I’m based in the UK, and we have been stuck in lockdown for nearly two months. Without warning or choice, businesses have had to pivot to online or simply shut their doors until they are allowed or able to open again. Online shopping is big business and it’s here to stay. But where do YOU buy things online? I’m going to explain to you why you should stop using Amazon and find alternative platforms.
Almost 90% of UK shoppers use Amazon and 40% have access to its Prime subscription service, according to research that shows the challenge of selling online for high street retailers.
Why you should stop using Amazon
Amazon alone has with customers spending up to $11,000 a second on its products and services, increasing Jeff Bezo’s fortune to a reported $138 billion. But Amazon has widely reported stories of exploiting workers, fighting unions, not paying taxes (the kind of taxes which we need to support things like the NHS and the current furlough scheme) as well as making it really hard for independent businesses to be used and seen.
In 2017, almost 75% of Amazon’s UK revenue for the year was registered through the company’s Luxembourg subsidiary Amazon EU Sarl. That’s £6.88bn in UK sales. This figure implies that Amazon’s UK tax-rate, in fact, stands at just 0.5%. According to UK tax laws, it should stand at 19%.
That’s just under £1272 million it avoiding in paying UK Tax.
And don’t just take my word for it, Mr Bray, a senior engineer at Amazon Web Services, set out in a blog why he had left the company where he had worked for five years. In the blog post, he writes ‘I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.’ Essentially he believed employees in the warehouse in particular where being treated so badly he didn’t want to be part of a business that did that. This is a decision set to cost him over a million pre-tax dollars in salary and shares.
So perhaps it’s time for us to take an Amazon Break?
But, as you know it’s not that easy. When we are all stuck at home, with limited access to the shops our only option in many cases is to shop online to get what we want.
For most people where how and where we choose to shop is based on it being as easy as possible. So that’s what I have done below, breaking down shopping categories and linking you to the best alternatives to Amazon.
As a minimalist, I’ve also added in further ideas and advice on how to avoid shopping for new things entirely and hope I help you come up with some alternative options for how to consume this year.
Where to buy books that are not on Amazon
Your first instance should be to look around your home and consider a book amnesty or swap shop. I have at least a dozen books around my house that I have been meaning to read or donate. My solution is to buy no more books until I have read the ones I have.
I also now have a crate of books which I would have donated to a local charity shop previously, but instead, I have looked at alternative options. As well as sharing books with friends, options include donating to a local care home, start your own little library or sell them online via Ziffitt, Music Magpie or WeBuyBooks.
Also head to your local library. Many are offering loans online – check out your local council’s website for details. And if you aren’t a member of your local library, consider joining when they re-open. Many now allow you to borrow up to 24 items at a time!
Ethical Consumer magazine has also given Ebooks.com. a great score of 13 out of 20 based on their ethical and environmental records. As a guide, Amazon scores 0 for this.
Bookshop helps independent stores make a profit. Stores earn 30% commission on sales, while Bookshop handles the logistics and runs the website. It also puts 10% of its non-bookstore affiliated sales into an overall earnings pool that is evenly divided up and shared with participating stores every six months. This was nearly a quarter of a million dollars last month. Bookshop is a great option for online affiliates too. Amazon offers media companies a 4.5% affiliate kickback for selling paper books, while Bookshop offers 10%.
Food, Beauty & Household Products
The variety of options on how to shop for food online has grown massively over the last few months. WeDeliverLocal is a good first look for UK residents who want to support their local farm shops and local businesses rather than shop at big chain supermarkets. Another great way to find independent companies doing this is via your local neighbourhood Facebook group.
I do my fresh food shopping at local businesses, but often need to shop online for environmentally friendly cleaning products and a wider variety of ethical food choices.
I bulk shop at Ethicalsuperstore.com every few months. It’s where I get my eco-friendly toilet roll (in compostable packaging) without the huge price tag of Instagram friendly brands like “Who Gives a Crap”. I love the fact I can shop plastic-free here and pick up other bits and pieces here like toiletries, gifts for friends, ethical chocolate and foodie treats.
You can also get pet food, clothing, beauty products and more at Ethicalsuperstore.com. Standard delivery in the UK is free on orders over £50, or £3.95 on smaller orders.
Another great platform is Veo.World a new platform founded by a friend of mine Joe. It is the highest-rated “ethical online retailer” and “Amazon alternative” by Ethical Consumer Magazine. It also covers several product categories including food, clothing, home and beauty. If you use my link as well, we both get £5 credit to spend online!
I’ll be doing an in-depth article on how I shop for food, beauty products and things for the home in upcoming posts, so feel free to ask any questions you have below.
When shopping, especially for beauty and household products online, ask yourself the question ‘Will it add value to my life’? Using platforms like Veo.World and Ethicalsuperstore.com will mean you are buying something that is as good for the earth as it is for you.
My top tip if you are looking to buy something online is to write down what you want to buy, and then only buy that item a month later. If after a month you still want the item, then you can buy it.
It avoids the perils of instant gratification or impulse buying. Being mindful about why we are buying things, whether its because we need them or want them, is a key fundamental in minimalism shopping.
Have a think whether this is something you really need or if you can instead borrow an item from a friend. Items like tools and kitchenware can often be borrowed for a week or two at a time, with some UK cities offering Library Of Things borrowing opportunities.
Another alternative is heading to your local community Facebook page and asking if a neighbour can help or if anyone is selling what you are looking for. A few years ago when I was bed-bound after an operation I picked up a Nintendo Wii with games for £30 which I then resold a few months later.
For new items like computers, phones and TVs I recommend going directly to the Suppliers. Dell, Apple and Samsung all offer free delivery.
John Lewis offers free standard delivery on orders over £50 or next-day delivery for £6.95 as well as a price match guarantee. This is a great option as well if you may not be home to pick up your order, as they can also be delivered to Waitrose, Co-op and Booths stores. John Lewis is an employee-owned business with the workers sharing in company profits and having a say in how the business is run.
Box.co.uk is another alternative that sells all tech appliances, kitchenware to gaming consoles, TVs and computers. Free delivery takes five days, but you can pay to get items the next day. They are also giving away £10,000 worth of products to those in need. Just apply for the bursary by 31st May 2020.
Fast fashion is incredibly harmful environmentally and ethically. The fashion industry is the world’s second-biggest polluter. This results in awful statistics such as 12.8 million tons of clothing that end up in landfills every year in the US. Disposable fashion relies on overworked and underpaid garment workers and warehouse employees.
Instead, think about slow fashion. Look at your wardrobe with fresh eyes. Do you need any new items? Can you resell or donate any items you don’t wear anymore (or have never worn?)
Buying second hand is a great option. With charity and vintage shops currently closed, Depop is like eBay, but for clothing and beauty products. The platform has listings from a range of individual sellers and stores, and there are star ratings so you can choose to buy from trusted sellers. Purchases are protected by PayPal.
Otherwise, if you really need to replace an item or find something new focus on shopping at brands which are fairtrade and use organic cotton. Again, lots of these brands can be found at Ethicalsuperstore.com.
What you can do today
As I mentioned earlier, almost 90% of people in the UK shop on Amazon. The reason I wrote this article was that I realised just what a huge monopoly it had become when it comes to online shopping, as well as being appalled at its levels of tax avoidance. You can read more in-depth about why not to shop at Amazon here.
Our shopping habits and how we spend our money is our vote towards the kind of world that we want to live in. The cost of something is largely irrelevant. You should be paying attention to its value.
As someone that has been in £20,000 worth of debt, I learnt to live frugally and cheaply as a matter of survival. Minimalism has changed my life and helps me value what I do buy when I shop.
I’m not writing this from a place of virtue. At one point, I have sold products on Amazon and had my own Amazon Prime account. Over the years I have probably ordered close to a thousand pounds worth of items from its online stores, including electronics, e-books and gifts for family.
However, the reality is Amazon doe’s not practice ethical or sustainable business practices. I feel like I can no longer use its services. It’s grown so much because for customers it usually provides the cheapest and quickest way to purchase items online.
All I want you to do is consider where you buy from online in the future. Why you should stop using Amazon is clear. Even reducing your purchases on Amazon and looking into alternatives when shopping will make a big difference. We are always stronger together.
If you have any suggestions or ideas when it comes to shopping online, or simply want to give your thoughts on this article just let me know!