My Blog Week: April 4 to April 10
A Word on the Week
Comfort and Convenience
When we think about Amazon, we should think about retailing itself, what Amazon does and what it doesn’t do.
Since the 21st century began, the death of the shopping mall has been lamented. But the mall era, in the far longer history of consumer traditions, is notably short. The enclosed mall only took off in the 1970s; the spread of one to every small city and large town pushed ahead through the 80s; while fancier malls, with fancier anchor stores, sometimes fancy concepts, abutted the start of their demise, being still constructed while the internet was making them…
And this is what matters. Not obsolete, but not wanted. If you lived in the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries, you were used to having all sorts of things: general groceries, milk and other dairy goods, special holiday orders from the butcher, your laundry, your standing order—looked after by your personal salesclerk—of department store basics. Your clerk would keep a record of your measurements, and garments you’d picked out visiting the store would be tailored, and delivered to your home (picked up if you weren’t happy).
In those days, people catalog-shopped from Sears and Montgomery Ward. If you lived in the countryside, you might adore trips to the city or hate them, but you rarely made them, either doing without, or using mail-order.
When the world became suburbanized, the discount department stores, forerunners of Walmart and Target, anchored shopping centers, which were (and are) ranks of attached stores built along highways. Both price and the convenience of “under one roof” shopping were pitched to the suburbanite, who didn’t want to go downtown, believed rightly or wrongly that downtown prices were high, that there was no place to park (while paying for parking, too, was a pretty strong affront); and as everyone got more casual in the 1960s, the suburban shopper didn’t want to dress up, a thing still associated in those days with going downtown.
Malls, then, were sold to the suburban shopper as a higher level of comfort and convenience. They were climate controlled. They had food courts and movie theaters, so shoppers could do the whole weekend in one place.
Comfort and convenience are what shoppers have always wanted and sought, what they will always veer away from a lower level of, to a higher. That the internet allows us to be more comfortable than ever, in our ragged home clothes, and gives us the convenience of time saved, also the convenience of using search terms to zero in on what we’re looking for, instead of slogging from shop to shop, isn’t a new, invented phenomenon that has unfairly swept away the brick and mortars.
It’s a reversion—with new technology, yes—to long-established habits and preferences.
Can Amazon be successfully boycotted? Probably not. There’s a difference between what amounts to a consumer strike, and what occurs when the call for a boycott goes out.
Approximately 40,000 Black bus riders—the majority of the city’s bus riders—boycotted the system the next day, December 5.
The above quote addresses the crux. The Black citizens of Montgomery, Alabama were the customer base; their withdrawal had a guaranteed impact, and because Black riders were put between a rock and a hard place, in which the pain of the boycott contrasted with the pain of humiliating segregation, buy-in was strong, the numbers needed were recruited.
This bus riders’ strike had the scope to be highly organized. The boycott set change in motion; however, Black citizens were afterwards victims of Klan violence, while segregation on buses was overturned, at length, by a lawsuit and a court ruling.
When the organizers of a boycott can’t reach the customer base, can’t begin to represent the customer base (Amazon, Coca Cola, and others are international companies; Amazon in particular sells everything, so its patrons are extremely niched); when the base doesn’t suffer in a personal way, doesn’t have any ideological impetus to sacrifice, and are going about their private business unscrutinized, so unconfronted, impact is unlikely.
But confrontation would be misplaced. An accusatory message makes people feel attacked, not persuaded.
The things Amazon does that are objectionable—too much material to delineate in a single essay—are faults that should be charged to the company, not the customer.
On Monday, a new Totem-Maker, the Kale Kale making a deadly plan. On Tuesday, The Sword Decides!, Maria sparring with Raymond de Cabane. On Wednesday, a reissue from Rattus, “A Small Exchange”; on Thursday, part thirty-seven of Shine! by Mathilde Alanic, Annie contemplating love’s nature, and returning home from vacation. Friday, Hammersmith, Vic’s daughter June meeting a newcomer to the town. Saturday, a reissue from Eight, “Honesty”.
Images on my posts often have a link to related information (click first image), sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes in answer to a direct reference. Since people can be leery about links, I include them here: what they are, what sites they point to.
My Blog Week: April 4 to April 10