Amazon.com transcends its status as one of the largest retailers in the world, and the biggest online-shopping destination. Unlike powerhouse Wal-Mart, which is in slash-and cut mode after announcing plans to shutter more than 250 locations earlier this year, Amazon is expanding. It crept into the top-10 of the world’s largest retailers in 2015 and is growing, growing, growing into even more sectors. Amazon is so big now that, like Trader Joe’s and most supermarkets, you’ll soon be able to purchase Amazon-brand food items. Maybe a bowl of CEO Jeff Bezos Barley Blow cereal? Lord, help us.
It’s no secret that Amazon achieved its market domination because of its disconcerting practices of preying on and squeezing locally owned small businesses, in addition to mistreating or exploiting workers.
So, this holiday, don’t be one of those millions of Americans who look to Amazon and its “Prime” membership league, which promises uber-fast delivery, and instead do some shopping right here in the Bay.
Not to get political, but in Trump’s America, it’s incumbent upon us more than ever to support local and buy from regionally owned businesses and makers. So, in the spirit of showing the Bay some love, here’s a “Twelve Days of Screwing Amazon” shopping guide: Start now on this gift-giving dozen, and you won’t have to give a dime to companies that shortchange workers and undercut the local economy.Day One: Support Customer Service, Not ‘Pickers’
On the first day of screwing Amazon, it’s all about customer service. That’s right: One of the unfortunate realities when it comes to CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon is that workers get reduced to the indignity of “picking” items off of factory shelves. They run around giant warehouses all day, mile-upon-mile, without earning a living wage.
All the more reason to, in the spirit of screwing Amazon, shop at local East Bay bookstores, where expertise (and humanity!) is a virtue, not an inefficiency. We recommend Diesel, A Bookstore (5433 College Ave, Oakland, DieselBookstore.com), Pegasus Books (1855 Solano Ave, Berkeley, PegasusBookstore.com), and Moe’s Books (2476 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, MoesBooks.com) to start — but there are dozens of options in this rich region for lit and reading.Day Two: Celebrate Better Bosses
Oh, yeah, about Bezos: By all accounts, the man isn’t the most compassionate CEO and owner. All the more reason to support local businesses run by super-cool people. We recommend shops with cool bosses, such as Regina’s Door (352 17th St, Oakland, ReginasDoor.com), a vintage boutique owned by Regina Evans where helping people and doing right by the community matters more than automation and profit-margins.Days Three and Four: Give to Workers
Another evil move by Amazon is that, well, workers don’t actually work for Amazon. They’re instead employed by agencies that contract with Amazon. This basically means that Bezos’ company isn’t culpable for treating employees like garbage.
All the more reason to support organizations such as Workers Lab (TheWorkersLab.com), a tech incubator with the goal of improving labor organization in Silicon Valley, and Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROCUnited.com), which helps unify hospitality workers and improve fair-pay practices and benefits. Visit these websites to learn more and even donate.Days Five, Six, and Seven: Get On Your Feet and Visit Local Shops
One of the ways Amazon has been able to gut and put out of business thousands of bookstores and other businesses is because they only sell stuff online. So, on these days of screwing Amazon, get off your ass and check out some shopping districts with local shops and businesses: the quirky and fun shops of the Temescal District in Oakland (TemescalDistrict.com), downtown Berkeley (DowntownBerkeley.com) and Fourth Street Berkeley (FourthStreetShop.com), and, well, all over Oakland (OaklandGrown.com).Day Eight: Coffee. Now. Right Here.
As mentioned earlier, Amazon is getting into the food-branding biz. And this invariably means there’s going to be some kind of Amazon coffee — bitter, oily, gross. All the more reason to support excellent local coffee roasters and purveyors.
I’m loyal to Red Bay Coffee (RedBayCoffee.com). Red Bay focuses on sourcing fair-trade coffees that belie your traditional American cup of nasty sludge. Soft chocolate notes, unique fruit flavors, gentle citrus profiles — these are distinguished and lovely coffees.
I also make sure to support Bicycle Coffee (BicycleCoffeeCo.com), which roasts its beans around the corner from Express HQ in Jack London Square. Bicycle is hip and offers cool perks for customers, such as free cups of coffee on Fridays. And they also vend cool Bicycle-branded products, from T-shirts to pour-over systems. A Starbucks recently opened around the corner from Bicycle, too, so be sure to choose them over corporate beans.Day Nine: Pay Taxes in a Snap
You can’t write about Amazon without discussing how the company dodges paying sales tax, which essentially means that local and state governments are subsidizing its operations.
And, now, in a world where the next president doesn’t even pay taxes, that’s all the more reason to show us that you pay taxes. Or, hell, buy a camera at an East Bay shop — such as Looking Glass Photo And Camera (1045 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, LookingGlassPhoto.com) — and take a picture of how you buy local and pay local sales taxes. Hero status.Days 10 and 11: Don’t Be A Predator
One of the most jacked-up practices of Amazon is predatory pricing, which uniquely impacts local retail. You know the drill: People go and check out the local bike shop, or wherever — then return home to buy what they scoped out online. Not cool.
So, if you find yourself in the market for a bike or cycling gear this holiday, we might recommend Bay Area Bikes (2400 Broadway, Oakland, BayAreaBikes.com) or Laurel Cyclery (3715 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, LaurelCyclery.com).Day 12: Show the World
The thing about Amazon is that you don’t see it. It’s not in a big box in Emeryville, where you drive by every day. It’s not down the street. There’s no Amazon parking lot.
That’s one of the reasons why the Express created its Holiday Artisans Guide online: These creators and makers aren’t visible, either — but now they have a platform for people to discover their wares. Check out these hundreds of purveyors at EBX.store.