Amazon Isn’t Even That Convenient Anymore
I’m looking for a new computer monitor. And so, with a sparkling lack of original thought, I type Amazon into my browser and search for monitors.
I get a sinking feeling when I visit Amazon these days. First, I have a sense of guilt about handing over cash to them (or, more accurately, buying with one click. I don’t even feel the money leave me). Amazon has become retail fast food: easy, convenient, bad for you, bad for the people that work there, and bad for the planet. But where else am I going to buy a monitor? You can’t even buy the model I’m looking at from the manufacturer’s site. They offer a list of retailers, but that list consists of one option: Amazon.
More than that, I get this sinking feeling because finding things on Amazon, when you don’t know exactly what you want, is hard. I struggle to get a sense of which are good, which are overpriced, and which are drop-shipped from AliExpress to fund someone’s Tim Ferris-esque four-day workweek. Everything is either exploitatively expensive or suspiciously cheap. It doesn’t help that monitor model numbers look like automatically generated passwords. They are a jumble of random numbers and letters. Should I buy 328P6VUBREB? Customers also liked EW3270U. Each of these requires a separate piece of research off Amazon. When eventually I settle upon a monitor, I return to Amazon, enter the random characters that represent it, only to find it currently unavailable. Amazon suggests an equally opaque set of random characters and so the cycle begins again.
I am a fussy techie. I’ve accepted this about myself. But flicking through a back issue of the New Yorker the other day, I came across a short story by Miranda July that covers the same Amazon frustrations: “Bedding is an unregulated corner of Amazon, where companies charge radically different prices for the same bad sheets. You can’t even get nicer sheets by paying more — money has no meaning there. And don’t bother typing in words like ‘Egyptian cotton’ or ‘thread count’ — you’re just offering them more precise ways to bamboozle you.”