all who will suffer as a result of climate change: eventually including your own country and maybe your own friends and family.

What you’re doing is stupid. It’s immoral. It’s attention-seeking. It’s profoundly inhuman, and demonstrates a wilful recklessness that suggests that you know absolutely nothing at all about anything, and care even less. You, like plenty of your compatriots, are behaving like there’s infinite resources and no detrimental outcome to your ignorant actions while the rest of the world burns. Well, I want no further playtime on your childish little consume-a-go-round. It’s stopped being fun because I’ve reluctantly accepted what you must spend all your time trying not to learn.

At the start of this year the company I work for has agreed to cease using Amazon and is now instead ordering any required books—many of them expensive, technical publications—through a local, independent bookshop. They will get the book in stock for the next day (and it’s a short walk to pick it up) for no extra charge, and are flexible about when we have to pay. They are part of a local community and are in addition modest in their expenditures and consumption.

The actions of my employer put you and your company utterly to shame. Not only that, but they’ve put me to shame, that I might even consider doing business with you in the future.

Well, no more.

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5 Responses to Waging war on the Amazonians

  1. K says:

    Until a few minutes ago, I had 25 books for sale on Amazon. Not any more, because now I’m ashamed too. I’ll be writing to Jeff Bezos when my anti-resolution (no activism in January)expires.

    Dammit, if there was Just. One. Online. Shop. that was run ethically and had decent customer service. Just one. Just one shop anywhere would be nice, actually.

  2. K says:

    Mind you, the shortage of decent shops is nothing compared to the shortage of decent men:


  3. HTFB says:

    Oh, come now. According to the EU maritime or rail freight costs in emissions per tonne-km one tenth of those of bulk road transport: so your books’ detour from Southampton to Jersey and back, 250 nautical miles, is piffling in comparison to the distance travelled by delivery lorries from Milton Keynes before stopping off at Witney. How much of your local bookshops’ suppliers’ delivery sytem do you think about—and are their higher costs not likely to include a measure of extra fuel for their less efficient delivery?

    If you are worried that Amazon is not diverting enough of your payments to them into tax you could always write a bigger cheque direct to the government.


  4. sbalb says:

    Being less of an economist than a moralist (in more than one meaning of the latter) I don’t feel comfortable equating everyday pursuit of business with tax avoidance as you do. That’s reflected in the fact that I don’t explicitly make the comparison you’re trying to correct anywhere in the original post, and nor does my central thesis rely on it.

    Still, it’s an advantage of having lurkers that only ever cavil and correct that I’m now exposed to these wonderful little irrelevancies. You will let me know the results of any investigations into whether or not I’m justified in suggesting that spacecraft are made of tin, or if my LiveJournal syndication is broken.

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