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?

What’s your shopping style?

There are a lot of ways that people shop.

Some people always have their eye out for stuff.  They’ll shop regularly and keep their eye on things that they want and wait until they’ve dropped enough in price to be worth buying.  They’ll know when the sales are and swoop in.

Similarly, some folks regularly visit yard sales and thrift stores and craigslist or ebay or facebook etc. to browse and buy.  Or they’ll browse freecycle or their local buy nothing group.

Other people will buy things strategically.  They’ll decide what they want and then shop for it.

Some people do a lot of research before buying, some people do enough research to satisfice, some people do no research at all.

Some people buy and return, others won’t return at all and will either hold on to a bad purchase or pass it along/donate it.

Some people are willing to pay full price if it’s what they need when they need it.  Others only buy when there’s a sale or a coupon or some other way of getting a deal.

A lot of these differences are differences about how money vs. time (and mental load) are prioritized.  If you’re really busy, comparison shopping and regularly browsing for sales and deals just isn’t going to be worth the time it takes.  If you’re strapped on money, you may be more willing to wait for a deal.

Another concern is ethics– it may be worth it to spend time shopping second-hand if you care about the environment.  It may be worth paying more for a high quality product from a country that does not exploit its workers.

And some people just enjoy the process of shopping.  Some people hate it!  Some people are fine with online shopping, others enjoy going into stores.  Some people have to see an item in person, while others are ok with buying online with limited information.

My shopping style is to put off buying something until probably after I should, and then buy a whole ton of stuff that I need all at the same time.  I don’t shop for fun except for books and fancy food shoppes in the city (including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s– if we had a Trader Joe’s in town it probably wouldn’t be enough of a novelty to make it fun).  When I was in college I hung out with people who shopped for fun, so I did do some of the waiting for dresses to drop below my price point, but these days I buy clothing at whatever price it is set during my every other year outlet mall trip.  (When I do try to buy something online without my colleague-personal-shopper it usually ends up being ridiculous, except for shoes where I go to a fancy european store and let a shoe salesperson talk me into whatever type of shoe needs replacing.)

What is your shopping style?  Has it changed over the years?