Amazon stocks everything you could ever imagine purchasing, at prices that usually best its competitors. But there’s something that just doesn’t sit right about being able to get a 12-pack of paper towels or whatever else your heart desires delivered in two days (or fewer).
Maybe it’s the high rate of injury at some of the company’s warehouses, especially during the busy holiday shipping season, that prompted a 600-worker petition for more breaks during shifts. Or the reports of gruelling fulfillment quotas that contribute to employee injuries at a far higher rate than at other warehouses. Or Prime Day strikes by fulfillment centre workers demanding better working conditions. Or the company’s plans to draft facial recognition policy to pitch to lawmakers.
Perhaps you’ve been meaning to quit Amazon, or have already taken the plunge. But now the holidays are here. What is a deal-seeking, time-aware shopper to do? Is it possible to avoid Amazon while you shop for holiday gifts?
It is. It just takes some getting used to.
Compare deals elsewhere
If your loved ones have provided detailed wish lists to make your holiday shopping easier, most of your work will entail comparing prices from around the web instead of defaulting to the comfort of Amazon. I recommend two methods of comparing prices when you know what you want to buy.
Check Slickdeals to enter the name of the product and view the best online prices; if there’s a limited-time coupon, you’ll see a deal alert below your search results.
My other go-to is to simply enter the product name on Google Shopping. A recent search for a rain jacket I planned to buy as a gift offered 19 options for big-box stores, specialty retailers, and some websites I hadn’t heard of before. That’s pretty robust for a quick search.
Once you have an idea of product pricing and where you can buy it, you can check for cash-back rebates and free shipping offers to maximise your savings.
Choose Amazon alternatives
Dad begging you for an Amazon Echo? Maybe a Google Home would suit him just fine to check the weather each morning. Bookworm teen asking for a Kindle? Switch it out for a Kobo or Nook. Thinking about getting a Ring video doorbell? How about you just skip that!
There was a time when Amazon was a leader in many categories of personal technology. But the playing field has been leveled in recent years, giving you more options when you want to buy a device that can make life easier or a bit more fun. That neat gadget doesn’t need to be Amazon-made in order to be useful and appealing.
Try slower shipping
So you’ve packed your virtual cart at Some Other Online Store, and now it’s time to pay for it all. How fast do you really need those packages to arrive at your door? While many retailers are offering free one- or two-day shipping for the holidays, still others require you to pay up if you want your packages more quickly.
If you’re not shopping at the last minute, try selecting an option that’s a few days slower than you would normally choose. You probably won’t notice the difference.
When I quit Amazon Prime last year, I found that getting used to life without two-day shipping was the hardest part. But over time, I got more comfortable planning ahead for items I anticipated needing. At the same time, a lot of big-box stores (Big W, Target) have offered faster shipping without the reputation that’s built up against Amazon’s delivery practices.
Get to know your local shops
I’ve heard this complaint before, and I’ve even made it myself: You haul yourself to a local retailer—maybe a book seller or outdoor shop—only to find they don’t have the thing you need. Before you end up frustrated in the middle of the store, save yourself the time and energy by calling your local shops before you get in the car.
You can buy just about anything on Amazon. But just because you can get a product quickly via the ecommerce retailer doesn’t mean the product is guaranteed to be safe.
A sales associate will be glad to find out if they stock your desired item in the size or variety you’re hunting for, and if it’s not available, they’ll probably be able to tell you when it’ll be back in stock. They’re also likely to be able to hold that item for you when it does become available, or special order it to be shipped to their store at no extra cost to you. Yes, it takes a phone call and a bit of planning. But if you’re looking for good service this holiday season, it’s a smart move to take your gift list to a local shop.
Don’t worry about perfection
Even if you stop shopping at Whole Foods, throw your Ring doorbell in the trash, and boycott Fleabag, it’s still nearly impossible to completely avoid Amazon.
The company has its fingers in so many parts of our digital—and increasingly, physical—lives, and unless you intend to only pay in cash, in person, forever, without doing any research for your purchases, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter Amazon or one of its services. But you can take small actions to steer yourself clear of Amazon, at least when it comes to shopping for gifts.