Ask the grumpies: Alternatives to Amazon

Heavyhands asks:

Thank you for answering my ballpoint pen question last year!  In case you were wondering, I decided on the Dr. Grip and it has been working out really well for me.  Thank you, Grumpy Nation!

My question this time is about alternatives to Amazon.  I know Amazon is a terrible company with monopoly power that treats its workers terribly, and I know I should use them less.  But I had a hard time doing that until recently when all of a sudden I was paying for Prime shipping and not *getting* Prime shipping.  At first I thought it was a mistake (this just happened starting in June 2021, so not a covid thing, but maybe a not wanting to pay workers thing), but after being on the phone with several customer service people and getting a really irritating letter from them saying that Prime shipping has NEVER been getting something in 2 days, it’s always been 2 day shipping after the item is sent (not true!) … it’s now less convenient for me to use them and this might be the push I need to cancel Prime and start supporting other businesses. . . within reason.  I’m not rich and I can’t always afford to pay shipping and handling that costs the same amount as the item does.

So, it’s been hard to figure out alternatives.  Most recently I’ve been trying to find a new Bloom Daily planner and birdseed (since my local grocery store no longer carries birdseed).  I’m out of the habit of knowing where to shop if it’s not Amazon.  What are some alternatives?

Does Chewy.com carry birdseed?  That’s where we’ve been getting our cat supplies if the grocery store doesn’t carry them.  If you buy enough stuff in one order, s/h is free.

Walmart.com is also an evil company, but it does carry Bloom Daily planners.  I feel like it’s not quite as evil as Amazon (but maybe I’m wrong?)  Like, it’s evil, but a lot of the damage was done decades ago when it killed local businesses and now it has to compete with online shopping?  They’re still bad.

I do a lot of shopping at Target and Home Depot.  Also big companies, but I can either get stuff delivered directly to me or to the store.

Etsy sometimes has off-the-wall things that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere other than Amazon.

Those are big companies.  You can also go the exact opposite direction:  Do you have a Buy Nothing group?  Freecycle?  Craigslist?  Nextdoor?  These won’t help for planners or birdseed, but maybe for things you don’t mind getting used.  For us, these worked well when we’ve lived in cities, but not so well where we live now.

Similarly you can buy directly from the company you’re trying to get the item from.  Though I’m also having the same problem with planners… I’m having a hard time paying $10-$15 in shipping (it varies by the day) to buy a Passion Planner from their website.  If they were in stock on Amazon, you bet I’d be buying from there to save on shipping.  I will eventually buy one sometime in July (they have an August start), but I suspect Amazon will have them in stock by then.  I may buy from the company anyway once DH starts getting paychecks and reimbursements.  (Though yes, we can afford $45 for the planner + shipping even before he gets paid.)

Grumpy Nation:  What are your Amazon alternatives?  Also, have you been having problems with their shipping suddenly being slow?

22 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Alternatives to Amazon”

  1. Ali Says:

    Target! If you have their red card (just a debit card you can only use at target), you save 5% plus get really quick shipping. I live in a metro area, and most of my packages arrive in 2 days or so. I generally feel much better supporting target over Amazon.

  2. gwinne Says:

    Yeah, this is a timely post for me, as I need to decide whether or not to cancel my prime membership. I suspect that I won’t cancel it (for the simplest reason that I’m not going to not shop at Whole Foods, and that right there saves me a ton of money; I also like some shows that are only available on Prime) but have definitely been trying to order LESS from Amazon. The problem as you note is that it’s not like the other big stores are great in the ethics department, or treat their employees radically different, or…

    But, yes, I’ll second the target option w/red card. For books I’ve been doing bookshop.org, which I feel better about but yikes shipping. I might see if my local-ish independent bookstore ships more cheaply (it’s more than an hour away, so not like I can do curbside).

  3. Steph Says:

    I cancelled my prime membership a while ago, because I was living in a big city area where I usually got packages within 2-4 days, even without the 2 day prime shipping. I tend to look for a local shop first, then I’ll see if it’s reasonable to buy from the company, then I’ll look at other options like Target, Home Depot, etc. I still use Amazon as a last resort for a handful of things – I just order far enough ahead to get free 7-10 day shipping.

    When buying from the company, it is often more expensive, but I see that as the true cost of storing and shipping those things. Amazon artificially reduces their shipping costs because of how they treat their employees/”contractors”. I can’t guarantee that every other company is treating all of their employees fairly, but it helps to think about who’s paying the cost in each case. If you can’t afford that extra shipping cost, then go for Amazon or another bigger store, but I’ve just started budgeting shipping in for some of my purchases. So I’m paying the cost, not Amazon workers.

    You could also see if the company has an Amazon shop. The things I still order from Amazon usually come from other sellers, but are sold through Amazon. Prices & shipping are usually somewhere in between Prime/fulfilled by Amazon and ordering from the company themselves.

    For a planner, you could look for a local stationary shop. They might be able to special-order things for you.

  4. middle_class Says:

    I usually try Target first. As mentioned, you get free shipping and a 5% discount with their red card. I also shop at Walmart. They have a prime-like membership option ($98 year??)
    I don’t know if Walmart is any better but it is good to prevent Amazon from being an even bigger monopoly.

    Right now I still have Prime. I try to use their slower shipping when possible. I figure it is the rushed shipping that contributes most to employee abuse. Plus they sometimes offer $1 digital credit for slower shipping. I select shipping with fewer packages which allows them to consolidate orders.

    I have reduced my dependence on Amazon. I found some products were same or cheaper on the company site. If I am on the company’s email list. I get discount codes every so often.

    Finally, just trying to buy less in general or used via ebay, poshmark, offer up and craigslist. I actually found great deals on offerup.

  5. Linda Says:

    With Amazon, I often wonder if there is a way to pressure them to change their deplorable worker treatment and not cancel Prime. Like most others, I originally joined Prime for the convenience of delivery in a shorter timeframe than other places that took 7-10 business days to deliver something. But now I rely on Prime more for content and assistance at home.

    I don’t have cable/satellite or over the air TV. (I’ve thought about trying to get a roof antenna in place to see if I can pull in any TV channels, but there several reasons I haven’t done so yet.) When I want to watch something I have to use a streaming service, and Prime has a decent catalog of content that can’t be found elsewhere. It also has an easy interface to integrate other streaming subscriptions, and can play on any device that connects to my wifi (my phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)

    Home assistance is something I rely on Amazon products for, too. I have Echo Dots in every room of my house. As someone who frequently has activity restrictions due to a chronic condition, using the voice control for some home stuff is vital to me.

    So, I am wedded to this “evil empire” for now.

  6. Ines Says:

    I am in the process of weaning myself off of Amazon too. I have similarly transitioned to Target and Home Depot for some stuff, Costco for others, and local stores for others still. One thing I find irritating is that a lot of online stores will ship through Amazon and you don’t know until the box with the smile shows up at your door (Buybuybaby, for example). Since most of my objections are about their shipping strategies, I would really like to stop supporting that arm of the company (and I find that I rarely need something in 2 days, I’m pretty ok getting something a week later).
    I have also started using progressiveshopper.com to at least know where these companies stand with their donations and to find some lesser known alternatives.

  7. Lisa Says:

    What a timely question! I allowed myself to rely heavily on Amazon during the pandemic because I didn’t have the bandwidth to investigate alternatives with everything else that was going on. But I’ve been thinking about this lately as well. I’m weighing the time costs of searching out alternatives (the main thing I like about Amazon is that you can find ANYTHING there and I don’t have time to run all around trying to find the random thing I want most of the time) but also just trying to buy less.

    The progressiveshopper.com website is interesting (thanks for the tip!) but looks like it’s more concerned with political donations than ethical treatment of employees. I wonder if there are similar clearinghouses for the latter issue.

  8. FF Says:

    For comparison, I checked the time from order to deliver for my 3 non-Prime Amazon orders in 2021, and they took from 3-6 days to arrive. So I would think that if you aren’t doing much better that that on shipping time and don’t care about the other Prime benefits, you would probably do better to just skip the Prime fee. I had problems last year with orders being slow or getting canceled, but things seem pretty fast right now–in fact, I think my orders arrived more quickly than they originally said. They also just opened a distribution center in my area, which I suspect may have helped speed things up.

    I don’t use Amazon often and when I do, I make sure I’m spending $25 to get the free non-Prime shipping. Also, I agree that they do not always have the best prices. Some of the alternatives I’ve used this year are Target, Walmart, Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, Staples, smaller and local stores with either free or low-cost shipping or free pickup. Since being vaccinated, I’m trying to go in person a bit more to support local businesses and cut down on returns.

  9. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Over the past couple of years, I’ve been weaning us off Amazon too. I don’t like monopolies, and their labor practices are reprehensible. Unfortunately, there are times we can’t avoid them, and I’m not going to be strident about it, as long as I make an effort to make them our last resort. As much as possible, we shop: Costco and Target for household things, independent bookshops for books or bookshop.org, Kobo for my own ebooks where I can (though it stinks that they can’t accommodate gifting books like Amazon does for giveaways), the local pet supply chain for the animal supplies.

  10. Debbie M Says:

    I never got into Amazon for the deliveries or the TV/movies, just for the good prices and free shipping (with minimum purchase). So mostly I’ve just bought big, weird, hard-to-find things; books; and board games from them. I also rarely went to Whole Foods but did like their 360 brand–once they filled their store with Amazon adds, that was the last straw. If I’m paying a lot for groceries–or looking for bulk items–I’m going to my local food coop.

    For books, I still buy paper, and I try to buy used. Admittedly, I go to Half Price somewhat regularly. And when I can’t find something there after several trips, I will turn to Powell’s. (Well, first I check at addall.com, which lists a bunch of different places, if I want only one book.) I do have local bookstores, and even local used bookstores, but the latter are mostly tiny. And I buy only books I’ve already read and know I want, so just browsing is not a thing I am into, except at the library.

    For board games, I now go to The Gaming Goat, which is a chain. They sell games at a discount. My previous favorite, the local store Dragon’s Lair, sells everything at full price, though sometimes they have sales. So again, it’s another compromise.

    Mostly I just google whatever I’m looking for, hoping to find it somewhere other than Amazon for a price that isn’t too much more.

    As far as general shopping strategies, I am also trying to find more ways to enjoy buying local or coop or fancy-schmancy hippie-nice. These places are quite unlikely to have ads, coupons, frequent-buyer deals, or other things that let me know they exist. I probably should bring up these issues with my friends. We all have different tastes and priorities, though, so who knows.

  11. First Gen American Says:

    If you look through company’s annual reports, it will tell you what they are doing to make the world better to offset their evil bigness. Btw. Being big doesn’t necessarily mean evil. Bad press often leads to meaningful change. I’ve seen it at my company.

    I very strongly feel that being evil is rewarded in stock valuations and when my company was a stock market darling like Amazon is, everything revolved around keeping demanding shareholders happy. It wasn’t enough to make billions of dollars, you had to grow double digits too. Layoffs were a regular thing to help “make the numbers”. And when they screwed over pensioners with a meager buyout option that was 1/4 of what it should be, the stock went up like crazy that month. I can’t even tell you how sad it makes me that such blatant theft of the little guy is rewarded by investors. If only stocks went crazy like that when executives took giant pay-cuts instead of when a company announced layoffs or other everyday worker shafting activities.

    If you really hate a company, the mantra shouldn’t be stop buying from Amazon, it should be stop investing it the company. I wonder how many of the people extolling the virtues of buying elsewhere hold Amazon stock in their 401ks. It’s in just about every mutual fund. If you really want to drive change, you yourself should stop profiting from their bad labor practices. Invest elsewhere. Buy Microsoft instead. Bill and Melinda gates are giving away their fortunes to help people and if you own their stock, you are helping too. Plus software development is high paying so you don’t have to exploit workers with low pay to be profitable. This is only one example.


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