I know what you’re thinking: Amazon’s got some hot deals for its made-up holiday, and even though you don’t exactly need an AmazonBasics portable air compressor, you would be foolish not to save $14 by buying it on Amazon Prime Day. Resist these thoughts, fellow consumer. Amazon Prime Day is bullshit.
The first Amazon Prime Day happened in 2015, the year of Amazon’s 20th birthday, when the company boldly said “Step Aside Black Friday.” Prime Day deals were going to be so good, the world might run out of money before all the good could be bought. Yes, to celebrate two decades of selling discount books and weird sex toys, Amazon invited its most loyal customers to spend even more money and to do so in a limited amount of time. It was such a fun celebration that Amazon decided to do it every year. Now, Prime Day is even longer than a day. It’s 36 hours of unbelievable deals. And if you’re not an Amazon Prime member, Amazon will let you sign up for a free 30-day trial that you will definitely forget to cancel.
The only problem is that Amazon Prime isn’t necessarily the incredible deal that it used to be. I recently downloaded all of my Amazon data, only to learn that all my Amazon Prime membership seemed to do for me was to make me buy more stuff on Amazon. The fact that there’s now a fake holiday that encourages even more spending seems slightly insulting. Than again, nobody is forcing me to be a Prime member and to buy stuff on Amazon. And I’m certainly not compelled to buy stuff on Prime Day. That’s not what bothers me about this 36-hour bargain bonanza.
I’m actually starting to think that Amazon is a bad company. There must be a reason why Amazon workers in Europe are marking this year’s Prime Day by going on strike. A one-day strike at six Amazon facilities in Germany is currently in effect, while a three-day strike is happening in Spain. Workers in Poland are staging a work-to-rule action, meaning they’ll only do the bare minimum required by their contracts. The workers are universally demanding healthy working conditions, which seems like a reasonable thing for any employee to want. Amazon, however, has developed an infamous reputation as a terrible and dangerous place to work. Pay is so low that many warehouse workers are reportedly on food stamps. Third-party contractors often work long hours with no benefits. People even die in Amazon fulfillment centers from time-to-time.
Several times a week, I get emails from current and former Amazon employees. Some people also think I’m friends with Jeff Bezos, which is not true. But others tell some pretty awful stories. One memorable message came from someone who identified herself as “Jennifer Smith, Unfortunate Amazonian.” Jennifer described Amazon as “the most unrewarding soul sucking job” she’s ever had and complained that she could barely afford health care for her family with her low wages. This complaint struck me as particularly infuriating:
If the power to the floor goes down (no fault of ours as employees) we get sent home with no pay for the rest of our shift. I was told that I could use my paid time off to cover lost wages. I’m sorry but I didn’t cause your power outage why do I have to pay to cover my lost wages. I showed up on time intending to work a full 10 hours and now you are sending me home because you can’t keep your power up and functioning.
Jeff Bezos is the richest man in modern history, by the way. In the hours leading up to the start of Prime Day, his net worth soared north of $150 billion.
What’s especially worrisome is that Amazon is only getting bigger, and stories of employees who feel abused or disenfranchised are only becoming more common. On top of that, the Seattle-based company is starting to stretch its tentacles into new businesses, like groceries with its Whole Foods purchase and law enforcement with its new facial recognition software. This sort of expansion also begs you to wonder exactly what Amazon is doing with the ocean of user data that it’s been scooping up not only from its website but also through Alexa-enabled devices. Is it protecting that data? (Seems like maybe not.) Is Amazon profiting off of it?
One thing’s for sure, though. You do not need to spend money on Amazon Prime Day. You don’t have to spend money on Amazon in general, but especially, not on this completely made-up celebration of capitalism. Heck, if you really need a reason, consider the fact that participating in Prime Day this year will effectively mean you’re crossing the striking Amazon workers’ picket line. Don’t be a scab! Shop at Walmart instead.
Update 4:55pm - Amazon sent me a lengthy statement in response to this post and promised that, “This year, Prime Day will be an epic day of our best deals.” The statement also reads:
Amazon is a fair and responsible employer and as such we are committed to dialogue, which is an inseparable part of our culture. We are committed to ensuring a fair cooperation with all our employees, including positive working conditions and a caring and inclusive environment.
Amazon has invested over 15 billion EUR across Europe and have created over 65,000 permanent jobs since 2010 and provides a safe and positive workplace with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We encourage anyone to come see for themselves by taking a tour at one of our fulfillment centers — learn more at http://amazonfctours.com.
So if you’re looking for a fun summer vacation idea, take the kids to an Amazon warehouse. Be sure to thank the workers!