12:22:20 Amazon Effects

For a few years, the news media has likened working in an amazon.com fulfillment center to some post-industrial satanic mill William Blake might have imagined. But I think amazon.com being left off the 100 Most Socially Responsible Companies list has yet another dimension. Too many of us--or our neighbors, at least--create the demand that makes amazon’s retail model work. Order conveniently 24/7 and the promise is delivery of goods before you can organize your schedule to free up time to get in your car and drive around for a good deal. Moreover, an Amazon Prime membership gives you shipping gratis. What’s to think about?

amazon prime

But there's another side to the low-price/fastest imaginable delivery model. We all pay for online ordering, whether it's from amazon.com or other online retailers (amazon.com simply dwarfing the rest of the pack in its effects).

Recently, I was talking with a relative in a Southwestern town; she lives in a not-that-old subdivision on a cul-de-sac. When I was last there, it was peaceful: the number of vehicles per hour you could count on one hand. Now, she says her street must keep Amazon Prime, Fed-Ex, and UPS in business, the traffic from online ordering has stepped up that much.

And we learn from the news that the exogenous effect of traffic congestion we all bear is not just jolting awake sleepy subdivision cul-de-sacs, but also Amazon Prime trucks tying up traffic in the heart of New York City.

While for some remote outposts, Amazon Prime has to be welcomed by all--I'm thinking of places in northern Alaska, for the rest of us, we’re toting up congestion and some non-trivial carbon costs. It’s not a stretch to liken online ordering to the transit cost of buying out-of-season apricots flown in from Chile.

But the Amazon effects don't stop there. After the goods are delivered, disposal problems inevitably follow. Amazon deliveries come with plenty of packing material. Consider how Styrofoam [tm] encases those new model flat-screen TVs. No curbside recycling for that.

I can tell which of my neighbors have been busy ordering at amazon and elsewhere. On trash pickup days, they will sandwich columns of collapsed cardboard boxes between their roller carts out at the curb. But the Styrofoam [tm] and other non-recyclable plastic invariably keep mounding in driveways because the garbage/recyclers don't take it. Some neighbors finally packed it all in a minivan for a cross-town trip to where they take such leftovers. She told him, "I have to see out the back window."

So while you can order from amazon.com, consider the by-product of larger costs everyone inevitably bears. For me, it's not offset by pluses over traditional bricks-and-mortar, chit-chat, kick-tires transactions.

Image credit: wikipedia.org


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Read Charlie Dickinson's latest novel, Losing Laika, as an ebook in these five downloadable formats:

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Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

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