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Primal thinking

I’ve worked with small businesses for over 20 years now, almost always directly with the owners. I’ve seen them—the owners and the businesses—thrive, struggle, fight and flail, and implement just about every combination of the idea and execution multiplier.

However perfect or flawed, I’ve had the pleasure of working with people who care deeply about their business, products, services, staff and customers. Even if they don’t realise it they are creating an ecosystem, a holon: a system in its own right, but part of a bigger system. Think ants in a nest in a wood in the countryside in the world. You might even employ, correctly for once, that overused word ‘synergy’. The business they’ve created provides more value than its parts would alone.

All of which makes me unsure how to describe exactly how I feel about today: Amazon Prime Day.  Despressed is maybe too strong a word. A sense of ennui, perhaps.

Sadness that, like Black Friday, there exists such a manufactured celebration of consumption (we already have Christmas for that!).

Perhaps even guilt that I’m part of an industry—however distantly—which has helped create this.

There are plenty of reasons to avoid Amazon generally. A company where employees of probably the richest man in history “resort to urinating in bottles and trash cans around the warehouse so that they won’t miss their strict time targets”; whose returns are thrown into landfill rather than redistributed.

(Incidentally, and perhaps appropriately with hindsight, Amazon’s initial name was ‘Relentless’. It was changed because it sounded too sinister, but the domain relentless.com still redirects to Amazon.)

Amazon isn’t the sole problem, of course, and it’s an easy target. But it’s not a bad place to start if you’re thinking about how your purchasing has an impact on the world.

“But it’s cheaper”… of course, but you already make plenty of decisions which aren’t based on getting the lowest cost. The car you drive, the house you live in, the clothes you wear.

Books are arguably a fungible good (the product is the same wherever you buy it), but the experience is not. The impact you have on society, and individuals, is not.

Every pound you spend is your personal vote for how you want the world to look.

I buy my books now from a man called Simon who runs the Big Green Bookshop in Brighton. It’s not big, and used to be a physical shop in London but he and his family moved to the coast and turned it ‘virtual’ for a better life and no crippling business rates.

They cost a pound or two more, and take a day or two longer to arrive, but that doesn’t really matter. I send him a message on Twitter with what I want, PayPal over the money and get the book. He even says “thank you”, and means it. A far more wholesome experience.

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