From the Seattle Times:
Amazon’s nascent grocery store venture puts Seattle residents between a rock and a hard spot. Rock: Many of us treasure our local retailers. Hard spot: Amazon is a locally headquartered company of enormous value to the city.
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I never did like the term “consumer.” It conjures the image of an insatiable creature consuming the resources of an overcrowded planet (the cheaper the better), a number to aggregate by giant corporations and their environment-stressing 10,000-mile supply chain.
Customers, on the other hand, realize that every purchase they make have consequences. Each potentially is a vote: for sustainability, responsibility and, not least of all, the health of their local economies. The more votes given to big corporations, the less viable are the local, or local branches of, retailers that are essential to the strength and fabric of their communities.
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Most Americans are consumers, so the battle will be between Amazon and other giants, especially Wal-Mart. But Seattle has plenty of socially conscious customers — and Amazon puts them in a bind.
On the one hand, e-commerce generally and Amazon specifically have put innumerable local shops out of business here, their empty storefronts filled by restaurants (how many restaurants can a city sustain?). What’s lost is community leadership on the part of owners, as well as providing employment and mentoring of new local retailers from their former employees. Like other giants, Amazon is “cheap,” but also expensive. The costs are tallied up quietly over many years in a city more drab, more conformist, more part of the international corporate Borg.
On the other hand, Amazon is the biggest driver behind Seattle’s remarkable prosperity, bringing capital and talent at prodigious rates. Without Amazon, the city wouldn’t be sweet Seattle circa 1990. It would more likely be like other struggling American metropolises, with a dash of Microsoft. Also, the fees and taxes brought in by Amazon’s construction pay a big part of Seattle’s most cherished progressive programs.
I face this dilemma as an author: Amazon carries and sells my books to a wide audience. But Amazon is also the enemy of the local independent bookstores that were essential to launching and maintaining my book-writing career. Plus, Amazon is largely making my neighborhood, Belltown, better. In our family, we try to spread the love: spending as much as possible at downtown and local retailers, including Pike Place Market. But we also inevitably buy from Amazon when a product can’t be had nearby.
Link to the rest at the Seattle Times and thanks to J.A. for the tip.